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Posted: Wednesday, September 5, 2007 12:00 pm | Updated: 4:53 pm, Wed Aug 15, 2012.

By Kevin M. Smith

Killeen Daily Herald

Three pit bulls were euthanized last month in Killeen, but the owners of a miniature Pomeranian that was mauled to death are still upset. What they say bothers them the most is that it could have been their daughter or her friends.

Ebony Irby let Pierre outside a little after 7 a.m. Aug. 12 to do his business. She said within minutes she heard dogs "screeching." She said she thought it was the neighbor's pit bulls who often make a screeching sound when they fight with each other.

"Then I heard a sound I never heard before," Ebony said. "It scared me."

After calling for Pierre, she stepped outside to see the neighbor's pit bulls in her backyard playing tug-of-war with the miniature Pomeranian. Details for the next few minutes are a little hazy to her.

"I was kind of hysterical," she said.

Ebony's husband, Enrique, tried to scare the pit bulls by banging a board against a wall. But they were not deterred, he said. What bothers the Irbys is that they called the police department the night before the attack to report that the dogs at the house behind theirs looked malnourished and not taken care of.

"They said they couldn't come unless the dogs got into our yard," Enrique said.

Enrique said the officer he talked to said someone could come the next day to check the dogs' welfare. But before that happened, the Irbys said, the three pit bulls broke through the fence and attacked their dog.

The Irbys said they are disappointed with the response time by Killeen Animal Control on that Sunday morning. According to a call for service report from the Killeen Police Department, on Aug. 12, Enrique called at 7:33 a.m. to report the attack. At 7:54 a.m., records state, Enrique called again wanting to know the estimated time of arrival of an officer. The Irbys said it took an officer at least 45 minutes to arrive on the scene.

A police department report states that the dogs' owner, Rolando Garcia, was fined for failure to show proof of rabies vaccination and city license for each dog. The report states that Garcia said he would come to the animal shelter to claim the dogs. It also states that Garcia said he had been trying to get rid of the dogs. About three days after the attack, the dogs were euthanized.

"After 72 hours, they become the property of the city," said Capt. Steve Hoskins, who oversees the Animal Control division.

Hoskins said Garcia never came to claim his dogs. If an animal is seized by the city's Animal Control division, the owner has 72 hours to claim the animal, which includes filling out paperwork, paying any fines associated with the animal being taken in and adhering to any provisions given. Hoskins said the three pit bulls were considered vicious animals because they attacked another animal.

"It does happen fairly regularly," Hoskins said.

Killeen Animal Control reports seeing 10 to 15 cases of an animal biting another animal each month.

"Each one is handled case by case," Hoskins said.

He said each case

is investigated and an officer considers options including restraint of the animal, registration and vaccinations.

"All this is taken into consideration to see what the best course of action is," Hoskins said.

In this case, Hoskins said, the best course of action was euthanization.

Garcia was unavailable for comment.

Enrique said he wanted to make sure the dogs were gone so when they had a birthday party for their daughter later in August, there would be no danger.

"I don't want to have 50 kids back here and have the dogs break through again," Enrique said from his backyard.

While the attack on Pierre the Pomeranian led to multiple citations, an attack on a human now could mean prison time for the dog owner.

On Sept. 1, a new state law took effect. It requires all dog owners to properly secure their dogs on their property.

"The law provides that a dog owner can be held criminally responsible if the dog causes serious bodily injury or death at a location other than the owner's property in an unprovoked attack during which the owner by criminal negligence failed to secure the dog," House Bill 1355 states.

Owners found guilty of the aforementioned offense could face up to 10 years in prison. If the attack causes a fatality, the sentence could increase to 20 years.

A 6-year-old boy in Dallas died Aug. 31 from a pit bull attack – a day before the new law took effect, according to Associated Press reports.

Hoskins said pet owners who keep their dog restrained would not be held liable if someone enters their home or backyard and is attacked. He said when someone is trespassing, that person is committing a violation to be there.

"It's your own domain," Hoskins said. "That's what many people have dogs for: to protect their property."

Senate Bill 378, known as the "Castle Doctrine," removes the requirement that a person attempt to retreat before using deadly force to defend themselves.

Other new pet laws that took effect this month include:

House Bill 1411, which restricts when a dog can be left unattended and restrained outside. The law does not allow dogs to be left chained up outside between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m., within 500 feet of the premises of a school or in the case of extreme weather conditions.

House Bill 2328 separates cruelty against livestock from the law prohibiting cruelty against other animals. The new law also features tougher penalties. It prohibits a person from torturing livestock, failing to provide necessary food and water, abandoning livestock, causing livestock to fight with one another or use livestock as a lure in a dog race training or in dog coursing on a racetrack among other restrictions.

Contact Kevin M. Smith at ksmith@kdhnews.com or call (254) 501-7550

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