Repeated attacks by dog prompt renewed outcry on Raleigh's rules

ccampbell@newsobserver.comApril 2, 2013 

— When animal control officers arrived to investigate a dog attack off Wake Forest Road, they instantly recognized the offending Saint Bernard.

It was Honey, the same animal that attacked pets in another neighborhood east of downtown last year. Attacks by Honey and other dangerous dogs prompted Raleigh leaders to tweak animal control rules. Following recommendations from City Attorney Tom McCormick, the city council made minor changes that better defined dangerous dogs.

Living miles from East Raleigh, Allison Wiggs was unaware of the animal control debate until last week. That’s when her husband took their dog for a walk and ran across Honey, who had moved in down the street after being released following a prior incident.

“I heard bloodcurdling screaming from my husband” and ran outside, Wiggs said.

Honey had apparently jumped out of a second-story window and attacked Wiggs’ husband. They were able to corral the Saint Bernard in their garage until animal control arrived. Wiggs’ husband suffered cuts on his hands and knees.

Animal control had already labeled Honey “dangerous” after the dog attacked Teresa Washburn’s two chihuahuas in their own backyard last year. Washburn said her pets have lingering injuries, and Honey’s owner wasn’t held accountable. The attacking dog was held for a few days before returning home with orders to be confined with a muzzle. The owner later moved the dog to a relative’s home in Wiggs’ neighborhood.

Honey’s repeat attacks illustrate complaints that Raleigh’s animal control rules have no teeth. Members of an East Raleigh neighborhood group asked the city council last year to mirror Wake County’s ordinance. The county euthanizes attacking dogs after a 10-day waiting period for possible appeal.

Raleigh’s rules have no specific provision for euthanasia. McCormick told council members last month that the county’s ordinance doesn’t appear stricter. He did not return calls seeking comment.

Honey’s fate will be decided in the courts next month when the owners appear on citations governing dangerous dogs, according to Raleigh police spokesman Jim Sughrue.

The dog will stay locked up until then, Sughrue added.

Wiggs worries that Honey might be released and attack someone again. “I don’t know what it’s going to take to get this dog off the street,” she said.

Raleigh Councilwoman Mary-Ann Baldwin leads the law and public safety committee, which discussed the animal ordinance in February. She said the issue of putting down dangerous dogs didn’t come up.

“What we will do is watch this case very carefully to see how it is resolved,” she said. “Certainly this is an issue – you can’t have dangerous dogs running around and the owners not be accountable.”

Campbell: 919-829-4802 or twitter.com/RaleighReporter

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