Pit bulls appear to have violated town, county ordinances, but nothing done
Two months before two pit bulls killed a 5-year-old girl and seriously injured her grandmother in Waxhaw, a resident of the neighborhood called 911 and then Union County Animal Control to report that one of the pit bulls was malnourished, abused and should be taken from the owners.
An Animal Control official told Cindi McCoy however the agency could do nothing and, rather, warned McCoy she could be charged with a felony for keeping the female pit bull named Daisy on her front porch.
An emaciated Daisy – “she looked like a dead dog walking,” McCoy said – had crossed busy Rehobeth road and come to McCoy’s front door. McCoy was horrified by Daisy’s condition and worried she would get hit by a car trying to go back to her home at 316 Rehobeth. So she locked Daisy on her front porch at 325 Rehobeth while she called 911 and Animal Control.
Animal Control told McCoy there was no leash law and suggested McCoy’s only option was driving the dog to the county animal shelter in Wingate. McCoy felt intimidated at the time and let the matter drop. Union County doesn’t have a leash law, however the town of Waxhaw does.
Around 11 a.m. Wednesday, Jan. 7, Daisy and her male companion, Rebel, attacked and killed Makayla Woodard, 5, when she walked out of her house at 324 Rehobeth Road to play with her own dogs. The pit bulls also seriously injured Makayla’s grandmother, Nancy Presson, 67, when she tried to rescue the girl, leading Waxhaw police officers to shoot the dogs.
In the police report, Presson said she “had just let her granddaughter outside to play in the snow when she heard dogs barking.” Seeing the attack, she ran over and covered Makayla with her own body. As of Thursday morning, Presson was listed in stable condition at Carolinas Medical Center-Union, having suffered multiple bite wounds.
“It could have been prevented so many times,” a red-eyed McCoy said Thursday, Jan 13. “… I hate that I didn’t do more.”
Waxhaw police identified the dogs’ owner as Michael Gordon, 23, who lived in the light-blue house with his grandparents. Gordon had just returned from prison in May, serving 10 months for felony breaking and entering stemming from a series of incidents in 2006.
A woman answering the door at Gordon’s home said the family would have no comment about Wednesday’s tragedy.
Could tragedy have been prevented?
On Tuesday, the day before the attack, McCoy had seen a man and woman in their 20s standing in Gordon’s yard screaming and cursing loudly as they appeared to search for one or both of their dogs.
“If you put any dogs under extreme circumstances, whether they’re cold or malnourished or abused, something could happen,” she said.
A number of people who live or work in the neighborhood said Rebel and Daisy were seen regularly ambling through the neighborhood. Glennis Quesnell, who lives two houses away, said the “really thin” female pit bull came to her back door one day. “She (previously) had pups, and she was probably looking for food,” Quesnell said. A short red, clothesline-like rope was hanging from the dog’s collar.
The dog didn’t act aggressively and left when Quesnell didn’t open the door. Two other young men in the neighborhood told Quesnell they had seen both dogs wandering through the houses in the direction of Captain’s Galley restaurant at Rehobeth and Waxhaw Highway.
Spin Spittle operates S&K Garage and Wrecker Service, on land directly behind Gordon’s house. He said Gordon grew up in Waxhaw and got the pit bulls about a year ago. The dogs had wandered into the driveway of his business and had even growled at him, but “I’d just holler at them” and they’d “just walk away.”
Spittle never tried to approach the dogs – “I don’t trust pit bulls,” he said – and he asked Gordon to keep the dogs on a chain behind his house. “I just didn’t want the dogs loose and coming up to my customers,” Spittle said.
Gordon “would keep them on the chain most of the time, but other times they’d just walk around,” Spittle said.
Greg Kearney, who lives in a brick house at 217 Rehobeth, on the opposite side of the street from Gordon’s house. He’s seen both pit bulls walking up the street and on the sidewalk in front of his house going in both directions. Until Wednesday, he didn’t know the dogs’ owner.
“I stayed away from them,” Kearney said. “I never have trusted pit bulls.”
McCoy and her boyfriend, Eric Shaktman, may have seen the most of Rebel and Daisy because they live across the street. They said Thursday that Rebel was allowed to wander freely, often sitting on a concrete picnic table a few feet from where Daisy was tied.
Shaktman’s dog, Dixie, dug her way out of their backyard a couple of times last year and crossed the street to play with Rebel. Shaktman said the male pit bull never acted aggressively toward him or Dixie.
Shaktman said has seen Rebel, who was a pure white or cream color, come to the edge of his yard and bark at people walking their dogs on the sidewalk on the other side of the street. But Shaktman never saw any aggressive moves.
In fact, McCoy and Shaktman, who are raising his children, Christiana, 7, and Anthony, 11, were more concerned about other dogs wandering the neighborhood and chasing children at the neighborhood bus stop. Shaktman had to take a stick to the bus stop at one time to chase a dog away, and he called police to complain about that dog’s owner.
Christiana, who turned 7 Thursday, is a first-grader at Waxhaw Elementary, and she had exchanged friendly hellos with Makayla, who had started kindergarten at Waxhaw Elementary.
In November, when the painfully thin Daisy came to their door, McCoy and Shaktman took turns returning the dog across the street. Neither one ever spoke to Gordon, but the woman living at the house told Shaktman that they fed the dogs dry food, but Daisy refused to eat it.
When McCoy asked if they had tried to arrange adoption’s for Daisy’s puppies, the woman said they hadn’t because “people would use them for dog fighting.”
When she said she was concerned about a car hitting the dogs, the woman said, “We don’t have to leash or chain him (Rebel) because he never leaves the yard.”
What’s there to enforce?
Under Union County law, Animal Control officers can only enforce ordinances put in place by the county or state officials. That includes picking up strays, investigating animal cruelty, neglect, dangerous dogs and nuisance calls. Any violations of town ordinances, such as Waxhaw’s leash law, fall on town officials to enforce. The only problem is that Waxhaw eliminated the animal control position nearly four years ago, leaving no dedicated officer to handle calls or investigate charges.
At press time, no charges had been filed against Gordon. For updates on the story, check the Union County Weekly facebook page.