The owner of a dog that bit a child above the left side of his buttocks did not show up to a hearing before the East Bethel City Council to give their side of the story, so the council after listening to testimony from the child’s mother and concerned citizens unanimously declared that the dog is dangerous and must be put to sleep.
“I’m looking out for the safety of others,” said the child’s mother Wendy Borstner. “(My son) was totally innocent, riding his bike and he got attacked by this dog.”
There have been times when the council has declared a dog dangerous and imposed tougher rules than a typical dog owner has to abide by. This could include posting dangerous dog warning signs on the property, having liability insurance in the minimum amount of $300,000, making sure the dog is in a proper enclosure or leashed or muzzled when outside and paying a $500 annual registration fee to the city.
Councilmember Heidi Moegerle made the motion to declare the three-year-old Rocco as a dangerous dog and that he be put down. Rocco is a black lab and husky mix, according to the Anoka County Sheriff’s Office report.
Moegerle said this motion was made because the attack was vicious and unprovoked, while Rocco had had multiple incidents when he was living in St. Paul.
“In this animal’s life there’s not going to be a means to change this behavior,” Councilmember Steve Voss stated. “Even with all the licensure, insurance, signage and fencing I don’t feel any comfort that this won’t happen again.”
According to the incident report drafted by Deputy Shawn Merritt, the boy had four separate marks from individual teeth and one of the marks had an abrasion and the other three broke the skin and it looked like there had been bleeding. His mother declined to send her son to the hospital.
The boy told Merritt that he was riding his bike on the 20800 block of Tippecanoe Street when a dog ran into the road to retrieve a ball. When he rode by, the dog dropped the ball and bit him just above the left side of his buttocks. He said someone apologized and he rode home.
His mother Wendy claimed that when she went to the home, nobody would say who the owner was. She became suspicious when one of them asked her not to call the cops because there was a previous incident involving the dog and they did not want it put down.
Lucas Ogborn eventually admitted that he owned the dog.
Tammy Gimpl has the city animal handler contract through her business Gratitude Farms. She told the council that she asked Ogborn if Rocco had been declared a dangerous dog and if it had any prior incidents.
According to Gimpl, Ogborn was not forthcoming because he did not say Rocco had any prior incidents. When she scanned the microchip in Rocco, she discovered he had a history in St. Paul when the dog had a different owner.
St. Paul sent records to East Bethel regarding the incidents. Rocco was involved in two incidents in a two-month period in 2009. In one incident April 7, 2009, Rocco ran up to a woman riding her bike and bit her on her left thigh. On May 29, 2009, Rocco bit a 13-year-old’s jacket and the dog he was with bit the child. Both dogs were with their owner at the time.
On Sept. 13, 2011, a woman riding her bike was bit by Rocco on the right thigh. She said he continued to chase her until she yelled at him. She knocked on the door, but the owner was not home.
When asked for her impressions, Gimpl said Rocco was fine around her and people he knew, but she said Rocco was “going ballistic” on the way back to Gratitude Farms when there were bikers and walkers going by.
When Councilmember Robert DeRoche, Jr. asked Gimpl what the chances were of this dog biting someone again, she replied, “Very good.”
Two other neighbors also raised concerns about having Rocco in their area.
According to DeRoche, it was unfortunate the current owner was not at the hearing to take responsibility for what happened.
“Do I think it’s a bad dog? No. I think it’s a bad owner, but that doesn’t change what the dog is now and the propensity to do it again,” DeRoche said.
Eric Hagen is at firstname.lastname@example.org