Animal Control puts down pit bull after attack

Owners of other dog in confrontation pushing for countywide rules

By Patty Hastings, Columbian breaking news reporter

Published:

 

An aggressive pit bull that killed an English bulldog last month in Vancouver's Northwest neighborhood was put down last week, according to Animal Control and Protection Manager Paul Scarpelli.

The attack, which has the bulldog's owners calling for more consistent animal control regulations countywide, came as Lisa Stewart was walking her 7-year-old bulldog, Gracie, along Northwest 53rd Street with her two 6-year-old daughters on July 21.

They had stopped at the mailbox across from their house at 706 N.W. 53rd St. at the same time as two women who were walking a pit bull. Stewart said the pit bull lunged for her daughters, who then took Gracie to their driveway across the street.

As Stewart went to grab Gracie's leash -- her back turned from the pit bull and its owners -- the pit bull slipped out of its leash and latched onto Gracie's neck.

Lisa's husband, Troy, came outside of their house and tried to pry the pit bull off Gracie. He hit the dog's back with a broom, which broke, and tried to gouge the dog's eyes. The 6-foot-tall, 225-pound man had no luck, so Lisa Stewart dialed 911.

The women who owned the pit bull were upset and worried they would have to put the dog down, she said.

After about 25 minutes, Gracie rolled over on her back. The pit bull stayed latched onto her motionless body, then let go and walked over to its owners, who put on its leash.

"We felt violated because it was on our property and because our girls witnessed it," Stewart said.

By the time a Vancouver police officer arrived, Stewart had placed Gracie in the back of his truck and was checking for a pulse under her arm. The officer did not take a report, he said, because "It was an unfortunate incident between neighbors," and there was nothing he could do.

Troy Stewart contacted Animal Protection and Control to see if the dog could be removed from its home, which was just two blocks away from his own. The dog wasn't removed until about four weeks later, when the pit bull's owners, the Bigelows, faced a fine. The dog was moved to a friend's house in Hillsboro, Ore., and put down Tuesday after Hillsboro police received calls from people who had seen media coverage and were wondering where the dog was.

Troy Stewart said he plans to tell his story and bring up his complaints about the differences between county and city animal laws at the next city council meeting.

"How is that right? How is it legal?" he asked. "If my dog ever killed another dog, she'd have to be put down."

In the county, the fines and restrictions for keeping a dog labeled a "dangerous dog" are so onerous that many owners don't keep their dogs. The city does not have a dangerous dog ordinance, but is looking to adopt one.

Scarpelli said Vancouver is trying to make its animal laws comparable to the county's. Since Animal Protection and Control covers over 600 square miles from Woodland to Washougal, he said Vancouver would also bring in neighboring cities to make them part of a regional service provider with consistent codes.

"Everybody's in agreement, but it just takes time," he said. "We're seeking to have the best laws on the books."

Jan Bader, at the city manager's office, said the recent incident prompted the city council to finish updating the city's animal code. She said it will likely be finished in September. The code was last updated in 2004.

To help Animal Control investigate these incidences and make better laws regarding pets, Scarpelli said pet owners should make licensing their dogs and cats a top priority.