Village of Mount Pleasant Could Ban Woman From Owning Dogs ‘Forever’ | national news
MOUNT PLEASANT – Residents of a suburban neighborhood breathe a collective (but nervous) sigh of relief after a ‘vicious’ dog was removed from its owner’s home after biting two people in one day, but not before a year of complaints and the dog comes off more than a month after the first bites.
But for many neighbours, questions linger as to why it took the village so long to act.
The case has escalated and could lead to a change in local laws. And now the village lawyer is negotiating with the dog’s owner, saying the village will stop seeking to have the dog put down if the owner agrees to never own another dog.
Two bitten women
On August 31, the Mount Pleasant Police Department was sent an “animal complaint,” in which it was reported that multiple dogs were actively attacking and biting at least one person near where Entrada Drive meets Cardinal Short in a neighborhood west of Meachem Road and south of Taylor Avenue.
Mount Pleasant Police Constable Casey Smith reported that when he arrived at the scene, two dogs were barking aggressively at people standing in front of a two-story house. The owner of the house, a 78-year-old woman, was bleeding from her arm and leg in the front yard.
Body camera footage obtained by the Journal Times shows that when Constable Smith arrived at the scene, he initially got out of the squad car but quickly got back into the driver’s seat. He wrote in the police report that he saw a pit bull charging at him.
“I’m not getting bitten,” the police officer said on police radio, body camera video broadcasts. Moments later, he told the dog’s owner, “If he starts biting people, I’m going to have to shoot him.” Another officer later told Officer Smith that if he had been in his place, he would have simply shot the dog. “Luckily I just went straight back to my car or we’d have a hip dog,” Officer Smith said in retrospect as he spoke to the other officer.
Minutes after police arrived, the rampaging dogs’ owner, Angelica Lugo, herded the dogs into her vehicle and drove them inside her home.
“The brown dog named ‘Coco’, who was the dog that bit multiple people, is the dog that charged me,” Constable Smith later wrote in the police report. “Coco had foam in his mouth, running around, barking at people. I could see the drool from Coco’s mouth foaming up, being thrown around as Coco barked aggressively.
Coco, Lugo said, is a one-year-old female corso – a mix of the pit bull and cane corso breeds; corsos of the pits stand about two feet tall and usually weigh just under 100 pounds.
Body camera footage shows Lugo looking shocked when Officer Smith informed her of the number of tickets she was facing, apparently surprised that she was getting a ticket for her three dogs on the loose and not just for Coco biting two people.
“Obviously there’s no way I can’t issue tickets for that,” the officer told Lugo. “They (the neighbors) will call every time the dogs come out, which will probably be more tickets and probably some sort of village action.”
Officer Smith later said, “I would also be angry if I was one of those neighbors with those dogs outside all the time.
The two people who were bitten were identified as Ann Kulas, a 78-year-old woman who suffered lacerations to multiple limbs; and Jennifer Willems, who suffered minor lacerations after running to help Kulas after hearing screams outside.
The attacks took place in the alley of Kulas. Lugo’s dogs were let loose, crossed the street and, apparently without provocation, were charged at Kulas, according to the investigation.
Lugo was able to prove that the vaccinations of his three dogs were up to date, but none of the dogs had been registered with the village of Mount Pleasant. Lugo received at least six citations on the spot and Coco was later declared “vicious” under Mount Pleasant’s municipal code of ordinances, then prohibiting Coco from leaving Lugo’s premises without being muzzled and leashed.
A summons hearing is scheduled for Wednesday, October 12.
After Coco bit Willems and Kulas, neighbors said it was unacceptable for Coco to be allowed to stay in the house, as they said Lugo’s dogs often left the house, despite more than a dozen pets. police calls and complaints dating back over a year. before August 31. Reports included allegations that Lugo’s dogs were running through neighbors’ yards on a rampage, appearing to charge at people and defecate all over the neighborhood.
“I’m afraid to go out”
Dozens of neighborhood residents showed up at a Village Council of September 12 meeting to raise the issue.
“We all live in fear,” said Kelly Gallaher, a frequent critic of the village government through him. A Better Mt. Pleasant social media pages during the meeting; she led much of the community’s response to dog attacks.
“I’m scared to go out,” added Carol Cameron. “I am 75 years old. And them dogs chased me down my own driveway. We all feel in danger. We want to prevent another incident from happening.
