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South Side dog attack unleashes feelings of vulnerability

Published: Thu, May 3, 2012 @ 12:10 a.m.

South Sider, friend criticize response time by law enforcement


Alison Morris and her friend Nathaniel Riggle pose with Toby, one of two beagles attacked by a pit bull in Morris’ yard. The attack left both with a decreased sense of security.

By John W. Goodwin Jr.



Last Friday began as a serene spring day for Alison Morris and her close friend Nathaniel Riggle, but by the end of the day, an attack by a marauding pit bull would leave both with a decreased sense of security.

Morris wanted to put in a fence and do some yard work at her Shelby Road home Friday. She invited Riggle to join her and her two small beagles to accomplish the job.

Morris, Riggle and their two canine companions were enjoying their time working in the yard when the mood suddenly was changed by a 100-pound, brown and white pit bull terrier bent on getting at one of the beagles. The dog seemed willing to attack any human standing between it and the smaller dog.

Morris and Riggle moved closer to the house, attempting to fight off the aggressive dog. One of the beagles was bitten on the hind leg, and Morris was bitten on the arm during the attack.

“I am such a dog lover, and I have never had that feeling of defenselessness. If I had been there by myself, I would have lost my dog,” said Morris.

Riggle ultimately was able to scare the pit bull off with a pair of shears he had been using in the yard. There were no serious injuries to human or canine, but the attack did cause $150 worth of medical bills for the beagle.

Riggle called 911 to report the attack and have the dog picked up, but, he said, no one showed up to the address until two hours later when a representative of the Mahoning County dog warden’s office arrived. Riggle, in his car, followed the dog around the neighborhood for nearly two hours watching what he called aggressive behavior toward other people.

“My main beef with this is that it took the dog warden so long to respond. I understand that they were tied up on other calls, but an attack of this type deserves response from someone in the city,” said Riggle.

Police Chief Rod Foley said he is unsure if the department was notified, but officers do respond to dog attacks when someone is in danger. The attack took place on the same afternoon that the police department was handling a homicide on the North Side.

Matt Ditchey, Mahoning County dog warden, said Friday was a particularly busy day. He said there were two agents in the field, but one was transporting dogs in another area and the other was on a call about another dog across town.

Ditchey said his office handles the entire county and often has calls come in simultaneously in different areas.

“There was no indifference or anything in this situation, but we were dealing with so many calls that came in,” he said. “It’s frustrating for us, too. I would like to be able to get to every call immediately as they come in, but we just don’t have a very big department.”

Dave Nelson, an assistant dog warden, did go to the Shelby address and look for the dog Friday and Saturday. He did not find the dog or its owner over the weekend, but has since determined who owns the dog and plans on bringing charges against the owner.

Nelson said the charges could land the owner in jail for up to six months and bring a $1,000 fine.

Morris takes comfort in knowing the issue is being addressed and that the dog should not be roaming the neighborhood freely anymore, but she took precaution immediately after the attack.

“For the first few days, I was taking some form of defense outside with me. I used to leave the dogs tied up, and now I feel like I can’t do that anymore,” she said. “I have a big issue with irresponsible dog owners.”


1bmanresident(607 comments)posted 4 years, 1 month ago

A loose pitbull you say? Acting aggressively? I would bet a few bucks that this little monster was bred for dog fighting.

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2author50(1121 comments)posted 4 years, 1 month ago

Operation Sheild really helped here... not!

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3NoBS(2757 comments)posted 4 years, 1 month ago


Problem solved, feeling of security restored.

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4downtown238(3 comments)posted 4 years, 1 month ago

Hi Mr. Pitbull, Let me introduce you to my
friends... Mr. Smith and Mr. Wesson.

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5peggygurney(408 comments)posted 4 years, 1 month ago

A black lab would have done the same? Seriously? You've obviously never had a black lab.

