AURORA, Colo. – An Aurora woman whose 9-year old dog, Leon, was viciously attacked by a neighbor’s dog, said animal control and police need to do a better job of responding to 911 calls.
Cindy Wittman said she was walking Leon, a Papillon, in the common grass area behind townhomes on the 4600 block of South Frazier Court, Saturday, August 26, when a neighbor’s dog began barking and then broke through the screen of an open window.
“I heard a loud crash,” she said. “I turned around, and the dog was charging at us.”
She described it as a pit bull mix. The owner says it’s a box Mastiff. Animal control wrote “American Bulldog” on the summons issued to the owner, Ain Akilah Allen.
Whatever the breed, Wittman says it lunged at her, and pinned her against a privacy fence, while she tried to hold Leon out of reach.
“It was biting and clawing at my abdomen and breast,” she said. “I lowered my arms enough to protect myself, and she was able to grab (Leon) and yank him from my arms.”
She said the dog ripped the skin off Leon’s upper back and left a hind quarter, and that she struggled to get the attacking dog to release its grip.
“I was kicking her in the face,” she said, “and standing on her head at some point and it never fazed her.”
Angered by the 911 response
Wittman said she called 911 shortly after another neighbor came out and pulled her and Leon to the safety of her backyard.
“The (operator) said, ‘are you being attacked at this moment?’ I said, ‘no, I’m calling you,’” she said.
Wittman said that’s when the operator said, “this is an animal control problem.”
She said they transferred her to animal control and that animal control told her to come in “sometime next week and fill out a report.”
“I was shocked,” she said. “I was angry. I didn’t understand why 911 didn’t send anyone out.”
“Just because I wasn’t in the dog’s jaws the moment I was calling, doesn’t make it less of an attack,” she said.
Aurora Police say one of their officers will respond, if an animal is still attacking someone or threatening to, but if the attack is over and the animal is no longer on the loose, they turn it over to animal control.
That’s what happened in this instance.
The question is, did animal control drop the ball by not sending an officer to the scene immediately after the attack?
Senior Public Information Officer Michael Bryant said (Wittman) “was no longer in the city,” when she called 911, that she was apparently at Alameda East Veterinary Clinic.
“Aurora Animal Protection asked the resident to file that report the following Monday,” Bryant wrote in an emailed response.
Wittman says animal control should have picked up the offending dog on the day of the attack, not two days later.
Wittman, who works at the Arapahoe County Sheriff’s Office, said she asked her boss what she should do to get a response and was told to “take it up the chain of command.”
So, she called the regular Aurora Police number and asked to talk to a watch commander.
She said an officer was sent to her house to take a report after she got back from the vet.
“The officer said animal control should have come and taken the dog,” she said.
Police say the officer confirmed that Wittman had talked to animal control.
Wittman said she had a confrontation with the dog’s owner the following day.
“She was talking to someone out front and I saw her point at me and laugh,” Wittman said. “I said, ‘your dog is a menace. Look what he did to my dog.’”
She said Ms. Allen told her, “You were on our property. Our dog has every right to protect our property…if you come anywhere near our property again, we will put the dog on you.”
Allen denies that happened.
“I wasn’t even home when she says it happened,” Allen said.
She also said her dog grabbed (Leon) when Wittman walked past their window.
“I was very apologetic,” Allen said. “I said I was sorry several times.”
Wittman says after the confrontation she called 911 again and was told “it’s an animal control issue.”
Police say an officer responded, to make contact with the two disputing parties, and took reports from both of them.
Wittman said she went to the police department and again asked to talk to a Watch Commander.
She said a Lieutenant came out and assured her that the dog that attacked both her and Leon would be picked up Monday.
“I asked what I should do if it gets out and charges at me again,” and he asked if I had a gun… I kind of looked at him and said, ‘are you saying I need to carry a weapon anytime I walk out my front door? And he said, ‘you do what you have to do.’”
Police haven’t confirmed that that conversation took place, but say if you are being threatened by a vicious dog or any animal, you should call 911.
Bryant told Denver7 that Ms. Allen has been charged with Dog Running at Large, Keeping an Aggressive Dog, No Proof of Insurance, Failure to Obtain a City License and Unspayed Animal.
The dog, now described as a boxer mix, was put in quarantine for several days and has now been released, but is not being kept at the same townhome.
Allen is due back in court in October.