Clamping Down on Vicious Dogs
When the population increases, the number of pets may increase, too. But what if some are vicious dogs that run free? People in their own front yards may not be safe.
"One of them started jumping on me, so I started screaming. I didn't know what to do," said Kerri Polk, a pit bull victim. "And that's when a friend that was over came outside. And he kicked the dogs off of me and basically saved my life."
Polk has physical and emotional scars, and can still hear the sounds of the two stray pit bulls that attacked her outside her Columbia home in late October. Animal Control destroyed the dogs, but Polk's story is only one of many. Last year, people reported 14 pit bull bites in Columbia. This year, that number has almost doubled.
"The numbers probably are increasing simply because the population is increasing," said Animal Control Supervisor Gerald Worley. "And, I think, probably it is fair to say that some of the bite cases that we've handled have been relatively serious. And I think that's probably just associated with the fact that they're bigger and more powerful and have the potential to inflict more damage."
The average pit bull weighs 35-50 pounds. But, when owners breed them with Rottweilers or German Shepherds, for example, the resulting mix can weigh more than 100 pounds and be almost as tall as two cinder blocks.
Columbia requires owners of vicious animals to keep them on their property, muzzle them in public, have at least $50,000 in liability insurance, a kennel with an attached top, bottom and lock, and use a leash no longer than four feet. But, even with these laws, the increase in the number of dog attacks in Columbia indicates not all owners obey the law.
If a dog bites someone, Animal Control quarantines the animal for 10 days to make sure it's not rabid. After 10 days, authorities destroy the dog or a judge decides its fate. Although Columbia allows pit bulls, Boonville, Hallsville and New Franklin have banned them.