FREEMAN CITY COUNCIL: PUT PIT BULLS DOWN
Despite pleas from the owners and others saying they are not vicious animals, the Freeman City Council voted 5-0 Tuesday night, July 5 to have three pit bulls who attacked a Freeman woman last month put to sleep.
The motion is that the dogs remain alive until after July 25 — the next court appearance for Dawson Schild and his mother, Denise, who own the animals and can appeal the council’s decision to a circuit court judge in Olivet.
The pit bulls are currently in custody of the Sioux Falls Humane Society, where they have been held since the animals were located in Yankton on June 16 — three days after they attacked 55-year-old Aleta Starner during her morning walk.
Starner attended Monday’s meeting and her husband, John, addressed the council.
“These animals need to be put down,” he said. “They have proven to be vicious to the city and the citizens of Freeman.”
He noted his wife’s 63 injures included scratches, bites and puncture wounds to her arms and her calves, and that a week later doctors discovered a fractured finger.
“The police department has had numerous calls (about) these dogs getting loose and biting people,” John said. “The owners have total disregard for the city ordinances and they need to be held accountable. I understand the owners might be moving; do not make this another community’s problem.”
But Denise Schild defended the dogs, especially 8-year-old B.B., whom they have had for seven years.
“She’s a good dog; she’s never attacked,” she said. “She plays with the neighbor boy — they all do. They’re not vicious dogs, granted Onyx and Cici have some learning to do, but they’re still babies. If it requires putting muzzles on them or taking them to training class, I’ll do it. They can still be taught. They’re young. I do not think these dogs deserve to be murdered over this.”
Denise said the dogs felt they were protecting their property and that the victim’s “kicking and screaming enraged the dogs and made it worse.” She also said when she and Dawson heard the commotion and woke up, Dawson went to the door and called for the dogs “and they turned and ran in the house immediately. If they were vicious, mean dogs, they wouldn’t have walked away. They would have stayed there and kept attacking.”
And Dawson said the dogs did not “attack” the victim.
“They’re puppies and they ran up and jumped up for attention,” he said, noting the Schilds are leaving town. “You guys don’t want us here; you look down on anybody who doesn’t have the right last name, and you won. We’re leaving and we’ll never bring the dogs back here again. You’ll never see or hear from us again.”
“That doesn’t necessarily comfort me,” said councilor Tabitha Schoenwald, “because pawning off a problem to another community doesn’t make me feel any better.”
While several others spoke in defense of the Schilds and their dogs — including neighbor Bryce Morgan — others agreed with John Starner and said the dogs should be put down — including councilor Charles Gering.
“When I look at these pictures of Aleta’s injuries and the personal trauma that goes with this type of thing, I am unable to support anything other than putting them down and eliminating the problem. Once it happens, the chances of it happening again are better than not.”
The motion from Gering to destroy the dogs came next, a second of the motion came from councilor Charly Waltner and the roll call vote was unanimous.
The council took up the issue Tuesday night because the city ordinance states that, when there is a loose dog that results in a bite, the burden falls to the owners to convince the governing body that the animal should not be put down. An alternative would have been an animal shelter for rehabilitation or another jurisdiction willing to take in the dogs, but city officials voted otherwise.
“I am concerned about peddling another jurisdiction with this problem,” city attorney Mike Fink said.
Dawson and Denise Schild are both facing four local charges of dogs running at large and one count of disturbing the peace; all are Class 2 misdemeanors each punishable by up to 30 days in jail and/or a $500 fine. Dawson is also facing a state charge of obstruction of a police officer, a Class 1 misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in jail and a $1,000 fine.