Pit bull owner found guilty of violating ordinance

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, March 29, 2011

By Shavonne Potts
SALISBURY — A woman whose pit bull was declared potentially dangerous nearly a year ago was found guilty of violating a county ordinance relating to the animal.
A judge ordered Kimberly Hamilton to pay court costs following a Wednesday hearing where she testified she did as she was required to do. She was found guilty of failing to properly restrain her dog.
The charges were brought against her by the county Animal Control in May and July. In July an appeals board, made up of three Board of Health members, forming a quasi judicial panel, declared the dog potentially dangerous after two incidents just a month before.
In one of those incidents, the dog, a reddish-brown and white pit bull named Red, charged at an off-duty sheriff’s deputy while he was walking his dog. The deputy shot the dog in the neck. The dog survived.
The dog terrorized other dogs and people in the neighborhood, the board said at the time.
Hamilton was cited for not properly restraining her dog.
Any animal declared potentially dangerous is required to be confined within a secure building, enclosure or pen — minimally a chain link fence. The entrance also must have a lock or key device and warning signs must be erected. Anytime the dog is out it must be on a leash and muzzled, the statute said.
Animal Control approved the kennel Hamilton provided, but a few days later the dog tore through the fencing so the owner tethered the dog to a tree with a cord.
“I didn’t know what to do. I knew he needed to be secured for everybody’s safety,” Hamilton said on the witness stand.
An Animal Control officer arrived while Hamilton rushed out to buy a proper cord, she said in court.
“The dog had to come back with us period,” Animal Control Officer Ann Frye testified.
Hamilton was also written a citation for not providing a dog house.
Hamilton’s attorney Pete Smith asked Frye about the statute that essentially said the dog had to have shelter, but not a dog house.
Animal Control requires owners to have a dog house so the dog is protected from the elements, but the statute does not address a dog house. The Animal Control officials contend not providing a house constituted animal cruelty.
Assistant District Attorney Rosalee Hart-Morrison told the judge not providing a dog house was a violation of the code.
“It was a stipulation,” Hart-Morrison said.
It was not a proper shelter, she said.
District Court Judge Marshall Bickett said the statute does not stipulate an owner has to have a dog house, but only a kennel with a roof, which Hamilton had in place.
Bickett dismissed the violation of failing to properly house a dog. The judge also granted Hamilton a prayer for judgment for allowing her dog to run at large, a misdemeanor.
Hamilton told the court she understood that as long as her dog was in her direct supervision, she didn’t need a leash.
“He’s a very expensive dog, we wouldn’t allow him to run,” she said.
Hamilton, 30, lived with her father at Keystone Drive where the dog was housed, but has since moved to Winston-Salem she told the court Wednesday.
Animal Control officials believed Red was moved to another location somewhere in the county.
“You don’t believe he’s dead,” Smith asked Frye.
“No,” she said.
Hamilton said she found powder in the dog’s food bowl and he was poisoned.
She said the dog is buried in her father’s backyard.
Hamilton must pay $268 in court fees/fines and $285 to her court appointed attorney.
Contact reporter Shavonne Potts at 704-797-4253.