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Putnam County Considers New Dangerous Dog Ordinance After Multiple Attacks

Dog bite cases in Putnam County have one neighborhood calling for tougher enforcement of the state's law about dangerous dogs.

If it's not a second documented attack or doesn't involve a severe injury, a dog may be left with its owner instead of being put down. The bite victims say under that rule, it's only a matter of time before someone else gets hurt.

Bill Hanssen lives near the lakes in western Putnam County. When he went out for a walk last August, instead of circling home, he had to detour to the emergency room to get stitches after being chased by three dogs. A neighbor's surveillance camera caught part of the action.

"It terrifies me to think of these dogs coming after me again," Hanssen said.

One of the dogs that chased him in the video was quarantined for 10 days. A few months later, another neighbor went for a morning jog.

The next time Willy Thelosen called his parents, it was from the hospital.

"My husband said, 'willy's been bitten by some dogs' and my heart just sunk to the ground," mother Kay Thelosen recalled.

Willy Thelosen said the same dogs that sent Hanssen to the ER knocked him to the ground and bit him.

WUFT News tried to contact the dog owners, but received no response.

"I got really angry when I found out that Willy had got attacked also because they should have done something about the problem before that," Hanssen said.

Thelosen and 10 of the neighbors have reached out to the county government. In Putnam County, animal control is overseen by the planning and development department.

"We can't just go on someone's property, take their dog and euthanize it," Kevin Powell, a planning and development employee, said.

After the second attack, an animal behaviorist checked on the dogs and deemed one as dangerous.

"We're prisoners in our houses," Willy Thelosen said. "We're terrified to go out."

Neighbors are frustrated animal control won't confiscate the dog. Animal control said that's because of a lack of paperwork from the attack that was caught on video, and because those injuries were not severe enough on their own.

"If that had happened in the past," Powell said, "then we would be in a different situation than we are today."

Laurie Douglass saidthat answer isn't good enough: "He must bite someone else before they take him away. What does that mean? Does that mean someone must die before they remove this dog? Or does that mean someone has to have severe bites like Willy and Bill? Why isn't it being handled and why is our county not able or willing to support us or protect us?"

The Putnam County animal advisory board is working on a revision of the county ordinances that will address circumstances like this one in the future. A draft ordinance could be ready for a vote next month.

Sofia is a reporter for WUFT News who can be reached by calling 352-392-6397 or emailing news@wuft.org.