Woman says Landis utility worker used mace on her pet

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, August 22, 2012

By Shavonne Potts
LANDIS — Otie is a playful sort of pup — a German Shepherd and Dachshund mix. When visitors walk into the door he jumps up to greet them.
It may have been the 2-year-old dog’s spirited nature that his owner believes led to him being sprayed with mace.
Leeann Smith, of North Meriah Street, said her dog was maced by a Landis utility employee attempting to read her meter. But a Landis utility supervisor denies it.
On Aug. 16, Smith said she was inside the house with the front door open while Otie and her other dog, Moe, a rescue, were outdoors.
The dogs were inside a chain-link fence that encircles her backyard. Smith had affixed a plastic twist tie on the latch to ensure Otie did not escape.
Smith said she saw the Landis utility employee, whom she later learned was Brian Brown, arrive.
She looked out of the door and then a back window. She heard Otie barking and then he stopped.
A neighbor, Pamela Brewer, said she witnessed everything.
“He reached over the gate and continously sprayed,” Brewer said.
Since Smith was home, Brewer said she thought the decent thing to do was to knock on the door. And she said macing the dog was inhumane.
When Smith next saw Otie, he had what she thought was water all over his face.
She left home to pick up her boyfriend, Matthew Church, and when they arrived home about 30 minutes later, Brewer told her what had happened.
Church checked the dog, touching his face, and smelling about the dog.
Smith said Church’s face “started burning.”
The couple also noticed a pink substance on the dog, which they believed was the residue from mace. Moe apparently had gotten some mace in his mouth.
Smith said she contacted Landis Police, who sent an officer to her home within minutes.
She said the officer indicated there were no laws broken and nothing he could do.
The officer told Smith to wash the dog with dish soap.
Landis Police Chief Bob Wood said from what he understood of the incident, Brown went to the home to read the meter and after the dog jumped up and tried to bite him, Brown then went to his work truck and returned with mace to spray at the dog.
“There was nothing wrong with what he did. He did not commit a crime. The policy (requires) the meter needs to be accessible to the town 24/7,” he said.
Wood said there was no criminal intent involved. There was also no laws or local ordinances that were violated, he said.
Public Works Director Steve Rowland disputes claims the dog was maced.
Rowland said he spoke with Brown, who told him he sprayed the ground, not the dog directly.
Rowland said he wouldn’t condone an employee spraying a dog.
He said the utility policy is that if a meter can’t be read, the employee must mark it unreadable and return at another time.
Rowland documented the incident, but did not take any action against Brown.
Rowland said the utilities department does not buy mace or instruct employees to use it.
He said Smith has not contacted him directly.
Smith said she plans to contact him.
Smith did contact town hall, where she said she was told her lease allows an employee to mace a dog in an effort to get to the meter.
She asked for someone else to read her meter in the future or if that wasn’t possible to make sure Brown knocks on her door.
Smith said she was told he didn’t have time to knock on doors.
Smith checked with her landlord to see if her lease mentioned anything about the meter access. It did not.
She’s been renting the property for about a year.
Church decided to send a message to Mayor James Furr.
According to Smith, the mayor said he was sorry it happened, but he was not aware of the details. Furr said he would look into the matter and get back with her in a week.
“I don’t want the guy to lose his job. I would like the policy to be changed,” she said.
She would have preferred someone to just knock on her door, especially if they knew she was home. Her car was parked in the driveway.
Smith said she was also concerned because her boyfriend has two children, one of whom is autistic and worries what could have happened if they would have touched Otie and Moe.
Smith said she would have taken responsibility for her dogs and put them inside, but she said she wasn’t given the opportunity.
Contact reporter Shavonne Potts at 704-797-4253.