Dear PoPville – Dangerous dog in Cap Hill attacked toddler and my dog but Animal Control not doing anything

“Dear PoPville,

I have an issue with a dangerous dog in Capitol Hill (at least 2 documented attacks on a toddler and my dog, both required medical care) and Animal Control is failing to label the dog dangerous.

My dogs and I were walking out of my building and the other owner’s dogs were down the block, and when they saw us, the dogs lunged (dragging the owner behind them) and launched themselves at my dogs as we were backing away as fast as we could. Luckily several runners came down the block and helped us pull the dogs apart but not before one of my dogs sustained a deep puncture wound. The dog that bit him was an Old English Sheepdog, and the owner’s second dog that also attacked but didn’t break the skin is a brown Standard Poodle, and they live near 6th and Independence SE.

I posted to our Cap Hill listserv seeking the owner and she responded, admitted fault, reimbursed me for my vet bill, and swore that she never walked her two dogs together because she admitted that she does not have the strength to control both of them at the same time since they’re both aggressive and large. She said that when the attack happened on my dogs, it was the only time she walked them together and that she would never do so again. I believed her at the time.

I then heard from a mom on our listserv that these same dogs had attacked and bitten her 5 year old child (requiring a hospital visit!) prior to the attack on my dogs. Also an unprovoked attack, they were just walking by, and it was also the Old English Sheepdog that caused the wound. The mom urged me to report my attack and I did. Investigator Daniels of Animal Control came to see my dogs and he mentioned that there were several attacks on record for this specific owner and that he would have a stern talking to with the owner. I assumed Animal Control would take the necessary steps at that point. This was all back in December.

Then months later in April, I started seeing the owner walking both dogs by herself, un-muzzled, all the time, knowingly putting others in danger. So I reached out to Animal Control again to report this and to my shock, discovered that her dogs are not officially designated as “Dangerous” or even “Potentially Dangerous” under D.C. statute. And despite what Investigator Daniels told me when he visited my home, that the owner had several dog attack citations against her, he then wrote in an email to me that he believed, “There’s no indication that the dogs pose an ongoing threat to public safety.” Seriously? What about the many previous attacks, at least two of which required medical care?

Since April, I have emailed Animal Control, the Department of Health (Shakira Richardson as well as the main email address), and Tommy Wells’ office about this and have been completely ignored.

I emailed again this morning after we came out of our building to find the owner walking her two dogs on my block (exactly where our attack happened back in the winter). I reacted much quicker this time, and we were already out of reach by the time they saw us, although her dogs immediately started barking aggressively. I also started Googling again and that’s when I found the past PoPville posts about Animal Control acting in cases similar to mine so I’m sort of wondering what gives with the complete inaction in this case?

Attaching a picture from my dog’s wound (after the jump) in December so you can see that this isn’t just a scratch we’re talking about – he had severe bruising and a deep puncture wound. I don’t know how bad the little girl was bitten, but her mom did tell me she had to go to the hospital so it wasn’t nothing either. So I’m wondering if you could post this to 1. warn people in the Capitol Hill neighborhood and 2. to see if anyone has suggestions for getting Animal Control to take action here. Thank you so much.”


86 Comment

  • DC government laziness and inefficiency drive me crazy!

  • Holy crap, that’s a helluva bite wound. 🙁
    If I were you, I’d try to get a picture of this woman and her dogs. She’s acting recklessly and needs a bit of public shaming for everyone’s safety. She should not be walking two dogs that she admits she cannot control. It sounds like she’s too lazy to walk each dog separately.

  • When I was a kid, my own beloved dog was quarantined twice and eventually euthanized for this kind of behavior. It was really sad and traumatic for me, but I couldn’t live with my neighbors being sent to the hospital over and over. Please involve your councilmember and have the dog removed from public streets.

    Our city has become too dog-friendly and not nearly people-friendly enough. I love dogs, but to ignore the consequences of their behavior is irresponsible.

    • This comment is spot on. Around Lincoln Park especially everybody thinks it’s perfectly acceptable to have their dogs off-leash running amok. So many dog owners think they and their perfect furry baby are the exception to the rule.

