Most Viewed Stories
Officials can determine if a dog is not safe, but one hearing not pursued may have affected later attack
BARSTOW • The fifth vicious dog abatement hearing in Barstow since 2010 is scheduled Sept. 24, authorities said, but it’s a potential sixth one which was never ordered that could possibly have affected a recent attack.
An abatement hearing follows an official’s declaration of doubt as to the safeness of a dog.
Barstow city municipal code 8.12.040 states that a dog can first be declared potentially dangerous and/or vicious “if an animal control officer, humane officer or law enforcement officer has investigated and determined that there exists probable cause.”
The dog’s owner is notified of a hearing and may present evidence at the hearing as to why the dog is not an immediate threat to public safety, according to the code.
The dog may be euthanized if it’s ruled a threat, although an appeal process exists for owners in such cases.
One such ruling was made against a pit bull owned by Cheryl Morrow in a 2011 hearing, Barstow Police Lt. Mike Hunter said Friday.
Morrow, 51, was recently sentenced to two years in jail following a separate incident again involving a pit bull she owned. On May 19, one of her four pit bulls bit a juvenile in his right thigh area at Barstow Junior High. After Morrow loaded each dog into her vehicle, a good Samaritan who witnessed the attack attempted to stop Morrow from leaving by placing his bicycle underneath a back vehicle tire.
Morrow allegedly sped off, destroying the bike and nearly hitting the good Samaritan in the process.
Morrow pleaded guilty in July to owning a mischievous animal which caused great bodily injury after prosecutors dropped the assault with a deadly weapon charge. She was also in violation of probation stemming from an earlier and unrelated drug charge.
However, the dog was not euthanized. Instead, it was placed under a 10-day quarantine, after which it was bailed out by people connected to Morrow, Barstow Humane Society Animal Control Officer Chris Schreiner confirmed.
Schreiner said Morrow’s dogs had long been a nuisance to neighbors on the 600 block of Elm Street, but the May 19 incident was the first time one of the dogs had bitten anybody.
“That was the point I wanted to have a hearing,” he said. “It was just our opinion; we just know because we deal with them regularly.”
A manager no longer with the local humane society didn’t request a hearing.
“Our former manager indicated we’d charge all fees necessary and see what happens,” Schreiner said.
It’s possible that the dog was later one of three of Morrow’s pit bulls involved in an incident July 4, when authorities were called to the intersection of Mountain View and Elm streets after the dogs reportedly attacked a man and caused him to fall down an embankment.
Police arrested Morrow’s son and ex-husband, Daniel and Tracy Connelly, and prosecutors have since charged the two with the same crime Morrow pleaded guilty to, court records show.
Both men pleaded not guilty to the charge at their arraignment.
Meanwhile, the dogs are nowhere to be found, both Hunter and Schreiner said.
“The dogs are hidden,” Schreiner said. “They’re in the wind and we don’t know where they are.”
Of the five hearings called for in the last three years, each involved at least one pit bull and Schreiner said “absolutely” that the majority of vicious dog reports he gets are for pit bulls.
But Schreiner and Hunter agreed that owners, not the breed of dog, should be held accountable.
“The problem is not with a dog being a pit bull,” Hunter said. “The problem is with an owner not being able to control and contain their animals. And when the animals run at large, they create a danger to the public.”
In the upcoming abatement hearing, officials will determine if two pit bulls seized last month after reported attacks on back-to-back days are potentially dangerous and/or vicious.
The incidents occurred Aug. 28 and 29 on the 100 block of Virginia Way.
On the first day, the dogs allegedly went after a mother and daughter who were forced to retreat into their residence, according to Hunter.
The next day, the reported attack victims were school children getting off the bus, he said.
Schreiner encourages individuals who encounter threatening dogs to never run away, but instead act “big.”
“Well you don’t run,” he said. “If you run, they chase you. Make loud noises, seem big, show the dog you’re not afraid even if you are.”
He said the two most frequent types of calls he gets are for dogs running loose and for welfare checks on dogs.
The Barstow Police Department has received 192 dog-related calls since the beginning of the year, reports show.
Shea Johnson may be reached at (760) 256-4126 or at SJohnson@DesertDispatch.com.