Saturday, July 16, 2005

Pennsylvania: No punishment for cop who shot and killed a turtle. LEN GALLI is an embarrassment to law enforcement

PENNSYLVANIA -- As people question why a police sergeant shot and killed a snapping turtle last week, a municipal police training commission recommends the sergeant be placed on administrative leave or administrative duty while an investigation is conducted.

Police Chief John McNeil says that’s nonsense.

“It’s like if an officer decides to shoot a deer hit by a car, it’s his decision.”

McNeil, who was at a conference for the Police Chiefs Association in Valley Forge this week, said he does plan to review Sgt. Len Galli’s report but will not put him on administrative leave.

“I was absent during the incident and only knew about it from the papers,” he said. “I will read his report and move on from there.”

McNeil said a specific report must be filled out whenever an officer fires a weapon.

“If a gun was discharged at a human, the incident would be handled in a totally different way, but it was a turtle,” McNeil said.

Beverly Young, of the Municipal Police Officers’ Education and Training Commission in Harrisburg, said Monday she does not know the specifics of the incident, but the commission teaches officers to only use force if there is an endangerment of life or property.

“I hope he had a nightstick or contacted animal welfare before discharging the weapon.”

The turtle, estimated to be 50 pounds, was found in the Wyoming Avenue yard of James Fino on the morning of July 8. First Fino tried to poke the turtle away with a broomstick, but the tortoise quickly snapped the stick in two.

When Galli took over, he attempted to pick it up. The turtle nearly bit the sergeant’s back, so he fired two rounds into the turtle’s head.

This is laughable. This guy doesn't deserve to call himself a police officer. He is a complete moron who should be fired.

Young said if the shooting involved another human, the officer would immediately be put on administrative duty. But the policy on discharging a weapon on an animal is different for every department.

Galli did not return calls for comment for this story.

(Times Leader - July 15, 2005)

6-day-old killed by family dog

RHODE ISLAND -- The parents of a 6-day-old girl killed by the family dog on Wednesday at first thought the child was only slightly hurt, according to police.

Coventry police say the father of Alexis McDermott told them he got a call from his wife on Tuesday morning saying something was wrong with the baby.

Scott McDermott said he returned home and he and his wife, Cindy, checked on Alexis. Cindy had found a small amount of blood on the baby's head, but Scott McDermott told police when they examined the baby together, it appeared the wound was minor, as the bleeding had stopped, according to a news release from Coventry police.

Cindy's mother came to the house, and the three decided to drive the baby to the hospital. Alexis stopped breathing on the way, and the family brought her to a West Warwick fire station for medical help.

The baby was taken to Kent County Hospital, where she was pronounced dead.

An autopsy determined the baby died from "injuries to multiple internal organs and internal bleeding due to blunt force trauma" from multiple dog bites, police said.

Police said Scott McDermott told them his wife said she had left the baby in a portable crib while she went into the kitchen. She heard Alexis crying and returned to find the baby on the floor with the dog, a male Husky, nearby.

Cindy McDermott has not yet spoken with police. They said she is too upset to meet with detectives.
Coventry police released a statement Thursday, but did not return phone calls seeking further comment.

No telephone listing for the family could immediately be found.

The dog is being held by animal control. Its fate has not been determined.

Police said Scott McDermott told them there had been no problems with the dog in the past and the dog had not shown any aggression to the baby since she came home from the hospital.

While dog attacks are not the leading cause of injury to children, they are also not uncommon, said Dr. Michael Shannon, director of emergency services at Children's Hospital in Boston.

"Just in the past month, I've seen at least five children with serious injuries from a dog," he said.

Children's behavior makes them more likely to provoke an attack than adults, and their size makes them more vulnerable because an attack on a child more likely to hit a vital organ, Shannon said.

Maria Wah-Fitta, a spokeswoman for Rhode Island Department of Health, said the department tracks childhood deaths, and a review of those records since 1998 found no instances of death by dog bite.

Of 27 people who died from dog bites in 1997-98, 19 were children under the age of 15, according to data on the Web site of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The CDC says children - and boys from 5 to 9, in particular - have the highest rate of emergency department visits stemming from dog attacks.

(Sun Journal - July 15, 2005)

Friday, July 15, 2005

Three Norcross men allegedly responsible for 37 pit bull being neglected

GEORGIA -- Three Norcross men allegedly responsible for 37 pit bull dogs are being held without bond on drug charges while officials determine whether the trio will also face animal cruelty charges.

Officer Darren Moloney, spokesman for the Gwinnett County Police Department, said police are waiting until a doctor has had a better chance to look at the animals and assess their condition before deciding whether to charge Tyrone Laval Drayton, 19; Raymond Barry Washington, 25; and John Holmes, 21, with cruelty to animals.

A Gwinnett Animal Control officer arrived at the 6089 Williams Road residence Tuesday morning to look into reports of animal cruelty.

Upon arrival, the officer observed multiple pit-bull dogs, several of which appeared to be severely physically neglected, police reports said.

The officer also saw what appeared to be marijuana when he made contact with the men, at which point he detained them and obtained a search warrant.

Police reports indicate some of the puppies were suffering from severe malnutrition and a veterinarian at the scene said the animals were exhibiting signs consistent with neglect and physical cruelty.