      • Unless in designated a fenced in area it is against animal control guidelines to let your dog off leash in the district–start bugging AC about this. These idiots are making it harder for the rest of us.

      • I live around Lincoln Park and I can’t understand why people keep their dogs off leash. Aside from it being illegal and potentially dangerous for the people and kids who go there, I have seen at least FOUR dogs run out in front of traffic and nearly get killed. Please keep them leashed! No matter how well behaved your dog is, squirrels are just too damn tempting.

        • If you stay in the middle of the park and are keeping an eye on the dog you should have plenty of time to catch it before it makes it to the street.

        • I used to sometimes let my dogs run off-leash in Lincoln Park. They like playing fetch, and my yard’s a bit small for that. One of them always stays glued to my side, and she has short legs anyway so I could catch her if she ran off somewhere. But one day she started walking away from me, and I was momentarily blinded by the sun, and then she was gone! I thought for sure that someone had stolen her because she vanished so suddenly and within a few feet of me.
          After a frantic hour of running around the neighborhood I returned to the park and found her with someone who claimed she had run into the street. It was so unlike her, but it just goes to show that dogs are unpredictable and anything can happen.
          We don’t go to the park much after that, and I’ve stopped letting them run off leash. I recently saw the owner of a dog they used to play with during their off-leash days, and she said her dog had been attacked there. It’s probably for the best that we don’t go there anymore.

          • Yeah, it’s tricky. My ex-BF used to take his dog (off leash) up to Lincoln all the time. 95% of the time it went fine. But the 5% when he went out into traffic scared the beejesus out of me. He was a very loving dog owner so I’m sure he thought he was doing what was best.

            I also have friend who lets her dog off leash all the time around town (even though she permanently lost a foster dog this way); and the dog has bitten people more than once and she refuses to muzzle it in public (No, not the lady with the sheepdog and the poodle; promise!). There’s just no talking to her about it and it’s not worth ruining a friendship over. Frustrating, though.

      • Amen. Once I was walking my dog through Lincoln Park and actually heard “oh that dog must be mean” because I had my dog on a leash. Yeah ya know, abiding by rules and everything. I mean I already have a vicious breed, a German Shepherd. But ya know if a poodle off leash attacks us, it will be all my fault cause I always use a leash.

    • This is an owner problem, not a dog problem. Wake up.

      • this is an irrelevant distinction. dogs that repeatedly bite people must be put down.

        • The point is that if they were trained properly in the first place, it wouldn’t happen. It is the owners fault it got to the point of having to euthanize them. I would say that is pretty relevant.

    • Honestly, it’s not about the city being “too dog friendly”, but rather about the city not being tough enough on irresponsible owners. At the very least, this woman should be muzzling both dogs and she should either walk them separately or find someone else to walk them with her.
      There are plenty of responsible owners who deserve credit for doing the right thing. This woman is not one of them.

  • I had heard that Tommy Wells’ office was pretty responsive, so I’m surprised at the non-response. This is DC, so I have to ask: is this lady connected or a donor? The breeds (English Sheepdog and Standard Poodle) are not typically aggressive, which makes me think this lady doesn’t know how to properly raise/control dogs. What a mess.

    • I also think it’s strange that Wells’s office did nothing. I wonder if she should try emailing Charles Allen instead.

    • Any dog can be aggressive. You can’t say “not typically aggressive” about any dog, because all dogs have the potential to bite.

      I just don’t understand why some people own dogs – plural! more than one! – don’t bother to train them, then expect the community to put up with dangerous dog behavior. This lady needs her head examined.

  • Something strange is going on here – in all other similar situations, Animal Control has acted more quickly. Did Tommy Wells’ office have nothing to say about it?