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6Lifes2Short(3882 comments)posted 4 years, 1 month ago

author, since your so obsessed with Operation Shield, why don't you apply for the job and become a part of it. Maybe you can do better. NOT!

I blame the "irresponsible" dog owner. If your going to own a "aggressive" dog then you should be held accountable for it's actions. Bad enough about this lady and her friend and the poor beagles, but what if it attacked a child.

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7stewie(109 comments)posted 4 years, 1 month ago

Put the dog down, fine the owner and give them 30 days in jail. That should get their attention. The city should have a no tolerance law in force for ignorant dog owners and enforce it.

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8Billy_Bob(60 comments)posted 4 years, 1 month ago

Shelby is on the West Side - west of Lanterman's Mill - Part of the Cornersburg area...

That's besides the point, this case will be resolved through the community. Those with information will step forward and provide to Dave Nelson or the police department the information they need to charge these individuals.

There is an ordinance in place for pit bulls and the dog owner obviously didn't abide by the law nor care much to get insurance for cases such as this one.

Don't worry Alison, justice will be rightfully served. Rest assured.

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9Freeatlast(1991 comments)posted 4 years, 1 month ago


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10MaryG(27 comments)posted 4 years, 1 month ago

About 3 yrs ago my 16 yr. old dog was attacked & killed by a loose pit bull on my front porch. The dogs were fighting when the police arrived. They sprayed them with pepper spray but it didn't help. Finally I screamed for them to do something and they did shoot the pit. My poor dog fought for his life & lost it. More needs to be done about violent dogs. What if it had been my daughter or myself attacked. Dog Warden never came.

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11Education_Voter(1153 comments)posted 4 years, 1 month ago

Thank you to those who clarified the neighborhood. My small elderly dog and I walk along the paths in the park near the area.
I carry pepper spray, but it's good to know there could be an imminent problem.
This is terrible when only a few years ago, a retired fireman and his dog were attacked by two loose dogs and the man was seriously hurt.

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12author50(1121 comments)posted 4 years, 1 month ago

@Lifeistoshort and @Youngstownbornraised...hmmm

Life to short... my five year old granddaughter could run a better police department than the city of Youngstowns' going back what 50 years or so?Look at the facts, whoops wouldn't want that to get in your way. Youngstown born and raised your name says it all!

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13gbeans01(11 comments)posted 4 years, 1 month ago

This story is bothersome, not only b/c of what happened, but for the lack of action (once again) on the part of the dog warden. I have called them several times due to my neighbors owning a whopping 9 dogs and acting as a foster for a shelter and the warden will do NOTHING. Nice that I pay them every year to license me dog. I hope the beagle and owner in the story are okay. Someone seriously needs to get off their arse and do their job.

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14Education_Voter(1153 comments)posted 4 years, 1 month ago

I can't understand the mindset of a person who lives in a neighborhood of closely situated small lots, yet enjoys owning a dog known for biting. It obviously is important to these people that their "pets" be known as menacing, whether they are pit bulls, chows, or akitas.
These people intend to intimidate others through their dogs.
For example, an airedale is also pretty likely to bite...but you don't see many, do you? Why? Because they look fluffy and are not well known. That's no good to "neighbors" who like being aggressive and want others to know it.

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15dresden(2 comments)posted 3 years, 9 months ago

It never ceases to amaze me the prejudice people have. Dogs of all species attack people and other animals, We as the public only here about the ones that are "news worthy". The term "Pitt bull" is often a generic description of any aggressive stray mentioned in the news. And what are the chances every single one of them is a full blooded ANYTHING? All breeds have specific qualities and traits making them unique. Chows have white skin and purple/blue tongues. Am Staffs have lock jaw and for this reason sicko's and psycho's often target them for fighting. It is not a "BREEDS" fault what they can do or how they look. My uncle had a shar pei who attacked several people including a child and it never made the news and she died at the ripe old age of 15 at home. Responsible dog owners take care of their pets no matter the breed or what side of town they come from.

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