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Let’s act to prevent future dog attacks

The vicious dog attack on a rural Ashton woman revisits the trauma experienced by Erie residents in 2005 when a teenage girl died after being mauled by dogs. More must be done to prevent such attacks.

Published: Saturday, May 3, 2014 1:15 a.m. CDT

The savage attack by three dogs against a 63-year-old rural Ashton woman on April 21 again raises the question, How can such attacks be prevented in the future?

The woman, Aneda Ebert, is at home recovering from severe injuries to her neck, shoulder, arms, and leg. She spent 4 days in the hospital and underwent surgery to repair the wounds.

Ebert told a reporter: “I’m mauled. I’m just a mess. I have stitches everywhere.”

The injuries were inflicted by two pit bulls and a smaller brown dog. They ran out from a neighbor’s yard as she was jogging past on the road, bit her on the elbows, knocked her down, and bit her neck. Ebert protected her face, but the dogs became more vicious and began dragging her.

“I can’t believe the grip they had,” Ebert said. “There was nothing I could do.”

The only reason Ebert survived is that her husband, Larry, was riding his bicycle some distance down the road, witnessed the attack, furiously pedaled to her side, and scared the dogs away.

The Ogle County animal control office impounded the dogs and, with the owner’s consent, euthanized them.

But the owner has not been charged, even though, according to Ebert, a neighbor had reported that the dogs were running at large more than once.

Loose dogs running in a pack, had there been four or more, could have triggered a state law enacted in 2007 that was sponsored by two Sauk Valley legislators, state Reps. Jerry Mitchell and Mike Boland, who have since retired.

Their law addressed the mauling by four dogs of a 14-year-old Erie girl, Lydia Chaplin, in January 2005. She was walking on a rural road when the dogs, which had been allowed to run loose by their owner, attacked her and left her so badly injured that she died of hypothermia.

Lydia’s Law created the designation of a “potentially dangerous dog,” which is defined as a dog seen running unsupervised with three or more other dogs. In that case, animal control wardens are empowered to capture and impound the animals and release them only if the dog owner has them sterilized.

But the dog pack that viciously attacked Ebert was one dog short of the minimum number required by Lydia’s Law to trigger action under the “potentially dangerous dog” designation.

Perhaps that law needs to be made tougher, now that we have proof that three dogs running loose in a pack also pose a danger – knowledge gained at great pain and suffering to Ebert.

What about if two dogs are running loose? Might they also be “potentially dangerous”?

And what about the owner of dogs that are allowed to run loose, only to attack someone?

Victims have the option to file a civil lawsuit, which is the major sanction they can take against the owner.

In the case of Chaplin and Ebert, the attacking dogs were euthanized by county animal control authorities.

Is that enough?

Should owners of dogs that brutally attack people be charged with a crime?

Should the same owners lose the privilege of owning a dog because they failed to exert proper control over their dogs in the past?

Should leash laws be extended to rural areas? After all, if it’s not a good idea to allow dogs to run free in a city, shouldn’t the same be true for the country?

Responsible dog owners are not the issue here. Their rights should not be infringed upon.

But irresponsible dog owners are another story.

Elected officials, authorities and the public need to address problems created by those dog owners and do more to prevent such horrific attacks.

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