  • I was bit by an off leash mastiff in front of Ninnella (Lincoln park). I was just walking, did nothing to antagonize the dog. The owner yelled at me for having audacity to walk on his sidewalk. I called the police and animal control was told that the dog would be placed under home arrest until they completed an investigation. Not even 2 days later I was driving by Lincoln park and saw the giant dog off leash again, so called animal control and they basically told me they have no way to enforce the quarantine since the dog does not have a yard to relieve itself. Nothing ever came of my dog bite case and I see the dog all the time around Ninnella (I think it lives above the restaurant and may be owned by someone that works there) and off leash in the park. So please be very careful if you are in Lincoln park and a very large blueish colored mastiff is near by, it will not hesitate to bit you

    • I’d say that dog is the worst, except it’s owners are, in fact, the absolute WORST. They leave the dog out on their upstairs balcony barking aggressively for hours every day. We can hear it across the street in our house where I work from home. And, as you note, he’s aggressive when finally let outside. Just a complete disaster.

      But of course I believe that this is also the apartment that had an armed standoff with MPD last August.

      • That standoff was on the 1300 bock of East Capitol. Because of the area the police had blocked off, a false story circulated that it was from that apartment, but it was around the corner.

        I came close to being attacked by this dog too, within the past couple of months. A woman was walking him on leash and strained very hard to keep the dog under control. She had just come out of the building with the dog, and I was walking along the sidewalk in front of Ninnella. The dog lunged and pulled really hard on its leash to try to get to me, and I was afraid she was going to lose hold of the leash. I detoured from the middle of the sidewalk to closer to the curb, and she stayed close to the building, but that was rather frightening.

        • I have been having dinner outside of Ninnela and saw that same woman trying to control the dog, she cannot handle that dog. The dog is so aggressive and they always let it off leach over in lincoln park. The dog and its owners are real menaces and should be avoided at all costs. I now cross the road if I see them.

      • I thought it was illegal to own a dog that disturbs the neighbors’ quiet enjoyment of their homes.

      • I’ve never had a problem with the mastiff, but then again maybe it’s because my dog is huge. I’ve had more problems with small yappy dogs running up to us off leash. My dog probably thinks they are squirrels gone insane but I always make sure he’s on a leash so he doesn’t get a lite snack.

  • don’t mean to troll – but how quickly would those dogs have been put down if they were pits or rotties? anyone else read this last week?

    • As an AmStaff owner, I’m glad you brought this article up. Hopefully this woman will be compelled, either by public shaming or some type of enforcement, into being smarter about her dogs.

    • Disgusting. I have a Pit that has been with us and our 6 yr old beagle since she was 8wks and she couldn’t be sweeter. It’s just like having children–if you don’t want to raise them, don’t have them.

    • I have both a pit and a rottie and this was exactly my first thought. My pit is super friendly and loves people, however she is dog reactive. My rottie is very sweet, but she’s weary around strangers and is very dog reactive so I muzzle her on 100% of her walks just in case. It’s the responsible thing to do. This woman ought to be doing the same.
      It’s my opinion that owners of so-called “dangerous” breeds better realize what’s at stake whereas owners of aggressive labs or sheep dogs etc just ride on the fact that the breed as a whole has a good reputation. They are not held to the same standard and it isn’t fair.

    • Oh you are right on the spot! I bet if this person had said they were pits, the response from authorities would’ve been so different… all because of irresponsible dog owners.

    • Totally agree. You are not trolling at all, just stating what we all know. There would be all kinds of new laws enacted. Wasn’t there a time in DC where Terriers or so called “Pit Bulls” were illegal or something like that or at least had to be muzzled in public 100% of the time. I thought that was so stupid but again it is on the owner. As someone who was raised around dogs (we had 3 dobermans) and whose mom showed dogs I can tell you that is i all about how the dogs are raised. Yes there are dogs with bad temperaments but that goes for humans too. At the end of the day it is 100% on the owner.

    • not true – a Corse bit young girl in Brookland earlier this year and nothing happened at all.

  • Wow, super interesting. I was running through that area over the winter and observed that exact pair of dogs pull the person walking them (a woman) into the street, at which point she fell. I don’t recall if they got loose, but they were definitely reacting to another pair of dogs in the area–two elderly, larger dogs. I don’t recall their breed.

    My friends and I jumped in to prevent the sheepdog and poodle from actually getting to the other two dogs.

