• CMPD deals with rise in dog attacks, some classified as severe

    By: John Paul


    CHARLOTTE, N.C. - Channel 9 reported on a number of vicious dog attacks in 2016, including one that turned deadly.

    Anchor John Paul started digging and, through a public records request, discovered that there were more than 1,500 dog attacks in Mecklenburg County, and more than 700 of those were classified as moderate or severe.

    [REPORT: CMPD Animal Control dog bite statistics]

    One of those dog attacks was in March 2016, when an 86-year-old woman died after being mauled. Another incident in April involved a 9-year-old boy who was viciously attacked by two dogs while playing at an Archdale neighborhood park. His mother didn’t think he would live, but the child pulled through.

    The more than 1,500 dog attacks in 2016 is a 13% increase compared to 2015, when there were more than 1,300 attacks.

    “We take every injury seriously,” said Mark Balestra, the director of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg police’s Animal Control Division.

    Balestra said that the number of attacks in Charlotte is about average for a city its size. But Channel 9 learned that in some cases, like the fatal attack in March, there’s a history of complaints about the dogs involved.

    Channel 9's coverage of dog attacks in 2016 in Charlotte area

    "I think reporting is key to that,” Balestra said.

    Many times, neighbors don’t make a formal report on a vicious dog until someone gets seriously hurt, according to Balestra.

    John Paul rode along with Jake Phillips with Animal Control. His job is to track down and catch dogs on the loose.

    The first animal they responded to was a pit mix. Phillips noticed scratches on its face and legs – signs of fighting.

    The next call was for another pit mix, which Phillips said is common. He managed to get it corralled with the help of the owner. But Animal Control had previously dealt with the same owner at least four times, so the owner could face a criminal citation.

    Neisha Watson was left with scars and had to get 12 rabies shots after two neighborhood dogs got into her north Charlotte home in October and attacked.

    “All I remember is having to fight to protect my children,” Watson said. “The dogs come in on top of us. My mom was back here, she grabbed a broom, tried to fight them off.”

    The dogs were quarantined and the owner was cited, but eventually got them back.

    Watson wondered if more can be done to prevent future attacks. But Balestra said his department is doing what it can. He said the public has to file complaints about problem dogs so that there is a paper trail.

    “Hold us accountable, that the appropriate tools in our tool belt are being adhered to,” Balestra said.

    Paul checked surrounding counties to see how many dogs they declared ‘dangerous’ last year.

    These are the counties that responded.

    • Rowan- 2
    • Lincoln- 1
    • Union- 5
    • Gaston- 8

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