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May 17 2006 - Dog Attack Tests New County Law

Zach Maxfield’s beagle, Copper, and neighbor Mary Tenpenny, 20, were attacked by a pit bull and a black shepherd mix while walking near the Center Point Town Homes on Friday, according to animal control officials.  The beagle died as a result of the attack.

The dogs are in quarantine and the owner has been cited under a tougher dog ordinance passed recently by the Rutherford County Commission in response to complaints about dangerous dogs being allowed to roam.

Under the new animal ordinance, which was passed the night before the attack, animal control officers have more authority to impound dogs they have probable cause to believe are dangerous or potentially dangerous.  Officers may now enter the owner’s property to impound the dog if there is probable cause.

After Friday's attack, Pet Adoption & Welfare Services (PAWS) Officer Veronica Mullen had probable cause. Mullen had even more cause when she was bitten on her left leg by the black shepherd mix dog, though it did not break the skin.

The two dogs are now being quarantined for a 10-day period to determine if they have rabies.

Tenpenny at first didn't realize that she would need six stitches from the bites to her legs.

"We were walking up the street, they came at us, and we had no chance to get away," Tenpenny said.

"I was more worried about the beagle at first," she said. "It was my neighbor's dog. I felt getting bitten, but it didn't hurt, I guess because I was running on adrenaline. I didn't realize until after it was over that my leg was bleeding. Copper was scared to death. He jumped in the car and wouldn't come out."

Copper died the next night.

Also pretty upset about the attack and the fact that the dogs had been allowed to run at large, is Shelia Morris, owner of Center Point Town Homes.

"These dogs have been terrorizing my tenants," she said. "Our tenants are concerned for their lives. It took these dogs to kill a dog before somebody came out.

"After the police came out, these dogs jumped on the policeman's car. The policeman said they couldn't do anything about it until the owners got back home. Once the owners came back home, the police came back out, talked to the owners and said just keep your dogs in."

At first only one of the dogs, the one believed to have bitten Tenpenny and Copper was quarantined, and the other was released to their owner, Megan Washington, who was issued a citation for allowing dogs to run at large, Mullen said. The other dog was to have been taken into quarantine Monday, and a tentative date has been set in General Sessions Court for May 25 to determine if the dogs are in fact dangerous.

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