    I might make some comment about training, and the increased likelihood of pure bred (inbred) dogs having neuroses that might lead to them responding unnecessarily to the smallest of triggers. But I’ll keep those judgments to myself.

    • Its has nothing to with the dogs breed. It all comes down the owner. The owner has to be the alpha and control what is expected from their dog behavior.

      • Correct! Breed is irrelevant if the owners are responsible

      • You know the alpha thing has been disproven, right? Dogs don’t operate in hierarchies and you don’t have to “dominate” them.

        • Disproven by whom?

          • Research and any credible dog behaviorist. Look up Dr. Sohphia Yin. She has written many great articles on the subject. Victoria Stilwell (of It’s Me or the Dog fame) is also a great positive training resource. I also recommend books by Emma Parsons, Karen Pryor, Patricia McConnell and Turid Rugaas on why R+ training methods just plain work better than the outdated “dominance theory” of training.

  • If you regularly walk down the street where she is, and it sounds like you do, I would get together with several of your neighbors and contact a lawyer. You can sue her for damages, but you may also be able to get the court to issue an order requiring her to take better precuations with the dogs. If she violates the order she would be in contempt.

    • I like this. I’d hate for the dogs to be put down simply because their owner is a complete moron. If she’s forced to muzzle them or pay a professional walker for individual walks, that might solve the problem. The burden is on her. What a shame she isn’t responsible enough or neighborly enough to do the right thing. My parents have a somewhat dog-aggressive Great Dane, and they take a lot of precautions with her when they take her on walks. It’s called using common sense and protecting yourself (from liability), the dog (from being put down), and others (from physical harm).

    • totally agree. maybe even take it to small claims court yourself. you don’t always have to wait for the city or for elected officials.

  • It shouldn’t matter if they breed is classified as dangerous or not. Even some smaller breeds are incredibly strong and quick for their size, and can inflict quite a bit of damage on another dog or a person.

    • Yeah I have a chihuahua and he’s a little asshole and wouldn’t think twice before about biting a kid. I know this about him and take many steps to avoid problems and confrontations. You have to be responsible no matter what kind of dog you have.

      • A former co-worker has an aggressive Chihuahua so when he had his 1st baby I asked if he was concerned about the baby/dog. He said yes – and that he had taken care if the problem by having the dog’s teeth pulled out!

    • +1, being dangerous should depend on the individual history of the animal, not what bred it is, and these dogs sound like they have a history. It’s a shame that it’s likely the fault of the owner.

  • This is very odd — I hope the publicity will prompt Tommy Wells’s office and Animal Control to step up to the plate and do something.

  • To the owner of these dogs: Please please please get a trainer and get serious about it. You owe it to your community and to your dogs. If you are not willing to put in the work to train both yourself and the dog, then you must find new homes for these dogs with owners that can handle them. You’re currently a menace to your community and chances are your dogs are miserable. Get help.

  • Wow….that’s a serious bite on your dog. Very sorry to hear that those in position of authority to help on this case, Tommy Wells and Animal Control, have shirked their public responsibility. Good for you for keeping on this. I hope this PoP mention may get the situation the attention it deserves before something more serious and lethal happens to another person or dog.

  • 1. Try the Washington Area Animal Rescue League ASAP–I live in NE and have had some similar issues that they’ve been extremely helpful through–I found that animal control and DC Gov were totally unresponsive until I had WAARL contact them on my behalf.

    2. That owner needs to be investigated. It is highly rare for those breeds (sheep dog/standard poodle) to be so aggressive. Based on the neighborhood, etc, it seems likely that these dogs have become aggressive because the owner does not provide them with enough space or exercise. Unintentional neglect is still neglect.

    3. If you have pets or small children, always ask “are they friendly?” Before allowing them to approach any animals. It’s also important to note that when on leash, many animals feel compelled to guard/ protect the person walking them so always be a bit more conscientious of animals on leash out of the home than animals running free in the home. If the owner doesn’t seem interested in supervising the pow wow between your children/pets, leave them alone and ensure your child/pet that you’ll let then try to make friends with the next one.

