Pit bulls that attacked Tolono couple's dogs in their yard declared a danger

Pit bulls that attacked Tolono couple's dogs in their yard declared a danger

TOLONO — Champaign County Animal Control is declaring two pit bulls dangerous following a March 5 incident in which they attacked two German shepherds in the shepherds' yard.

Champaign County Animal Control Director Stephanie Joos said her department impounded the pit bulls after the incident for not being current on their rabies vaccinations, but the dogs were returned to their owners Monday.

Joos said dogs can be impounded if found to be running at large or if they have bitten a person.

State law gives animal control the authority to declare animals dangerous.

"It's pretty clear cut these dogs attacked another dog," Joos said.

Once declared dangerous, dogs are not allowed to leave the owners' property unleashed and must be spayed or neutered and microchipped within 14 days. If the dogs go on public premises, they have to be under direct supervision by an adult at least 18 years old and have to be muzzled to prevent them from biting any person or animal. Failure to comply with the orders will result in fines or criminal penalties. Joos could also require the dogs to be taken to an animal behaviorist.

State law only allows for animals to be euthanized if they are found to be vicious, which means that the dog, without justification, attacked someone and caused serious physical injury or death or has been found to be a "dangerous dog" on three separate occasions.

Jeff and Barb Holt, owners of the German shepherds that were attacked, have met with a lawyer and say they plan to pursue legal action against the village. The Holts say they would like an apology from the village because Tolono police did not impound the pit bulls, and they want to make sure nothing similar happens again.

Meanwhile, Tolono Police Chief Rick Raney has asked the village board to come up with a new animal-control ordinance.

Shortly after 3 p.m. March 5, Barb Holt took her two shepherds outside to walk them. The pit bulls crawled under a fence into her yard on Clifford Street and began attacking her dogs, eventually zeroing in on the 12-year-old female, Chloe, who is arthritic. One held her by the snout while the other ripped chunks of flesh from her. The Holts' 8-year-old male German shepherd, Champ, tried to fight back against the 10-month-old pit bulls.

"He (Champ) was trying to defend Chloe," Barb Holt said.

About 3:15 p.m., Raney was incorrectly dispatched to the address of the pit bulls' owner. On his way, he saw Barb Holt spraying one of the pit bulls with a garden hose to get it off Chloe. Raney stopped and yelled at the dogs but was unable to get their attention, so he shot each of the pit bulls with a stun gun.

After recovering from the charge, the first one ran off to the west, and the other ran east. Champ ran after the second pit bull and tried to attack it, but when the Holts yelled for Champ to stop, the other dog took off. The pit bulls' owner was able to catch one dog and locked it up in the house, but the other one remained unaccounted for until a resident picked it up after recognizing it from social-media posts. Raney confirmed that the dog had been returned to its owner Wednesday afternoon.

Raney loaded Chloe into his squad car and took her to a Tolono veterinarian for treatment of her injuries. The left side of Chloe's face is gone, as well as her left ear, her chest was ripped open and her legs were bitten. She has to go back to the veterinarian every day to have her bandages repacked and is taking 10 different pain medications and antibiotics.

Raney later took Champ to the veterinarian, but he appeared to have no serious injuries.

Joos said impounding the pit bulls likely was not the Tolono police's immediate priority at the time of the attack. "I think they were very concerned about the German shepherds' welfare," Joos said.

Under Tolono's animal-control ordinance, an animal is defined as running at large "when it is off the property of its owner, possessor, keeper or other authorized person and is not under the control of its owner, possessor, keeper or other authorized person by leash, cord, chain, rope or other effective device." A dog or cat is deemed to be a public nuisance if it "causes damage to the property or possessions of any person other than the owner ..."

The ordinance also states that "Any dog or cat running at large ... being a nuisance ... or barking or howling ... is subject to impoundment." So while dogs violating the ordinance can be impounded, they are not required to be.

The village has no service contract with Champaign County Animal Control but can impound animals there.

The ordinance states that owners who allow a dog or cat to run at large or to be a nuisance are subject to a fine of $75 for each offense.

"You need to do something about this dog ordinance; you really do," Raney told the village board last week. "It doesn't give me any power other than writing running-at-large tickets."

