Board declares dog “potentially dangerous”

Thu, 01/15/2009 - 5:27pm
By: Ben Nelms

A Newnan man whose dog “Poochie” bit his cousin on three occasions in the past three months found the animal deemed “potentially dangerous” at a Jan. 12 hearing of Coweta Animal Control Board. The wounds required stitches on two of the occasions. The board heard Billy Addison’s concerns for his dog and the difficulty he said he would have paying the required fees while living on a fixed income, but determined that the designation was in the best interest of the family and the community.

Addison, the wheelchair-bound owner of the Golden retriever/pit bull mix, will have to comply with conditions of the order, including paying an annual $500 registration on the dog due to the “potentially dangerous” designation, installing warning signs on his property denoting a dangerous dog, keeping the dog in a completely secure enclosure when outside and keeping the dog on a leash when outside. Addison would have been required to provide a $15,000 liability insurance policy and keep the dog muzzled when outside if the board had deemed it “dangerous.”

Board Chair Vicky Jones and board members Larry Shepherd and Libby Parham heard a report from Animal Control Sgt. David Olmstead stating that he had been notified by Piedmont Newnan Hospital on Dec. 3 that Billy Addison’s cousin, Arvin Addison, was in the emergency room for the dog bite. Arriving at the hospital, Olmstead said Arvin Addison had been bitten on both arms and still had stitches in his arm from being previously bitten by the dog. Olmstead filed the charge recommending that the board deem the dog “dangerous” due to the severity of the bites.

He also noted that Poochie had bitten Arvin on a third occasion, approximately three months ago.

Addressing the board, Billy Addison said the dog had been with him for seven years, adding that the Poochie might resent Arvin being too close to his cousin.

“He was an outside dog on a chain at first, but now he’s an inside dog,” Billy Addison explained, adding that neighborhood children would hit the dog with skateboards and dive into him.

Those events led to the dog being confined to certain areas of the house. “He wasn’t trained to be mean. It’s just in the past 3-4 months that he was aggressive to Arvin.”

Billy Addison maintained he had been told by a dog trainer that the aggressiveness might be due to thyroid problems.

Jones, a long-time dog trainer, told Addison that thyroid problems can cause an animal to be overweight but would not make it aggressive.

Explaining that his niece and nephew also lived in the house, Billy Addison said Poochie had not been aggressive with his nephew. A

ddressing the board, Olmstead said he had spoken with the niece and she also reported having been bitten by the dog.

“He’s not aggressive with my nephew, but I don’t think he likes my niece,” Billy Addison said. “I think she was aggressive to him when he was young.”

Jones asked Billy Addison why he would keep a dog that bites other family members. Addison responded, saying again that the problem could be with the thyroid, adding that a vet had made the same suggestion.

“A couple of times Arvin’s been mad at me and he may have detected it,” Addison said. “Also, when I’m not in my chair, maybe (the dog) thought I was vulnerable.”

The board listened as Billy and Arvin Addison continued to state their case, with Arvin maintaining that he was not afraid of the dog and Billy saying that his cousin plays with the dog.

“We’re here to decide if the officer is correct and the dog is dangerous. Or we can decide it’s potentially dangerous or throw (the complaint) out,” Shepherd said, also stating the concern over others in the neighborhood being bitten.

The board deliberated the issue and concluded that the dog was “potentially dangerous.” That designation came with Jones and Parham agreeing and Shepherd preferring the “dangerous” designation. The board explained the penalties involved, adding that the $500 annual registration was essentially a fine to keep the dog.

After he was informed of the decision,Billy Addison explained that he would have a difficult time affording the $500 annual fee since he lived on a fixed income.

Poochie will be declared “dangerous” if another bite occurs.

That designation would require the additional precautions of maintaining a $15,000 liability policy and keeping the dog muzzled when outside.

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