Oakland Tribune

Dog attacks detailed at meeting

Richmond residents complain city does little to protect them

July 08, 2001
Angela Hill, Staff writer
Richmond — About 40 people, most of whom shared their own tales of vicious dogs roaming in their neighborhoods, attended a special Richmond City¬† Council meeting Saturday where they learned a little more about state and county dog laws and got some tips on protecting themselves and their children against dog attacks.

The meeting was part of the city’s ongoing effort to strengthen animal control ordinances and educate the public after the June 18 dog attack on 10-year-old Shawn Jones on Lucas Avenue in Richmond.

Shawn was mauled by three pit bulls that knocked him off his new bike, chewed his face and arms and tore off his ears.

After remaining in critical condition for nearly three weeks, Shawn’s condition was upgraded Saturday to “serious and stable,” Children’s Hospital Oakland administrators said. He may soon undergo the first in a series of skin grafts to repair the facial damage, but still needs months, possibly years, of reconstructive surgery and therapy.

The owner of the dogs, 28-year-old Benjamin Moore, has been charged with two misdemeanor counts of concealing the dogs after the attack. Only two have been found.
Saturday’s meeting was at the Nevin Community Center, just blocks from where Shawn was mauled. Almost everyone at the meeting — even county animal control officials — agreed that animal services departments all around the state are often overwhelmed with reports of loose and vicious dogs and cannot respond to every call.

The city contracts for animal control with the Contra Costa County Animal Services. Richmond residents from all parts of town complained about problems with the department’s phone system, slow response times and an ordinance that says an animal control officer must actually witness a dog’s aggressive behavior before taking action.
City officials agreed there must be change. “Here we have asked the public to be more vigilant and report these incidents, and now we have a responsibility to take that response and do something with it,” said Richmond Mayor Rosemary Corbin. “But people are calling animal control and getting busy signals and sometimes giving up. We might need to look into supporting funding for more staffing and an upgraded phone system.”

Lt. Dan Barrett from animal control said his department normally receives about 700 calls a day about loose or vicious dogs. After the attack on Shawn, call volume shot up to about 2,500 a day.
“We realize not every call can be answered and it’s tough to get through sometimes, but it’s important to keep trying,” Barrett said. “And when you do get through, leave as much information as possible. We can’t respond if we don’t know all about the situation.”
Richmond resident Glenn Kiesel was not happy with the department’s response in his case. He said he and his dog have been attacked four times by a neighborhood pit bull, and he discovered the owner had 20 previous complaints against him.

And Darlene Drapkin, who lives in the East Richmond Heights neighborhood, said two pit bulls from a nearby home killed her cat last December on her own front porch and terrorized other residents for months before anything was done.

“When animal control finally came out, they told me they had to have an animal control officer physically see the dogs mauling my cat,” Drapkin said. “Come on. That’s crazy. When your car is broken into, or you’re mugged, no police officer has to actually witness it for something to be done. It shouldn’t be so lax with animal control.”

No matter how many laws are in place, there will always be irresponsible dog owners, said Mary Paglieri of the Little Blue Society, a nonprofit education group. “There will always be the possibility of an attack, so you need to fight back with knowledge.”

Don’t approach an unfamiliar dog, she said. Never put your face near a dog’s face. Ask the owner’s permission before trying to pet the dog, and let the dog sniff you first. If you are threatened by a dog, don’t make eye contact with it. Don’t run or make sudden movements. In a loud, commanding voice say “Stop! Go home! No!” If you are attacked, cover your face and neck with your arms or a purse, jacket or backpack. Try to “play dead,” and don’t scream.