AMITE--Lady is back home in Amite, after owners paid $180 in fines and picked up their pit bull Saturday, July 28 at Tangipahoa Parish Animal Control in Hammond.
The case is closed, as far as Tangipahoa Parish Animal Control is concerned, says director Charles "Chip" Fitz.
The unprovoked, come-from-behind attack of a pit bull on an Amite mail carrier July 19 may be the latest support for a new vicious animal regulation proposed by council member Jonathan Foster.
The brown and white-spotted pit bull attacked her from behind, knocked her down, bit her on the buttocks and was going for her face. It emerged from under a mobile home without a bark. The mail carrier, an animal lover who herself once owned a pit bull, is hurt and enduring painful rabies shots. She never approached the dog—or the owner’s home.
The owner paid the following fines and fees on the pit bull July 28:
--Impound fee: $10
--Bite to human fine, first offense: $50
--At large fine, first offense: $10
--No proof of rabies vaccination: $10
--Quarantine fee: $100.
--Total fines and fees: $180.
When a dog bite complaint is filed, "we hold the dog for 10 days in quarantine for symptoms of rabies," he said July 27.
Fitz and his staff of 13 consider each case individually. "If a dog is in his yard or on a chain and he bit someone who entered the area, we see that differently than if he was running loose outside his yard."
"If we get a call tomorrow, we're going to come to you and try to resolve the problem. We want your dog to try to remain at home," he said. Counseling may be warranted, as well as escalating fines. "The next step is issuing citations. And then the animal would become a nuisance animal and we would pick him up."
Tangipahoa Sheriff Daniel Edwards says the parish has no restrictions about this type of dog. He addressed the problem when a Hammond girl, 8, was attacked by a vicious pit bull earlier this spring.
The mail carrier who was attacked says that a vicious animal may not be taken away from its owner and/or euthanized unless it has four complaints filed about it. She knows there is at least one complaint—hers.
Tangipahoa Parish Animal Control director Chip Fitz says it doesn't take four complaints to deal with a vicious dog.
The proposed vicious dog law for the city of Amite is strict, requiring warning signs, adequate pens/fencing, liability insurance, fines and penalties and restrictions against using dogs for fighting. [Text of proposal below.]
“I am very concerned about the dog ordinance. I hope it gets passed,” she said July 25.
This is her story. She asked that her name not be printed for reasons relating to her job and privacy. The Amite Tangi Digest confirmed her circumstance.
Here is how the attack happened:
“I was across the street from the house. I delivered the mail there to the mailbox: 710 Church St. I was walking to deliver mail to another house.”
“I never saw the dog coming,” she says.
“The dog jumped, knocked me to the ground. He bit me on the buttocks. I was on my back. I pushed the dog back, put my hands up. He was going after my face,” she said. “I was rolling around on the ground.” A pit bull, brown with white spots. If the dog has a name, she doesn’t know it.
That is unusual because she knows most of the 650 residents and business people on her central Amite delivery route. She knows their children and many of their pets.
“Her growled once. He was biting me. It was unprovoked.”
“He never barked. He was silent. He came from under the house,” she said. A white mobile home.
“I didn’t go to the house or the yard,” she said. She had stepped out of her delivery vehicle, parked across the street at 709 Church St., and walked about 20 feet to the 710 mailbox, also at the street. “I went to the box on the road. I was not in his territory.”
She continued: “They have other dogs—a lot in back. You can hear them barking. They kept that one inside. The neighbor said they keep it inside.”
“I got back to my delivery Jeep. I blew the horn. The owners came out. Other neighbors came out. They saw me on the ground. One was a man. Others were two older ladies in a car. The man said he had been bitten on the arm before. They came while I was in the Jeep,” she says.
“One said: Are you OK? I saw you on the ground,” she recalled.
“These owners never came to get the dog or call it back,” she said. “I know for a fact someone was home. There was a car in the driveway.”
Did the dog owners know about the attack?
“I am certain,” she said.
“I called a co-worker, another mail carrier. My shorts, underwear were torn. I was crying," she recalls. “I drove away and pulled over to a safe area. I was really shaken up. I was crying.”
What about treatment?
“I had to get shots for tetanus, rabies. I am still on antibiotics for a week.” The bite in a photo looks to be about six inches long. She got no stitches. “Rabies shots are painful. The actual injury hurt worse.”
“I filed a report with Tangipahoa Animal Control and the Amite Police Department. Last I heard, Animal Control picked up the dog and have it under observation,” she said.
What she understood is disturbing.
“The second time the owners are given a fine. The third time there is a report, the fine is doubled. The fourth time, they’ll pick it up and maybe euthanize it,” she said.
That's not necessarily the case, says Chip Fitz of Tangipahoa Animal Control.
"The law states that if there have been two documented cases of bites, we can go to the district court and petition the judge for a decision," said Fitz. "The court looks for unprovoked bites."
