August 26, 2009 Edition

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Neil Fears of Hoxie receives medical attention from AET's Emergency Medical Technician Tasia Charles after he was attacked by two pit bull dogs behind the Alamo Court on Monday morning.

Dog issues continue in WR

Gloria Wilkerson
Staff Writer

A Walnut Ridge man escaped with only minor injuries and torn clothing after being attacked by two pit bull dogs on Monday morning. The attack occurred on Southwest Second Street, behind the Alamo Court.

Neil Fears was picking up trash out of a ditch before mowing it when two pit bull dogs owned by Justin Shoenfeld ran out the door of a nearby house and attacked him.

"I backed up against the building I was working around and managed to pull a nearby motorcycle up in front of me," Fears said. "And I yelled for the dogs' owner to come and help me."

The owner heard him yelling and came out and pulled the dogs off him. Fears then went into the Alamo Court office, where Jackie Snapp called 9-1-1. Officers from the Walnut Ridge and Hoxie police departments responded, as well as AET and animal control.

The dogs tried to bite into his leg, but were only able to catch a mouthful of denim because of the loose-legged jeans he was wearing. He did receive a minor bite on his leg and on his right arm, and the right leg of his jeans was ripped apart.

"I know enough about dogs to know that when they attack you, you don't want to let them get you down on the ground," Fears said. "If they get you down, they go for your throat or stomach. Luckily, I was able to use the building and the motorcycle to help me stay upright.

"If those dogs had attacked a child or an elderly person, they probably would have killed them," he added.

Fears said Tuesday was going to be his 49th birthday, and it flashed through his head during the attack that he might not live to enjoy it.

The dogs were impounded by animal control and will be quarantined for 10 days.

"I have learned that one of those dogs had attacked a 13-year-old riding a bike earlier in the summer," Mayor Michelle Rogers said. "That was something I was unaware of until the veterinarian at the pound (who keeps records on impounded dogs) told me yesterday. The two dogs will not be going back to their owner."

A second dog attack occurred around 7:30 Monday evening, and this time a child was involved.

Nine-year-old Liley Holsapple was visiting her aunt on Robin Lane and was enjoying riding her bike up and down the street when a Boston terrier began to chase her, according to her uncle, Frank Owens.

"She tried to outrun him on her bike, but he caught her and bit her on the calf of her leg," Owens said. "Her mother took her to Lawrence Memorial Hospital where she was treated and her puncture wounds were cleaned."

Liley is the daughter of Andy and Meridith Holsapple of Clover Bend.

Animal control took the dog into custody, and it will be quarantined for 10 days.

Owens said the dog's owner told him the dog had never bitten anyone before and that it had all its shots. The dog was only outside long enough to go to the bathroom, but it was not on a leash. He added that the owners were very upset that their dog had bitten the little girl, and very surprised that it happened.

"Our community has a problem that we all need to help work on. Everyone needs to work together with the city to get the dog situation under control," he said.

Officer on leave after tasering dog

These attacks come on the heels of an incident involving a dog being tasered by a Walnut Ridge animal control officer.

The Walnut Ridge City Council held a special meeting on Friday morning to discuss action taken by the city's animal control officer on Thursday morning. Film shown on KAIT-TV of a dog being tasered by the officer resulted in an onslaught of calls to city hall from citizens who were outraged by the officer's action.

After the Lawrence County Communications Center received a 9-1-1 call about pit bulls chasing people near the Northeast Arkansas Educational Co-op, Ron Brady of Hoxie called the Hoxie Police Department and the Walnut Ridge Mayor's office to report that a dog tried to attack him near Robert Armory and that he needed help, according to Shirley Guy, administrative assistant to Mayor Michelle Rogers.

In a statement signed by Brady, he says, "I thought the dog was aggressive. He came toward me growling like he was going to bite me."

A second call about pit bulls trying to attack near the armory was also received at the center.

Walnut Ridge Code Enforcement Officer Robert Rice responded to the call made by Brady and was met by a barking, growling dog, according to Walnut Ridge Mayor Michelle Rogers.

Rice got out of his van but the dog's aggressive behavior caused him to get back into his vehicle.He then called for backup to help get the dog under control so that it could be impounded. Learning his backup officers were in court, Rice called Walnut Ridge Fire Chief Alan Haskins for help.

"I told him I would be there in a few minutes," Haskins said. "I could hear the dog barking and carrying on, and I told Rice not to let the dog bite him, and to taser the animal if he had to, to keep it from attacking him."

Rice then got out of his van the second time, and the dog came toward him barking again. Rice then tasered the animal, and Haskins arrived shortly thereafter. The dog was impounded later in the day and has now been reclaimed by his owner, James Causey of Hoxie.

Rice's arrival at the scene and the actual tasering of the dog were caught on tape by Brandi Hodges of KAIT-TV who was in town to interview Mayor Rogers about the amendment to the city's dog laws passed at the city council's August meeting.

"We were just driving around looking for dogs that were running loose to air along with the interview with Mayor Rogers," Hodges said. The television crew was filming near Robert Armory when the animal control van arrived.

The tasering was caught in its entirety, and part of it was shown on Channel 8's Thursday evening news. Footage of the dog's actions before it was tasered was not aired that evening.

"The animal's behavior leading up to the officer's decision to taser it was not shown," Mayor Rogers said.

At Friday's meeting, Hodges provided the council with the entire footage she had shot the day before to show the animal's behavior leading to the incident.

After viewing the tape and speaking with Brady and Hodges, the council went into a lengthy executive session. At the conclusion of the session, Mayor Rogers informed the media that Rice has been placed on indefinite administrative leave with pay pending further investigation of the incident.

"Dogs will not be allowed to run loose or threaten the safety of our citizens," Rogers said. "The Walnut Ridge Police Department and a man who works as a code enforcement office on the weekends will handle animal control for the time being."

On Friday evening, KAIT-TV ran a longer version of the tasering Hodges had recorded.

"There is no video tape of the dog trying to attack Mr. Brady before the TV crew and Rice arrived," said Haskins. "Brady obviously felt threatened enough by the dog to call for help."

Rogers told The TD on Tuesday, August 25, that Kyle Riggs has temporarily been placed in the position of animal control officer.

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