Owner Recounts Witnessing Pit Bulls Attack, Kill Family’s Poodle

DES MOINES, Iowa -- Brenda Villegas was still shaking as she tried to recall how the family's four-year-old poodle Curly was killed by the jaws of two neighborhood pit bulls the day before.  "It was really sad because I had to see everything.  He was suffering and dying and I couldn't do anything," Villegas said.

Des Moines Chief Humane Officer Sgt. James Butler says the attack happened Wednesday at 11:00 a.m. at 1711 11th street.  He said, "The two attacking dogs grabbed a hold of her dog and tossed it around as if it were a piece of rope in a tug of war match."

Brenda heard loud cries coming from outside, she tried to throw objects at the pit bulls and attempted to scare them with her vehicle but nothing worked. "Once the Animal Control officers picked up the poodle, the poodle died in their arms," said Butler.

Sergeant Butler said all three dogs were away from their homes.  "The poodle, which lost its life was in the street in front of its own home.  The attacking dogs were several houses away from home when the owner went to work and forgot to put them back inside the home," said Butler.

Butler says the owner of the pit bulls, Donald Johnson, is facing a number of citations.  "Neither one of his dogs were vaccinated as the law requires.   Neither were licensed as the law requires and both are high risk animals by breed."

Now Johnson is faced with two options, relinquishing ownership of the dogs to Animal Control or allowing the department to declare them dangerous animals and euthanize them.  Sergeant Butler said, "There is no option in the law when an animal is declared dangerous, other than euthanasia.  I have no other option."

There are a number of restrictions when it comes to owning a pit bull.  "It has to be someone 18 or older that has to have the animal on a leash no longer than 6 feet.  There are all types of containment parameters as far as fencing and kennels. The high risk animals need a $100,000  insurance policy and dog parks are out of the question," said Butler.

All dogs identified as pit bulls must be registered as high risk, even if they have never had a reported incident.

Butler says he isn't coming down on pit bulls, only irresponsible owners, "The city of Des Moines does not ban pit bulls, you can have them with restrictions and one of those restrictions is you are responsible for their actions."  Actions that took a beloved family member away from the Villegas family.

Sergeant Butler said there is a meeting planned for Friday afternoon with Donald Johnson where they will discuss his options.