Raney suggested that a new ordinance contain language from state law that defines a vicious dog, a dangerous dog and a potentially dangerous dog.

Raney was scheduled to meet with other rural police chiefs and said he'd talk to them about how they handle similar situations.

The Holts went to the village board meeting last week to object to how the situation was handled.

"Why hasn't there been a lot of follow-up?" Barb Holt asked the board. "This could have been my grandkids. My yard was fenced in, so I thought it was safe."

In addition to the two 10-month-old pit bulls involved in the attack, the owners have three adult pit bulls.

"I knew those dogs were a threat," said Jeff Holt, a former village president. "That should have been dealt with. We should have been proactive, not reactive."

Jeff Holt said the pit bulls' owners should have taken more responsibility for them. "They should have had proper confinement," he said. "Don't let it happen again."

Jeff Holt questioned why the pit bulls were returned.

"Rick did everything in his power," Trustee Anna Morris said at the board meeting.

Joos said she typically declares between 10 and 15 dogs dangerous each year within the unincorporated areas of the county.

Christine Walsh is editor of The County Star, a News-Gazette Media community newspaper. For more, visit county-star.com.

Sections (2):News, Local

Comment viewing options

Select your preferred way to display the comments and click "Save settings" to activate your changes.
cjw61822@hotmail.com wrote on March 13, 2018 at 11:03 am

Mr. Holt did 0 when he was the village President to combat running at large by contracting with the county.  It was his opnion that it cost too much to do so.  Resulting in Officers with 0 training being forced to put the dog in the back of a squad car to take them to Urbana.


Now he wants to do something about this issue?

Joe American wrote on March 13, 2018 at 11:03 am

Seriously, if one dog is going to go it needs to be the aggressor.  Shoot it, or if you're within the minimum allowed distance from another residence, stab it.  Get it out of the gene pool.

Silence Dogood II wrote on March 13, 2018 at 12:03 pm

Now all three of us are preaching to the choir. We all know why pits were/are bred. The problem is that in most cases, once that aggression turns, you’re very lucky to get more than one chance. And I’m sure there are many pit lovers who have awesome success stories! Yay for you! It only takes ONE single time. Just once. In many cases, you do not get a second chance without being horribly disfigured for life or killed. Just thankful concealed carry exists for self-defense because apparently, every pit is a “good pit” if u raise it right (sarcasm).

fourt4 wrote on March 13, 2018 at 3:03 pm

There's a lot of dog names, county/city administrator's names, former mayor/injured party names in the article.

Did I miss where the pit bulls owners name were listed?  Why are they not named front and center?


Doug Lascounty wrote on March 14, 2018 at 7:03 am

Shouldn't the pit bull's owners be responsible for the vet bills.  Why do I bet that would be the proverbial "squeezing blood from a turnip." 

As I paint a mental picture of cousin Eddy not having money for his family while heaping bag upon bag of dog food at the walmart, these folks have 5 pit bulls to care for and we know at least two didn't have rabies shots- doubtful the others do either.

These dogs should have been put down as they have been shown to attack unprovoked, but since they were returned to their owners I believe any attack or aggression against humans or animals by them should result in a felony against the owner and the dogs destroyed immediately.  God forbid the next time they are loose they see small children playing and decide to attack them.

champaign61821 wrote on March 14, 2018 at 12:03 pm

Probably, but I'd guess that they don't have any money. Otherwise, the Holts would be suing them, and not suing the city.

Roanrider wrote on March 16, 2018 at 5:03 pm

So what do all of you pit bull haters think about Newman having a pit bull for a police dog? Kind of destroys all of your ridiculous arguments, eh?

metalmomof4 wrote on March 16, 2018 at 8:03 pm

Actually I would think that Newman having a pitbull as a police dog supports most of the views on here, that a poorly bred, untrained powerful dog in the hands of a irresponsible owner is a disaster waiting to happen. If Newmans police department made a mistake in picking a pit the town will have a huge lawsuit on their hands. If the dog is a hero at some point it helps prove that the bad owners failed their dogs and should be held finicially responsible.  I happen to love German Shepherds and think its too bad she didn't have access to a gun and the ability to protect her elderly pet.