Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Pinellas' antitethering law was intended to stop dog attacks

ST. PETERSBURG — When a pit bull named King broke a chain and mauled a St. Petersburg woman visiting her niece, it was an incident a new antitethering law in Pinellas County was supposed to stop.

Anyone who chains a dog outdoors for an unreasonable time — a treatment that turns animals aggressive — faces a fine from the county.

The dog apparently broke free of its chain Wednesday, biting Arkies V. Thomas, 54, in the face, arm and ankle. She was in intensive care Thursday after surgery, said her husband, Willie Fudge. She's alert, but on a ventilator, Fudge said. She faces a long recovery.

Pinellas County Commissioner John Morroni said the initial facts of the case suggest county officials could rue their decision to water down the antitethering ordinance in May.

Morroni had sought an outright ban as Seminole had done, a standard that animal services director Dewayne Taylor said is easier to enforce.

But the county went for more flexibility so people could tie up dogs as they bring in groceries, for example. They also decided to stress education over citations, issuing only one so far.

"Whether it's this one or one later, there's going to be a case where the commission wishes it had done a tougher law," Morroni said.

Not only was King tethered, he appeared not to have been neutered. Pit bulls already are known to be an aggressive breed, and the tethering makes them more defensive of their turf, experts said.

"It was a perfect storm," said Marti Ryan, a spokeswoman for Hillsborough County Animal Services.

On Wednesday, animal services operations manager Greg Andrews said the case was a tethering violation.

But Taylor, the animal services director, wouldn't go so far Thursday. The case is still open, he said, but investigators would need statements to justify a citation and haven't yet been able to get a statement from the victim.

"We did not see the dog tethered," said field enforcement manager Linda Britland.

In fact, the county could be forced to return the dog to its owners, even though they signed it away. "If the aunt won't come forward and won't report it, we have no other choice but to give it back to them," she said.

That's even though the county issued a warning to the owners after the same dog bit someone in December.

That case was considered "very minor" because the dog was only 3 months old, Britland said.

It was one of 1,239 dog bites reported in Pinellas in 2009, with no serious injury. The year before, 1,340 were reported.

Wednesday's attack happened at the same home where a police officer shot and killed a charging pit bull in April. That attack happened before King's owners, Edra Morgan, 30, and Joseph Bethune Jr., 32, moved in about a month ago. Morgan recounted the attack Thursday.

She said she hit King five times with a brick to get him off her aunt. She said the dog had never shown any similar aggression before. She also said animal services officers never warned her about chaining King on visits to their previous home.

Nonetheless, Morgan said she had no plans to get another pit bull and she didn't want King back, not after what happened.

Morgan is sticking with a chihuahua.

Reach David DeCamp at or (727) 893-8779.

Pinellas' antitethering law was intended to stop dog attacks 09/09/10 [Last modified: Thursday, September 9, 2010 10:56pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Next up in Bucs renovations? A $20 million indoor practice facility


    Renderings of the Bucs' new indoor practice facility (Courtesy of the Bucs)
  2. Want to feel old? It's been 20 years since the first 'Harry Potter' was published


    He was so cute: Blond hair, blue eyes and a killer smile. He was dressed in a black robe with a fake scar on his forehead and regaling our fifth-grade class with his book report on Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. As a 10-year-old with only the most sophisticated of tastes (give me a Baby-Sitters Club any day), …

    An auctioneer holds a first edition copy of the first Harry Potter book "Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone" containing annotations and illustrations by author J.K. Rowling. The tale has turned 20,  published in Britain on June 26, 1997. Since then, it has sold more than 450 million copies worldwide and has been translated into 79 languages. (Associated Press [2013])
  3. Dunedin selects Jennifer Bramley as its next city manager

    Local Government

    DUNEDIN — In a unanimous vote Monday, the City Commission chose Jennifer Bramley as the next city manager.

    Jennifer Bramley, 52, was selected Monday as Dunedin's new city manager. She currently works as deputy city manager for the city of Coral Springs. [Photo courtesy of Jennifer Bramley]
  4. People leave the Supreme Court in Washington, Monday, as justices issued their final rulings for the term. The high court is letting a limited version of the Trump administration ban on travel from six mostly Muslim countries to take effect, a victory for President Donald Trump in the biggest legal controversy of his young presidency. [AP photo]
  5. Lightning re-signs Andrej Sustr to one-year, $1.95 million deal


    The Lightning locked up another piece of its blueline Monday, re-signing defenseman Andrej Sustr to a one-year, $1.95 million deal.

    Andrej Sustr 14 points in 80 games last season, a minus-10.