There were also several shallow graves in the backyard of the residence where the remains of a puppy were found in a black, plastic garbage bag.

Moloney said one puppy was currently under a doctor's care because it was in pretty bad shape, but it appeared it would live.

"I was shocked when I arrived at the scene," Moloney said. "It's hard to see anybody doing anything like that to animals."

Neighbors of the men also expressed feelings of shock when they found out how many dogs there were.

"Why would someone have 37 pit bulls?" Leon Vuong said. "I'm glad someone called, but I feel bad for those dogs."

"I'm thankful Gwinnett County stayed on the ball," Phyllis Harris said when told there were 37 dogs. "But I had no idea there were that many. I thought there were about six."

Neighbors also said they are relieved that police intervened because the dogs were becoming a nuisance.

"It was really annoying because we heard those dogs barking all the time," Vuong said. "Maybe now we'll have some peace and quiet."

Harris, whose property backs up to that of the three men, said that she sometimes heard gunfire in the middle of the night and in the afternoon coming from that residence.

Moloney said police had been looking into the residence for some time for alleged drug activity.
The three men are being held in police custody on drug-related charges.

Animal cruelty charges of the first degree carry a maximum year in jail or a fine of $5,000 or both.
Moloney said police were not yet sure of what would happen to the dogs and they were being held by animal control as evidence.

(Gwinnett Daily Post - July 14, 2005)

Thursday, July 7, 2005

Pennsylvania: Elizabeth Jovanov's refusal to have vicious pit bull euthanized nets nearly $20,000 in fines

PENNSYLVANIA -- Elizabeth Jovanov has racked up nearly $20,000 in fines to date because of her son’s refusal to have Slim – their 2-year-old Staffordshire pit bull terrier – put to sleep.

“Me putting my dog to sleep is like me putting my kid to sleep. I’d pay a lifetime of fines before I’d let that happen,” said Traian Jovanov, 20, of North Pine Street.

City health officer Mark Thompson ordered Elizabeth Jovanov to have the dog put down after the dog allegedly attacked U.S. Postal Service employee Andrew Debalko while he was delivering mail on May 31.

She was caring for the dog because her son was jailed on a probation violation.

The dog attacked people “without provocation on three occasions over a 30-month period, inflicting bodily harm on each,” according to a citation Thompson filed on June 15 with District Justice Joseph Zola.

The citation, which carries a $600-per-day fine for each day of the violation, states that Jovanov was charged with failing to comply with Thompson’s order to euthanize the dog.

The fine stands at about $19,800.

Good luck getting her to pay it. 

Three unprovoked attacks by a dangerous dog can result in mandatory euthanasia, although the officer may direct that the dog be euthanized after only one severe attack, the city’s new dangerous dog law states.

An employee at Zola’s office said no plea had been entered on the “failure to euthanize” citation or two others related to the incident. A hearing is scheduled for 11 a.m. July 25.

Elizabeth Jovanov also was cited by Thompson for having an animal running at large, and by state dog warden James Spencer for harboring a dangerous dog. Those charges carry maximum $300 fines.

Within 14 days of a city police or health officer’s determination that the dog is dangerous, the owner can appeal the determination to a three-member panel consisting of a local veterinarian, a dog trainer and someone experienced with various dog breeds.

Traian Jovanov said he was unaware of the city’s appeal process and doesn’t believe his dog is dangerous.

Thompson said the dog was loose and off the owner’s property when it bit Debalko, but Jovanov said the dog was leashed and bit the mailman when Debalko put his hand near the dog’s face while handing mail to Jovanov’s sister.

Debalko did not return a call seeking comment.

Jovanov said he doesn’t believe his dog was at fault in that incident or in two previous attacks in 2003 and 2004.

Jovanov said a man with whom he was arguing in 2003 kicked his dog in the face while getting on his bicycle, and that the dog jumped around the man but never bit him.

He said a man delivering laundry to his parent’s tenants in 2004 was bitten after he entered the back yard of the residence, even though signs were posted warning people of a dog on the premises.

However, the 2004 bite victim – Christian Rubio of Beaver Meadows – told a reporterhe never entered the yard, that the dog was loose in front of the house and that there were no warning signs posted. Rubio’s name appears on a witness list for the July 25 hearing.

For the 2003 incident, Traian Jovanov was charged with and pleaded guilty to failure to have his dog licensed and vaccinated against rabies. For the 2004 incident, he was charged with and found guilty of failure to keep his dog under control and have it vaccinated.

Jovanov said his mother, who had hip surgery last week and was unavailable for comment for this story, told him she would handle the current legal situation.

He said he hopes the order to euthanize the dog isn’t enforceable because the law went into effect after the 2003 and 2004 incidents.

Jovanov said he wants to move to the Poconos so the dog can have space to run and not be subject to “unfair” city laws. He said he accepted the dog from its previous owners when it was about 7 months old and showed signs of abuse. He said he intended to give the dog away, but fell in love with it and couldn’t bear to part with it.

“You can come back two years later and I’m still going to have this dog. I might be racked up with fines, but I’ll still have this dog,” Jovanov said.

(Indiana Gazette - July 7, 2005)