"If the dog came out on the street, it was at large," he says.
"It doesn't take four calls," he says. "On two complaints, an animal can be picked up for certain things." Fitz also stresses the difference between a nuisance dog, who may be repeatedly raiding garbage cans, and a vicious dog, who may attack unprovoked on his property or while roaming free. That is why each case is considered individually.
The key is there must be a written report about the same vicious animal for Tangipahoa Animal Control to take a more strict step.
She knows about her own complaint.
The neighbor who told her he was bitten by this same vicious pit bull says he will not file a report.
“I don’t believe there should be a third or fourth time—especially if a dog attacks unprovoked,” she says.
“A dog can be used as a deadly weapon. If a gun is used as a deadly weapon, they don’t keep giving the gun back,” she says.
“Even now, if I hear a cat, my heart pounds and I jump,” she says.
Are animals part of the mail carrier's routine? “Daily we are chased by dogs. I know last year, two of our carriers were bitten by dogs.”
Mail carriers receive training about hostile dogs. “We have a bag we normally carry,” she says. When attacked, “you hold your bag out as a barrier. Always carry pepper spray. I’ve never had to use it. There is no protocol when the dog attacks from behind,” she said. “I never saw him coming.”
She knows the US Postal Service well. She loves her job and the people she serves. October will be her fourth year as a mail carrier. She moved with her four children from Baton Rouge to Folsom, sold real estate, then joined the Postal Service as a mail carrier. Before that, she worked six years for AT&T. And before that, she worked four years at the USPS distribution center in Baton Rouge.
She likes meeting people and working outdoors on her route that sometimes runs 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., starting earlier and working later. Monday is the heaviest mail day, with two days of mail, from Sunday. Wednesday is the busiest, she says, because of the Amite Tangi Digest newspaper delivery. The unknowns are the weather, traffic like the movie 2 Guns shooting here—and dog attacks.
“I know most of my customers by name. Some have nice animals, friendly. I pet them. A lot are older customers. Sometimes I bring them vegetables I grow. Corn, watermelon, squash, tomatoes, cucumbers, okra.”
She continues. “I raise chickens. Twenty. I have dogs. Three. Two Australian shepherds. A dachshund. Three goats. I am an animal lover.”
“When I was in Baton Rouge, I owned a pit bull. I had to have insurance on the dog.”
She sold the pit bull. “I raised it from a puppy. I felt he would be unpredictable with my kids. That’s the reason why I sold it.”
She has four children: 12, 10, 8 and 5. “They love animals.”
A son was attacked by a pit bull. “We tried to get the dog off. My son punched the dog in the nose.” The child, age 8 now, is skittish around animals. “I tried to talk to him to tell him animals are OK.”
“The vicious animals need to be in a kennel—or at least on a leash,” she says. “Someone else could have been attacked. Children. Older people.”
Will she support the proposed Amite vicious animal ordinance?
“People should be responsible for their animals to make sure they are kept in a safe place,” she says.
“I walk quieter now. I am afraid to touch my own dogs. As far as my job, it makes it more difficult,” she says. “It’s slowing me down a bit, beside my injury. Any little noises, I get real jumpy.”
Will she attend the public hearing about the proposed vicious dog regulations?
“I plan on attending. A co-worker may come. I talked to council member Jonathan Foster about it.” He sponsored the proposal, which surfaced sometime before she was attacked.
She delivers mail to his home.
"Every dog is capable of biting," says Chip Fitz. "The number one biting dog is a cocker spaniel," he says. Some reasons: the breed is a very popular family dog, it is often around children and may get underfoot or antagonized by kids unintentionally. "There are activists who would be very hostile to this statement. We try to ask families to educate their children about the petting, handling and feeding of their pet dogs. We try to teach signs and symptoms of dogs who may become hostile."
Fitz and his staff know that media attention--positive or negative--ultimately helps. "Anytime we're in the media, our visitation goes up" for pet adoptions, he says.
"Service people such as mail carriers, Entergy meter readers have to be kept safe," said Fitz, touching on some regulations about vicious dogs. "They need to be able to do their jobs." He does not take a position on municipal proposals such as the Amite ordinance. He does try to enforce the existing local, parish and state regulations.
Tangipahoa Parish Animal Control
15487 Club Deluxe Road, Hammond
Hours: Monday-Friday, 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
Adoptions daily 12 to 4:30 p.m.
Intake hours for animals Monday-Friday 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
No animal intakes on Saturdays
Saturday adoptions 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Officers are on call 24/7 specifically for animal bites, vicious animals or injured animals. The center does not deal with dead animals, such as along the road.
The center hosts pet adoption events at various locations.
On the Web: http://www.tangianimalcontrol.org/Index.htm
The center is on Facebook and also offers pet adoptions on the website petfinder.com.
Director: Charles "Chip" Fitz
City Council hearing on vicious dogs is Aug. 7, 7 p.m.