Naomi Branson never had a reason to fear dogs.
That all changed after an incident that occurred July 29 while she was walking along South Walnut Street in Brownstown.
A nearly 3-year-old 50-pound dog that’s part pit bull, boxer and Dachshund named Brownie broke loose from its collar while leashed to the porch of a home at 720 W. Walnut St. and attacked Branson. She claimed to have received 16 puncture wounds and six or seven bites on her body.
Given that this was the third time the dog had attacked a person since September 2017, Branson recently asked the Brownstown Town Council to consider having it euthanized.
“This was classified as a Level 4 bite by the health department,” Branson said. “Level 4 is a vicious, aggressive attack. Level 5 is fatal. Had I had my 2-year-old great-granddaughter in her stroller at that time, she would be dead.”
Branson said the attack was unprovoked.
“Please do something with this dog,” she told the council. “I don’t want this to happen to anybody else. It’s more than me that’s involved here. I’m talking about a community. I want this community to be safe, and I know it can never be 100 percent. I get that. I didn’t ask for this. … I want the kids on Walnut Street coming to school on their bikes or walking or going to the neighbor’s house or going to shoot hoops to be safe.”
Gloria Erp, who owns Brownie, told the council the dog is not going to be in town much longer because she and her family are in the process of moving out of town limits on family property.
“He’s only going to be with us, around family members that he’s used to,” Erp said. “He wasn’t like this until we moved into town.”
While Brownie has been on his leash outside the home, Erp said children have teased, tormented and taunted him as they walk by.
“He has never been vicious with us, though,” Erp said. “He belongs to my 9-year-old. We got him since he was 11 weeks old, and he’s fine with her. He has never tried to harm her. I’m not minimizing what happened to (Branson) because it was terrible. I witnessed it.”
Erp said it was her neglect for not noticing the collar was in bad shape. She said if the dog is not euthanized, she would put it through boot camp training in Columbus.
Branson’s daughter, Tammie Niewedde, said in her 20 years of working with guardian dogs, none of the organizations would have brought an animal into rescue after three attacks, especially one as vicious as the attack on her mother.
“It would have been euthanized,” Niewedde said. “Even though we always try to save an animal, there are some instances where you cannot, and as long as the dog poses an immediate threat to the people that it is around, regardless if it’s a random person or the owner, it would not have been rehabilitated. It would have been euthanized because of the danger that it poses.”
She said the issue is the dog’s owner knew it was potentially violent and did not properly contain it.
“I don’t know that that would improve in the future, and I have a fear for the safety of people who are around that dog, be it in town or out in the country or wherever,” Niewedde said.
She presented pictures of some of her mother’s wounds to the council, and the investigating officer, John Reichenbacker, explained the town’s animal ordinance to the council and presented copies of the three police reports regarding the dog’s attacks. He also shared his reports with Branson’s attorney.
Assistant Police Chief Joe Kelly investigated the other two incidents. The first one in September 2017 involved the dog biting a 9-year-old neighbor. When the child knocked on the front door, the dog started barking, popped the door open, bit the child and went back in the home.
The second attack occurred June 27 inside the home, and the victim sustained multiple puncture wound injuries and went to Schneck Medical Center in Seymour for treatment.
After that incident, Kelly said he told Erp that the dog may have to be euthanized if it attacked someone again, and Erp told him she would have the dog go through boot camp.
According to the town’s animal ordinance, Reichenbacker said it’s the council’s responsibility to declare an animal potentially dangerous or vicious. Potentially dangerous means the animal has to have two types of occurrences listed in the ordinance within a 36-month period. If the dog is declared potentially dangerous and commits another offense within 36 months, it can be declared vicious.
Then the council would determine if the dog should be euthanized or relocated or the owner should receive stiff penalties.
Town attorney Rodney Farrow suggested the council take time to review the police reports and the ordinance and then make the final decision at a hearing, either during a special meeting or at the next regularly scheduled council meeting.
Reichenbacker said the dog has to be quarantined at the town’s shelter for a minimum of 10 days, per the Jackson County Health Department and Indiana State Department of Health.
He said Brownie has received its required vaccinations, but if a dog exhibits signs of rabidity during those 10 days, it would have to be euthanized, and its head would be sent to state officials to determine if it had rabies.
If the town houses the dog for more than five days, the owner typically is fined a certain amount per day, Reichenbacker said.
Councilman Mark Reynolds suggested the town hold the dog until the next council meeting, set for 6 p.m. Monday at Brownstown Town Hall. At that time, the council will again hear from the victim and owner and make a decision.
Branson told the council her daughter has ideas on making changes to the town’s animal ordinance, including making it profitable to where the town could pay a full-time animal control officer.
“Anything we can do to help keep the community safe,” Branson said. “We’re not here to do anything but to help. We want to work with you. If you work with us, we’re more than happy to.”
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What: Brownstown Town Council meeting
When: 6 p.m. Monday
Where: Brownstown Town Hall, 200 W. Walnut St.
Who: Open to the public and press