    Hope you and your babies (four legged and otherwise) are happy and healthy!

    • Your second point is absolutely incorrect. Any breed of dog can exhibit aggressiveness and in fact every poodle- standard, mini, whatever- I’ve ever met has either been dog or people aggressive or both. It’s anecdotal evidence, sure, but so is your claim.

      • Also re. point #2:
        D.C. has pretty generous standards for what constitutes animal neglect. I think there are requirements for providing shade, water, etc., but I don’t think there’s a mandated frequency of exercise.
        I’d agree that the owner should be investigated for negligence as far as her dogs attacking people and other dogs… but I doubt her general care of the dogs would qualify as “neglect” as far as D.C. regulations are concerned.

  • Thanks for the warning. Where on the Hill was this? Lincoln Park?

  • Why not file a suit against the woman? At a minimum the mother of the toddler should have filed a suit. This is so dangerous. A bite on a toddler is serious business. If any dog came at my kid I would expect criminal charges and I absolutely would file a suit against the owner.

    • So no gray area for you? Although the toddler went to the hospital, perhaps the bites weren’t bad enough to enforce “criminal charges” or file a lawsuit. This is from someone that was attacked by a friend’s dog, unprovoked at age 8 and my parent’s didn’t call the ambulance chasers. If this happened to my kid, I would weigh the options just like my parents did and not be so quick to sue everyone in sight.

      • Great attitude. Sounds like your parents and I would get along. I do think there are cases of extreme negligence where a lawsuit would be appropriate. However, accidents can and do happen to even very responsible owners. No need to ruin someone’s else life just because you can.
        I will say in this instance it sounds like the owner of the dogs is a habitual offender and isn’t doing anything to protect the safety of the public. A lawsuit might be appropriate if she doesn’t take proper action to ensure safety in the future.

      • No gray for me either. That lady wouldn’t let her dogs out by the time I got through with her.

    • justinbc

      Not everyone is litigious.

      • I wonder if people suggesting that everything should be dealt with by suing someone have ever actually sued someone. It’s expensive and draining, and for something like this almost certainly not worth the time and money in terms of what they’ll get out of it. Or maybe they are all lawyers who sue people every day.

  • I run in Capitol Hill and see this woman all the time with BOTH dogs. Saw her this past weekend near Eastern Market with both dogs and she always seems to have tenuous control over them. Unreal. I deal with “problem dogs” all the time, including ones that don’t do well in public. We take precautions; one dog at a time, yield the sidewalk, have distractions, red bandanas as warnings, etc. because dogs can learn to be ok. So if she knew there was a problem and walked one dog at a time that might be reasonable but to continually walk two dogs that she can’t handle is really irresponsible and dangerous. Tempted to say something next time I see her.

  • Thanks for posting this– I live two blocks away and have two dogs, so I will have to keep an eye out for this lady. So sorry to hear that happened to your dog.

  • Too many owners don’t have control and have no clue about their own dog’s behavior. There is an older man I’ve seen several times in Rock Creek park who walks 2 large dogs, a mastif and a black German Shepard looking dog – big strong dogs – that he thinks are friendly just “rambunctious,” – that he absolutely cannot control.

    The black dog immediately took a dominant/challenge posture upon seeing my two (leashed) dogs then lunged aggressively. I wound up with leash burn, deep bruises, torn pants and a twisted knee. His response “Oh, I’ve never seen that before. . .” Total lie because I’ve seen these dogs behave this way several times.

    Glad your dog is o.k. and hope this gets resolved soon.

  • I just called Tommy Wells’ office. While the woman who answered the phone wasn’t very helpful, I insisted on speaking with someone and left a voicemail with Patricia Joseph, Constituent Services Specialist, to see what Tommy Wells plans on doing about this. I encourage others who live in this to do the same. These dogs are clearly a threat to our community and the lack of an appropriate response from the DC government is absolutely unacceptable.

  • Have you called her out on the listserv? For not adhering to her promise of only walking one at a time. Sounds like she reads it, so maybe some (more) public shaming will help. Or you could word it in a way to try to initiate a constructive conversation.

