Pit bull attacks walker
by Lenny Roberts
The best thing that can happen to Snowball, a young pit bull,
is to be found rabies-free and not dangerous to the community.
The worst is that he won't ever be going home.
Last Thursday morning at 8:35, as he has done for the last five
years, Karl Rimpa was walking in the 100 block of North La Luna
Avenue to his job at Roland's Smog Service on West El Roblar
Drive when three adolescent pit bulls ran up to him - pit bulls
he claims to have seen running around the neighborhood more than
once since they were pups.
"The white one," he alleged, "bit me behind my
knee. I stopped and stood my ground, waiting to see what they
would do. They stood their ground, too, until a couple of neighbors
came out and chased them back to where they live."
Rimpa said he then limped to work, where he called his wife and
told her to come and take him to the hospital. The police were
called, as was the Department of Animal Regulations.
"We took a photograph of the injury. Animal Control told
me to go to the emergency room. We did, and luckily my doctor
was there - Dr. (Michael) Gilmore," Rimpa said. "Luckily,
I didn't need stitches. The painful part was getting the shots
and cleaning the wound."
When Rimpa returned home, an officer from Animal Regulations
called and learned where the dogs lived and picked up the dog
that bit him. The procedure is either to keep the dog in quarantine
in Camarillo for 10 days to determine if it is rabies-free, or
quarantine it at home if the bite was more or less incidental.
An example of an incidental animal bite is if the dog reacts
to having its tail stepped on, but has no record of being threatening,
according to Lou Stearns, Animal Regulations field supervisor.
Stearns explained that quarantined animals are simply observed
for the 10-day period because there is no test for rabies, other
than to take a brain sample after the animal is put down. But
rabies in domestic animals in Ventura County is extremely rare,
and Stearns has not seen a case in her 24 years with the department.
In this case, Stearns believes that Snowball may have shown unwarranted
aggression. But without the victim filing a report, suspected
aggressive dogs would be quarantined at home regardless of their
temperament or breed.
"It all depends," Stearns said. "If he files a
nuisance complaint, we can take him to a hearing. (Animal Regulations
Director) Kathy Jenks does those at the Government Center. Under
county ordinance, the animal doesn't even have to bite, just
show threatening behavior. In this case, we can possibly take
all three dogs after the officer does the investigation."
Stearns said records show there have been problems with an individual
on North La Luna who has been cited six times prior to Jan. 6
for allowing pit bulls to run loose.
Rimpa has 10 days to file a nuisance complaint against Snowball's
owner, and if he does, the dog will be kept until the hearing,
which could be held no sooner than Aug. 22. If it is determined
that the dog poses a continuing danger, Snowball's only chance
for survival may be a sentence to be removed from Ventura County.
Permission to permanently enter another county, however, must
be granted from the new county's Animal Control people. "That's
usually how we solve our pit bull problems," Stearns said.
"Some counties do not allow pit bulls. But it's not only
pit bulls that people have problems with. Most people take care
of their animals and pit bulls can be very nice. We do not have
an inordinate amount of pit bull problems in that area."
Stearns explained that unaltered dogs without a good fence, "are
probably going to go after someone or some other animal. You
have to be responsible or you're going to have this type of problem.
It's all in the education of the dog and the public."
Still sore from the attack, Rimpa hopes to return to work this
"I'm the sole supporter of a wife and four kids," he
said. "If I don't work, things are not good. We have health
insurance, and they will pick up some of the cost. But I've already
spent $50 out-of-pocket in medication, not to mention the lost
"We need more people who have encountered these dogs to
call Animal Control and let them know that these dogs are a menace.
I'm actually glad that it happened to me, and not a child that
would have panicked and been mauled like a rag doll. I really
fear for kids, especially now that it's summertime and they're
out and riding their bikes."
© 2002 The Ojai Valley News
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