“The owner doesn’t care,” said Jim Lang. “I’ve personally called the police many times – and often the officers seem just as frustrated. What are we supposed to do? These dogs are still there and so are we.
“I’m not afraid of dogs, but now I am, after watching them mutilate my 78-year-old mother,” Suzanne Kulas said September 12, fighting back tears. “I hear those dogs barking to this day. I cringe. I cry. It was the worst day of my life, seeing your mom get attacked. And Jenny (Willems) – if it wasn’t for her , it would have been much worse. She arrived like a heroine.
On September 26, Gallaher again appeared before the village council and submitted a petition signed by 60 people, demanding an amendment to the village’s existing animal ordinances and proposing a closer correlation with the nearby town of Racine and the Sturtevant Village.
In Racine, animals without a license may be seized by the police and impounded at the owner’s expense until proof of a license is presented.
The laws that Mount Pleasant currently has on the books are relatively vague, not strictly enforced, and officers are generally unaware of them. Body camera footage shows Officer Smith, after responding to the August 31 attack, at one point asking another officer, “What does the village do with this?” Either way, we’ll have to send this to the village… but who do we even have to send it to? »
After a first Racine offense, loose animals may be microchipped by authorities at the owner’s expense, may be neutered or spayed at the owner’s expense for a second offense, and the Chief of Police may declare an animal “vicious” and required to be removed from the city limits. These actions are not currently permitted in Mount Pleasant, but may soon be if a proposed legal change is approved by the village council.
Gallaher told the village council on September 26 and, in a subsequent letter to village officials, it would only be a matter of time before Lugo’s hounds broke loose and possibly attacked again. She was right.
On October 1, Coco slacked off again. Police were again called following a report that the pit corso was chasing a man.
Again, Coco was not immediately removed from the neighborhood.
Mount Pleasant has a law on the books that allows police to take and euthanize an animal deemed “vicious” and/or if it has bitten someone, but this has not been enforced.
In an email to Mount Pleasant Police Chief Matt Soens and Village Attorney Christopher Smith, Gallaher wrote, “When Coco escaped and terrorized our neighborhood on Saturday October 1, the police were called. Imagine our surprise to learn this morning – October 4; two whole days after Coco escaped again – Coco was still at home: not impounded or seized. A representative from Chief Soens’ office told me when I called today that the village was “exploring legal options” to remove Coco.
CLICK HERE to read Mount Pleasant’s Canine Nuisance Letter
Later that day, Coco was taken from Lugo’s home, Chris Smith told Gallaher in an Oct. 5 letter. In that letter, the lawyer wrote: “On Saturday October 1, 2022, Mount Pleasant Police were called to Coco running loose, without a muzzle. As a result of this violation, Coco was seized pursuant to Section 10-6(b)(1) of the municipal code. On Tuesday, October 4, 2022, Coco was seized and is now in the custody of the Wisconsin Humane Society,” Chris Smith wrote. “In addition, Angelica Lugo received another citation for this incident.”
Coco can live, if the owner makes an unusual deal
Chris Smith further explained that a court date has been set for October 17 to determine if Coco should be euthanized. The attorney said he believed the village had no reason to remove additional dogs from Lugo’s residence. But, he tries to convince Lugo to make a deal to have all the dogs removed from the house.
With the potential of thousands of dollars in fines hanging over his head, Chris Smith said he hoped Lugo would agree to “relinquish ownership of all dogs” and – in an incredibly rare legal move – relinquish the right to own dogs on their property. “still.” In exchange, Lugo would receive an “unspecified reduction in the amount of confiscations currently pending” and the village would drop its petition to have Coco thrown out.
CLICK HERE to read the new nuisance animal ordinance proposed by the Village of Mount Pleasant
On Monday, October 10, the village council is expected to consider a revised vicious dog ordinance. This proposal includes:
- Give the police the power to “seize and impound any animal found at large”.
- Impounded animals can be euthanized if they “pose an imminent threat to their health or safety or that of any other person or animal”. There is no definition of “imminent threat” in the village ordinances.
- An animal deemed vicious but not euthanized must be kept on a leash and muzzled whenever it is outside or not confined in any kennel.
- Any animal found to be vicious must be microchipped and the owner must be insured “for at least one million dollars for any personal injury inflicted by the dangerous dog.”
- Would require the owner of an animal that bites a loose person or animal to pay a fine of $200 to $2,500.