12/06/07 — Parents ask why dog not destroyed after attack

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Parents ask why dog not destroyed after attack

By Nick Hiltunen
Published in News on December 6, 2007 1:57 PM

When 4-year-old Nathan Barry came out of surgery after a September dog attack, he had one thing to say to his mother, she said.

"The first coherent thing he said to me was 'I just want to kill that dog,'" mother Christy Barry said, adding that her son is a dog lover with two canines at home.

Mrs. Barry and husband Thomas, a munitions expert at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, don't understand why the unvaccinated dog was allowed to live.

Police investigators say their hands are tied.

Sgt. G.N. Lynch said police investigation determined that Nathan and his brother had been in the reach of a dog's chain on Central Heights Boulevard.

Most of the blood and other evidence of the attack was found in a yard in the 3000 block of Central Heights, indicating Nathan and his older brother Sean were in the yard, Patrol Major Michael Hopper said.

"I think the child was unattended, and wandered into the neighbor's yard," Hopper said.

Lynch echoed Hopper's statements, and both said if the dog had been loose on property other than its owner's, action to euthanize or other preventative measures would have been taken.

Mrs. Barry disputed the police investigation, saying her children know better than to approach a strange dog on another person's property. She also said the dog was poorly secured.

Mrs. Barry said she was at a birthday party of a friend when her elder son Sean ran into the home before 5:30 p.m. on Sept. 9.

"Sean came in, perfectly calm, white as a sheet and said 'I need an adult, Nathan's being attacked by a dog,'" Mrs. Barry said in recollection.

Her friend Michael Atwell of Central Heights Road ran outside to help Nathan, prying the German Shepherd off of Nathan and getting his own arm bitten in the process, according to the police report.

Lynch said the dog was taken into custody for "pretty much for safekeeping of the dog" after the incident.

After the investigation, the unvaccinated dog was returned to its owner, Lynch said, adding that the dog had since received its shots.

Hopper oversees the animal control division of the Goldsboro Police Department, and has the final say in whether the dog would be euthanized, police said.

Hopper said he hadn't received any other complaints about the animal, and North Carolina law is clear about what defines a "dangerous dog."

Those statutes are contained in Chapter 67 of the state's general statutes, according to online legislative resources.

A "dangerous dog" is one that has inflicted a bite that resulted in broken bones or severe lacerations that required cosmetic surgery or hospitalization, is used primarily for dog fighting, killed or inflicted serious injury on a domestic animal outside of the owner's property, or has approached a person outside of the owner's property "in a vicious or terrorizing manner in an apparent attitude of attack."

A person or board designated by municipal or county can label the dog dangerous if the dog engages in one or more of those behaviors, according to the law.

Hopper said because evidence showed the boys had wandered into the yard of the dog, he doesn't see cause to designate the dog as dangerous.

"I wouldn't label a dog because of one incident, a dog being tied in his yard and the (child) wanders up to ... the dog," Hopper said.

Mrs. Barry said had it been one of her two dogs, whom she says she loves, the action would have been clear.

"If they were my dogs, who are part of my family, we would have put them down, no question," Mrs. Barry said. "It shouldn't even be an option."