LUZERNE COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) — What can you legally do if there is a dangerous dog in your neighborhood? That is just one of the questions being asked as the 28/22 News I-Team looks into a series of dog attacks in Luzerne County.
28/22 News has been reporting on the attacks, seven in total over the last several days and I-Team Reporter Andy Mehalshick went looking for answers to those questions and others.
Dangerous dog cases have to make their way through the courts, but a move is underway in Harrisburg to give law enforcement authorities more power to remove those dogs from neighborhoods more quickly.
We must alert our viewers and readers that the images in this report could be disturbing to some people.
28/22 News was able to obtain photos of some of the injuries suffered by three of the victims of dog attacks that took place in recent weeks.
Six people were attacked and bitten in Nanticoke, and a seventh person, a 10-year-old boy was attacked, investigators call it “Mauled” in Hanover Township, and 28/22 News was able to obtain video of the dog that attacked those people.
The dog, a large mixed-breed mastiff was supposed to be quarantined by its owner.
On Tuesday, Ken Hicks the owner of the dog, pleaded guilty in district court to 19 citations in connection with those attacks and agreed to surrender the dog to the State Dog Warden to be euthanized, but many people are asking why did it take so long to remove the dog from the neighborhood?
Todd Hevner is the Executive Director of the Luzerne County SPCA.
“What I would like the community to know, we can understand their frustration and their concerns about the situation. But when it comes to the SPCA our legal authority allows us to intervene in cruelty situations, but a bite, such as what was occurring in Nanticoke, the owner still has rights until a court of law takes them away,” said Hevner.
Hevner explains the State Dog Warden has the legal authority to investigate dog bites or attack cases, but adds that the SPCA assists the dog warden and local police in such cases. But under current state law, there is no quick resolution to dog bite cases.
“It’s the right of the owner over their animals and the only individual or entity that can remove those rights is the court, and until the court makes a decision, unfortunately, the state dog warden’s hands are tied, your local police department’s hands are tied, and any humane organization such as the SPCA, our hands are tied,” Hevner explained.
State Representative Eddie Day Pashinski from Luzerne County has introduced legislation to speed up that process and give law enforcement the authority to remove the animal from the neighborhood more quickly as the case makes its way through the courts.
The bureau’s work includes:
- Inspecting kennels and ensuring that they are operating in compliance with safety and health standards;
- Responding to, and monitoring, incidents involving dangerous dogs;
- Supporting local shelters that take in stray and lost dogs; and
- Educating and encouraging Pennsylvanians to license their dogs for their own safety
“Now they will change that law to give police that authority to take the dog and put in a licensed kennel until a dog can be evaluated through the process is taken care of, then with the results of the operation,” said Representative Pashinski.
We also have to point out that the I-Team has been reaching out to the dog warden as well as the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture, which oversees the state’s dog laws for comment and have yet to hear back.