By Jack Gurner
WATER VALLEY – Janice Crow is still afraid after being attacked by a neighbor’s dog as she walked down Wood Street.
But, she doesn’t fear for her own safety. She worries that the next victim might be a child.
Vicious dog attacks have increased in Mississippi and many of the victims are children. On Feb. 10, Anastasia Bingham of Terry was killed by a neighbor’s pit bull as she walked from her home to a nearby friend’s home.
Nationwide, fatal attacks averaged about 17 per year during the 1980s and 1990s. The death-by-dog-bite rate now is nearly double this amount at over 30 per year and largely due to pit bulls, according to the Center for Disease Control (CDC). Pit bulls are responsible for around 60 percent of deaths.
More than 4.7 million Americans are bitten each year. Of the 800,000 who seek medical attention, half are children. The rate of dog bite-related injuries is highest for children ages 5 to 9, the CDC reports.
After a 2008 attack in Water Valley, Debra Boswell of the Mississippi Animal Rescue League located in Jackson told the Herald that pit bulls had become victim to “thugs” who use the dogs for fighting. They are also associated with drug dealers who use them as guard dogs.
Crow said she plans to ask City officials to update Water Valley’s current dog ordinance to match others in the state including laws recently passed in DeSoto County and the cities of Brandon, Flowood and neighboring Coffeeville.
DeSoto County Supervisors have adopted a vicious dog law that requires owners to obtain $300,000 in liability insurance coverage and place vicious animals in special containment.
Brandon requires a special pen for the dogs and liability insurance. In Flowood vicious dog owners must have at least a 100-square-foot pen with a concrete floor and a roof. The pen must be enclosed with at least a six-foot chain-link fence.
The Coffeeville ordinance, which took effect last December, defines a potentially vicious dog as a pit bull, pit bull terrier, or any dog with a known propensity to attack without provocation.
Among other requirements in the Coffeeville ordinance, owners have to display a “beware of dog” sign on their premises and secure the dog in a pen. Or, the dog must be muzzled on a leash not to exceed four feet in length and controlled by a person 16 years of age or older.
When Crow was attacked Aug. 8, she was walking her miniature dachshunds, Jimmy Doo and Diddle Doo. The dog attacked the male, Jimmy Doo, when he tried to protect Crow, who was bitten on the hand and had to have five stitches. Jimmy Doo was treated by a vet and is still recovering.
The dog owner will appear in City Court on Monday, Aug. 30 and could face a $500 fine.
Crow said that residents should be able to go walking in their own neighborhood and feel safe.
“I have grandchildren that walk with me sometimes,” Crow said. “It could have easily been one of them.”