Brownstown Town Council votes to euthanize dog that attacked woman



The five members of the Brownstown Town Council found themselves in a tough spot.

Town resident Naomi Branson suffered multiple bites and puncture wounds when she was attacked by a nearly 3-year-old 50-pound dog that’s part pit bull, boxer and Dachshund named Brownie. The dog broke loose from its collar while leashed to the porch of a home at 720 W. Walnut St. and attacked Branson.

Gloria Erp, the dog’s owner, said her 9-year-old daughter has become attached to the dog since they got it when it was 11 weeks old.

The July 29 attack on Branson, however, was the third time in the past year that Brownie has bitten someone. That on top of the seriousness of Branson’s injuries were causes for concern.

During a meeting Monday night, the council unanimously voted to have the dog euthanized.

Councilman Gary Drake said he’s a dog lover, but this was the third incident, it resulted in substantial injuries and the attack was unprovoked.

“This is one of those situations where as a member of this council, it’s not an easy decision to make because I feel for you and your little girl,” he said to Erp. “But my responsibility is the welfare of this entire community, and even if the dog is now out in the country, there’s still people in the country.”

Erp said she recently moved outside town limits where the dog would only be around people he knows.

Still, Drake recommended euthanizing the dog.

“I’m not willing to see the potential of this happening again, especially if it would happen to a little child,” he said. “These kind of injuries on a toddler could have and probably would have resulted in death. So therefore, as far as I’m concerned, I think the council doesn’t have any choice. I’m sorry. That’s my opinion of it.”

Councilman Mark Reynolds then made a motion to euthanize the dog, Drake seconded and the final vote was unanimous.

“We do apologize for what you’re going to have to explain to your daughter, but it’s our responsibility to the town, and I think this is the best decision that could have been made,” council President Sally Lawson said to Erp, who at that point became emotional.

“This weekend, I was thinking about it, ‘Am I wrong for fighting this?’ because this was really bad,” Erp said. “It tears me up, but I know this is the best decision because I don’t want it to happen to somebody else. I know if I was sitting up there (as a council member), I would have made the same decision.”

Branson’s attorney, Susan Sparks with Montgomery, Elsner & Pardieck in Seymour, said it was a tough situation.

“I’d like to point out my client hasn’t taken it lightly, either,” Sparks said. “They really were concerned about the safety of other people. They felt like they were obligated to take a stand on this.”

The council then voted to waive the cost of boarding the dog after it was taken from the home, but Erp will have to cover the euthanization fee.

Branson and Erp first discussed the incident with the council during an Aug. 6 meeting. Pictures of Branson’s wounds were shared with 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.

Assistant Police Chief Joe Kelly investigated the other two incidents. The first one in September 2017 involved Brownie 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 said she would have the dog go through boot camp, but that never happened.

According to the town’s animal ordinance, 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 animal should be euthanized or relocated or the owner should receive stiff penalties.

The animal 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. If the town houses the dog for more than five days, the owner typically is fined a certain amount per day, Reichenbacker said.

Branson said the health department classified the bites as Level 4, which is a vicious, aggressive attack. Level 5 is fatal, she said. Since this was the dog’s third attack, she suggested it be euthanized.

During Monday’s meeting, Sparks said after reviewing the ordinance and police reports, she determined the dog to be a vicious animal.

“If that had been a small child, that would have been at face level,” she said. “I think with this being the third bite that we know of and with it being not just a bite — this isn’t just a dog running up and nipping somebody, this is a dog actually attacking somebody — that this dog needs to be declared a vicious animal under the statute.”

Along with emergency room treatment, Sparks said Branson had to start taking prescription medication because of the animal bite. She also had followup treatment, scarring, medical bills and emotional issues.

“She walked on that street with her grandchildren, and now, she doesn’t even want to get out of the house and walk in that area. She drives someplace to walk,” Sparks said. “So there are a lot of ramifications of this.”

Sparks also agreed that the dog should be euthanized.

“I really think given the circumstances and the viciousness of this third attack that simply moving the dog out of town doesn’t solve the problem,” she said. “It solves the problem for the town of Brownstown but not for the people that can be subjected to the dog, so based on this history, we believe that the dog should be euthanized.”

Erp said she had scheduled a one-on-one session at boot camp for Brownie, and she had moved out in the country so he wouldn’t be around other people.

“This is my little girl’s dog, and it tears me up that she’s going to lose her puppy because of me not paying attention to his collar,” Erp said.

Lawson said she could sympathize, but this was the dog’s third incident, and it badly hurt someone.

“I understand you’re moving out of town and not near as many people, but the issue is the dog is dangerous,” she said.

“There’s fewer people, but there’s still people, so it seems wrong to just think it’s OK if we allow it to move,” Councilwoman Sharon Koch added.

“Next time it does hurt someone, then it’s, ‘Well, Brownstown saw this issue already and had a chance to take care of the situation,’” Lawson said. “Then that could also fall back on our responsibility to citizens not just in Brownstown but surrounding areas, as well.”

No posts to display