  • Did you send them a picture of your dog’s injury? I was attacked and seriously injured by a neighbor’s dogs, and neither the police nor animal control did a thing until I sent DC Animal Control a picture documenting the severity of the bites. Things moved pretty quickly from there. May want to see if the toddler’s mom has pictures as well. My understanding is that the severity of the bites is one big part of determining if a dog is dangerous.

  • To the Anonymous poster from 11:37 am – I think you and your friends were the runners that helped break up this attack! Thank you so much!! It was on Independence SE between 4th and 5th Sts. I have two elderly greyhounds and yes, they dragged her toward my dogs and she fell backwards because they were so strong, then they attacked when they reached us, at which point you and your running group started yelling and actually stepped in between the dogs (I’m amazed and so thankful you were brave enough to do so – I would have been totally on my own without you because she had fallen and was totally unable to help). You also helped her up and she quickly took her dogs across the street to get them away. At the time they attacked, right before you stepped in, I had just shoved my 9 year old dog out of the way so although the Standard Poodle bit her butt, he just grazed it and it didn’t actually break the skin. I could see that the Sheepdog was going after my 11 year old dog out of the corner of my eye but then you stepped in, and I actually didn’t think he was hurt until 15 minutes after it was all over I noticed blood dripping down his chest fur (he’s the one in the picture).

    And to all the other commenters – thank you also. I will definitely try the WAARL, I hadn’t head of them before. And thank you JSW! I emailed Patricia Joseph on April 24 and was ignored, so I will definitely email her again now (and attach my earlier email! I emailed both [email protected] and [email protected] on April 24).

    I’m hesitant to press charges because the owner very promptly reimbursed me for my vet bill, and I really just want Animal Control to properly register her dogs as dangerous so she has to use a muzzle (and stop walking the two of them at the same time). I don’t want the dogs put down, and although I’m a lawyer, I do not want to go down the rabbit hole of a lawsuit even though I can represent myself.

    I’ve been so frustrated and baffled too – I thought it was just bureaucractic inaction but when I read past PoPville posts showing that Animal Control is quite responsive in some cases, I wanted to post here because it is very disturbing to me that they would not respond in a case where a child was injured (not to mention my poor dog). I agree with some of the commenters that the fact that both of her (obviously unrelated) dogs are this aggressive means she’s doing something very wrong as a dog owner. And I’m glad someone else voiced my suspicion that in a different neighborhood, with different dog breeds, this might be handled very differently.

    Thank you all so much – the support has been lovely after I spent my entire morning enraged that her dogs almost attacked mine again today.

    • Definitely keep following up on your emails. You can’t expect to just send an email and that someone on the other end will pick it up and run with it. Use your lawyer skills and push the system to work.

    • Please don’t let this go. The reason why this lady hasn’t taken control is because people keep letting her off the hook. You’re ok, someone else’s dog -or kid – may not be.

      It sounds like the antisocial bitch isn’t the one on 4 legs.

  • It sounds like the commenters on here are all super responsible about preventing dog confrontations, but in case it would be helpful to anyone, maybe check these out (they ship from US warehouses as well):

    You can find leashes, harnesses, and collars that designate your dog as friendly, dog aggressive, generally aggressive, etc., which could help protect both your dogs and the others around while you walk!

    • This is such a great idea! My dog is nervous around other dogs and doesn’t react well to being sniffed, and I spend my entire walk moving off of the sidewalk when we see another dog, and then asking other owners not to let their dogs come up when they veer toward me (“Oh don’t worry! He’s friendly!”).

  • DC Animal Control has very limited enforcement ability. This is largely because it is not a department of the DC government. The Washington Humane Society holds a contract from DC Government to fulfill the city’s animal control needs. The officer’s status as employees of a nonprofit organization rather than sworn officers makes real enforcement difficult as they are not part of any agency. The only ability the officers have to enforce animal laws comes from what the public assumes when they see a badge and uniform…. I would say more about that, but it’s already tough enough for these officers.

  • What does this lady look like, whereabouts in Capitol Hill?

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