Friday, June 11, 2010

Misdemeanor Case Pursued in Dog Bite Fatality

In November of 2009, Karen Gillespie set off from her home in White Mill, Kentucky to take some photographs of a schoolroom. She never returned home. A search revealed Gillespie dead, a victim of head wounds suffered during a dog attack.

The owner of the dog had run-ins with the law before. The dog in question and possibly another dog at the residence had attacked at least two people prior to Gillespie's death. This is a person who has shown an inability to keep his dogs properly confined and to keep dogs which have a propensity for aggression towards people.

In the original articles, the dog is described as a Pit Bull and an American Bulldog.

This is the dog:

That is not a Pit Bull or American Bulldog. That is a Boxer. And as you can see, he is not always aggressive. He is being physically manhandled by unknown, uniformed forensic inspectors.

Gillespie's husband had hoped a grand jury would indict the owner of the dog on felony level charges, but recently they discovered that that would not occur. Instead, the irresponsible owner faces misdemeanor charges stemming from the fatal attack. Even though this man showed a flagrant disregard for the safety of his neighbors and dog. Even though he knew his dog got loose and knew his dog was aggressive.

And that is the tragedy of it all. We have a dog owner who did not care about the law. He did not care about the safety of his neighbors. He did not care enough to properly confine or train his dog. He exhibited selfish behavior at the cost of a woman's life. Karen Gillespie should still be alive. She should still be tramping through the woods and fields by her home, enjoying life. She should be with her family, making memories.

But she's not, and her killer - the dog's owner - will face nothing more than a light tap on the wrist.

Dogs are notoriously safe animals. Even though they are toothy carnivores who convey messages with claws and teeth. More than 70 million of them live inside and outside of our homes, share our sofas, romp with us in fields and yards. They supervise our children, comfort our elderly, and provide support with a willingness few humans can muster. When that relationship breaks down, when people put dogs in situations they cannot handle - this is what happens. The Boxer pictured is not malicious. Dogs aren't capable of that. He reacted to a situation in a way we don't want our dogs to react. He acted like a dog in a human world, and that cost someone her life and the death of a dog. What an egregiously great unfairness!


themacinator said...

i actually think a misdemeanor is a huge step in the right direction- the human IS going to be held accountable (if convicted, of course). obviously it would be better if he was charged with some kind of felony, but it's better than the alternative: that only the dog suffers.

in most cases, at least in california, the DOG is declared "potentially dangerous" or vicious. sure, it's the owner who has to pay the fees and jump through hoops to own the dog, but it's the dog that now has to live a more confined life, etc, and often gets surrendered for "destruction," when you and i would probably agree that in most cases, it's a question of ownership. there *is* a penal code, ca PC 399,, "mischieveous animal" (right?), that makes negligent ownership of a known aggressive dog a felony. we never prosecute it, and i only know of one jurisdiction that has. that doesn't mean others haven't, but it's not common. so a misdemeanor charge, for me, is a huge step forward. i hope someone pushes it to a felony and serious jail time.

that's a big ass boxer, and a very sad story.

Rinalia said...

I don't disagree. It's just frustrating. A woman is dead. If I had a history of speeding tickets, and I drove 30 mph over the speed limit and killed a woman, I would be slapped with more than a misdemeanor. This man knew his dog was aggressive. He knew his dog got loose. He knew his dog bit people. He did nothing about it. And a woman died. It just hurts my heart.

We certainly have a backwards way of looking at aggressive dogs. While I think it's appropriate to require restrictions (training is the best solution), it should be for the owner, not the dog. The owner should be guilty of something, not the dog or bite victim. We (editorial) refuse to give dogs any kind of legal or moral standing, but we'll happily slap them with legal labels like "potentially dangerous" and "vicious". Strange.