by ZACH KAYSER
Two violent dog attacks in as many weeks have left some Winona residents demanding justice.
The Winona Police Department (WPD) sought public help tracking down a white pitbull between 40-50 pounds and its owner in connection with an alleged attack May 18. According to a WPD account of the incident, a man was walking his dogs near the intersection of Lafayette and Ninth streets shortly after 5 p.m. when the suspect owner lost control of the lead for one of three dogs he was walking. The pitbull then attacked the victim’s dog, after which the suspect left the scene. The WPD release did not include any description of injuries to the victim’s dog.
Another attack allegedly occurred nine days earlier, according to Kim Evenson, a biology professor at Winona State University. Evenson was sitting with her cat, Daisy, in their front yard when at about 6 p.m. a pitbull came barrelling around the corner of the home. Even as Evenson tried to flee inside with Daisy, the dog broke her leg and proceeded to maul the nine-pound cat, she said. Evenson’s husband, Gordon, tried to help fight off the dog, wielding a small metal table as a blunt instrument, but Gordon received bites and scratches as well. Eventually the dog’s owner came to separate the dog from Daisy and take it away.
Kim Evenson said the veterinarian who treated Daisy, a 6-year-old brown tabby, credited Gordon with saving the cat’s life. The pitbull was shaking Daisy while holding her in its mouth, an instinctive motion intended to snap the vertebrae of small prey. Had Gordon not intervened, the pitbull may have succeeded in snapping the cat’s neck, Evenson said.
Daisy was left with deep, long lacerations to her lower back and buttocks. However, a month after the attack, the cat has recovered and is once more excited to explore outside in the yard, much to the consternation of her mother, Evenson said.
“Why can’t more be done to prevent vicious, aggressive animals from being acquired?” Evenson said in her letter. “If this dog hadn’t mauled my cat, it would have been another small dog, cat or child on the block.”
Animal Control Officer Wendy Peterson said the two incidents were not connected; different dogs and owners were involved.
According to the WPD incident report on the May 9 pitbull attack, a 33-year-old Winona woman was cited under city code 36.02. The ordinance states only “no person shall permit an animal to run at large within the city at any time.”
A state law authorizes local animal control authorities to deem an individual canine “dangerous”, and require a number of actions from the owner if he or she is going to keep the dog. The law requires the owners of dangerous dogs to carry at least $300,000 insurance for potential bite victims. The dog must also be microchipped for identification, and wear a dangerous dog tag. The city can charge fees up to $500 annually for registering the animal as a dangerous dog.
After six months, the dog is eligible for parole if the owner can sufficiently demonstrate to animal control that the dog’s behavior has improved due to aging, neutering, or training.
Peterson said the two cases were under review and it would be a collaborative decision between her and City Attorney Chris Hood on whether they would declare the dogs as dangerous. However, any dog suspected of biting is subject to a 10-day quarantine, she said.