Dog's fate in hands of hearing officer
RANTOUL — Harvey the mastiff-pit bull mix is a friendly dog that enjoys playing with children, loves frolicking with other dogs in his home and is not a threat to anyone.
Harvey the mastiff-pit bull mix is an aggressive dog that attacked another dog walking down the street with his masters and should be put down.
Those were the arguments from the two sides at a Rantoul vicious-animal hearing Friday.
Hearing officer Scot Brandon, who also acts as village comptroller, is charged with deciding the dog's fate. He heard two hours of testimony — most dealing with a June 22 attack by Harvey on a Doberman Pinscher that was walking with his owners in front of Harvey's home.
Village attorney Ken Beth argued that the dog, owned by Mary Alberico of the 1100 block of Prairie View Drive, should be put down. An offer to move the dog to a shelter or other location outside Rantoul would have meant the dog could live.
Beth said because Alberico declined the offer, the dog will be put down if Brandon rules that it is vicious. Alberico, however, said she decided not to take the offer because an animal-rescue official told her she had a good chance of winning the hearing.
Attorney Angelica Wawrzynek of Mattoon, representing Alberico, said at issue is whether the attack was provoked. She said the owner of the other dog was partly to blame for the attack because he was yelling for Alberico to "come get your dog" prior to the attack, which agitated Harvey. Wawrzynek contends that the dog should be classified as "dangerous rather than vicious."
The attack occurred about 8:15 p.m. when William Samples and his wife were walking with their dog in the street near Alberico's home. Samples said their dog was on a leash when Samples spotted two dogs — Harvey and a beagle named Larry — come out of Alberico's house and begin running toward them.
The beagle was collared and returned to the house without incident, but Harvey wasn't as easy to apprehend.
Samples said he went into defense mode and began loudly yelling to Alberico to come get Harvey. He said Alberico didn't try too hard to collar the dog.
Alberico and two friends who were exiting her house testified that Harvey seemed to run up to the Doberman with tail wagging as if he wanted to play, but the incident soon turned into a fight.
Alberico said she initially didn't grab her dog because she was concerned about being bitten when the two dogs were "mouthing" each other. She was only able to pull him away after he had fixed his mouth around the Doberman's back leg.
Meanwhile, Samples had his dog's head pushed down so it wouldn't attack. He also produced a pocket knife and said he would stab the attacking dog if Alberico didn't get the dog away.
Both sides said Alberico tearfully pleaded with Samples not to stab the dog, at which point Samples dropped the pocket knife.
Samples said it "seemed like forever" before the incident ended, and it finally did when he began hitting Harvey and Alberico pulled her dog away.
When it was finished, there was blood on Samples and both dogs from the bites Harvey had made on the Doberman's leg — wounds that were not serious.
Samples said a tearful Alberico apologized to him after the incident and said she would have her dog "put down."
Alberico, however, gave a slightly different story. She said she asked Samples if she should have the dog put down, and he didn't say anything, so she walked away.
Samples said he took his dog to an emergency veterinary clinic in Champaign but didn't have the $88 to have the Doberman treated, so he took it to the family vet the next day. His dog's leg suffered three puncture wounds and a laceration, but no stitches were required.
Samples said he had scratches on his arm but didn't get them treated at a medical facility.
Danny Russell, a Rantoul animal-control officer, said he classified Harvey as vicious after reviewing patrolman Bert Richter's report of the incident and after meeting with police Chief Paul Farber and Lt. Jeff Wooten.
Alberico and two friends — Heather Moriarity, who lives with her, and Stacie Winings — said Harvey is a good dog that plays with the other dogs in his home and is even gentle with young children. They said they never considered the dog a threat to anyone.
Moriarity said she has a 14-year-old daughter, and Winings said she has six children, including some who are quite young, and they visit Alberico's house regularly and play with Harvey.
"He likes kids," Moriarity said.
They said the dogs got loose as Winings and her children were leaving Alberico's house, and the dogs were just looking to play when they spied the Sampleses and their dog.
"Harvey was doing a frolic, happy, wagging his tail," Alberico said, adding that she wasn't concerned there would be a fight, even when the dogs headed toward the Sampleses. At first, she said, Harvey and the Doberman just sniffed each other. Then it turned into a fight.
Alberico said her dog had gotten out of the house before but had never attacked another animal. She said she hasn't seen her dog since he was taken away.
Alberico also produced letters from friends saying Harvey is a good dog.
Samples said the incident "was a very traumatic experience."
"I'm a very reasonable person," he said. "This type of thing shouldn't be happening on the streets."
Brandon said he is not sure when he will make a ruling on the case. He said his ruling is eligible for appeal to the circuit court level.
Dave Hinton is editor of the Rantoul Press, a News-Gazette community newspaper. For more, visit rantoulpress.com.