Dog attack sparks confusion about Horry County response

Published: Jan. 14, 2011 at 2:53 AM EST|Updated: Jan. 20, 2011 at 12:48 PM EST
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Conway, SC - By Brandon Herring - bio | email

CONWAY, SC (WMBF) - An Horry County woman believes a recent experience can serve as a call for better communication by the county's police department and animal control. She says it is also a reminder to pet owners about their responsibilities.

Lenore Letellier said she was taking her dog Gizmo, a Welsh Corgi, for a walk down the street Saturday, and when she returned to her home she saw her neighbors' two pit bulls out of their fence. She said that is when one of them ran at her.

"She charged after me, knocked me to the ground, was on top of me, my little corgi tried to protect me and was mauled," Letellier said.

Gizmo now has several stitches, and Letellier did file a police report. However, animal control did not collect the pit bull.

"At that point I would have just wanted the animal taken away," she said.

She expected a follow-up on Tuesday because the county offices closed Monday for weather. Letellier said she made several calls without any success in getting an animal control officer to her home.

Sgt. Robert Kegler with Horry County Police said an officer is not allowed to take animals unless they are roaming free when the officer responds. Otherwise, the officer would have to take the animal from private property, which is a violation of the owner's rights.

"If the officer responded and the dog had still been out at-large at that point, environmental services would have been called to have the dog picked up," Kegler said.

A dangerous animal can only be taken from an owner's home after a problem like Letellier's is reported and a magistrate judge approves the seizure because of a threat. That decision is based on information provided by police in their report and investigation.

"It's no different than any other crime that's investigated by our officers," Kegler explained. "If something doesn't happen in our presence, and it is alleged, it has to be investigated."

Letellier said the process was not accurately explained to her. So she believed action should be coming more quickly.

"I can't begin to tell you how frustrating this has all been," she said.

County police are still investigating the case, and Letellier's neighbors could face a fine between $225 and $465 for not containing the dogs. They have now voluntarily given the pit bulls to animal control.

Copyright 2011 WMBF News. All rights reserved.