Des Moines Dog Deemed Dangerous to be Destroyed

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DES MOINES, Iowa -- An administrative hearing officer has ruled that a pit bull that bit two children over a  five-month period should be put down.

The dog, named Cash, bit one child in April and the other in September. Police deemed the dog dangerous under city code, but Cash's owner, Heather Hildreth,  contested the decision arguing the children, in both cases seven-year-old boys, provoked the dog. In the most recent case, she says the child came into her home uninvited. The victim says he didn't, and that he went to the door to see a friend when he was repeatedly bitten.

"The dog was right beside the door. When he was shutting it, when he was moving it, he got through and came at me and jumped on top of me," Jashawn Fleming, 7, said  raising his arm to his face, "I went like this so he couldn't get my throat or my chest but he got this and then I moved in and then he got that."

In her ruling, administrative hearing officer Lisa Burk wrote, "City code section 1856(a) requires that all vicious dogs be securely confined within an occupied house or residence...if the apartment door was unlocked permitting a seven-year-old child to enter it, it brings into question whether the dog was securely confined within the occupied residence."

During the hearing, Hildreth's attorney, Eric Parrish argued that Chief Humane Officer Sergeant James Butler of the Des Moines Police Department was not qualified to judge whether Cash was dangerous.  "Has any of your training dealt specifically with dogs?" Parrish asked.  "Not specifically," Butler replied.  Parrish then asked "Are you certified in any type of behavioral training with regards to dogs?"  Butler replied, "No. That would fall entirely with ARL employees."

Butler says that's out of the scope of his job description. "Granted I'm not the animal expert when it comes to behaviors. Behavioral specialist. As a police officer my job is to look at the code, interpret the code to the best of my ability and apply it for each situation because each situation is unique," Butler said.

Ultimately, Burk sided with Sergeant Butler, citing city code that states that a dog is deemed dangerous if it, "Has bitten or clawed a person on two separate occasions within a 12-month period."

Butler says Cash meets that criteria. "In this particular case the code is very clear. This particular animal bit twice within 12 months. It just happened to be two separate seven-year-old children. And the code tells me what I do next. And I follow the rule of the law."

Hildreth and her attorney, Eric Parrish, declined on camera interviews but plan to appeal the decision. In a written statement, Parrish said, "While a dog bite is never a good outcome, Ms. Hildreth believes the court and the chief humane officer should have done much more to determine what actually occurred," and that "...this does not mean the life of her dog should depend on the insensitivity of bullies or those who demonstrate little respect or kindness in their contact with animals."

Sergeant Butler stands by his decision.  "I have to look at risk, risk to our citizens and other animals. Does this animal pose a risk to the citizens of Des Moines and their animals?" Butler said.  "Yes. and I can't live with that."



    • Boxernest

      I agree totally. I had a boxer mix that became human aggressive a year ago. No he did not do damage to humans. I did not allow it. It broke my heart but I had him humanely euthanized before he could. Responsible pet owner.

      • Sue

        Sorry for your loss, Boxernest, but, thank you for preventing someone from being injured! I’m sure that was a tough decision to make.

  • Clyde

    I like my dog, but if he bites some kid, it’s time for a new dog. I don’t care if the kid opened a door or not, it’s over for the dog.

  • Sue

    she said the first time it happened they were at a playground and kids were ‘provoking’ the dog and poked it in the eye. She said she had the dog on a leash and ‘under control’. Why not turn around and walk away with the dog? or, YOU are the adult, tell the kids to go away? Why do you stand there until the dog bites someone? Either it didn’t happen like she says, or she wanted the dog to bite, maybe to teach those little brats how to treat a dog?

    • Steven Elderidge

      Sue – The story is so full of lies, coaching and a irresponsible parent. I wanted to also point out her irresponsible use of food. This little boy was left unsupervised for hours hopefully the authorities will look into her parenting and you know I will make sure they do. C’mon what responsible parent allows themselves to tip the scale at 350 plus! If all you think about is food everything is second and that is fact!

  • Holly Johnson

    How is it she can afford a lawyer but not shots for the dog? Wonder if it’s pro bono for the free attention.

  • Steven Elderidge

    I notice that the obese mother is not shown on the news coaching her child. Where is the man of the house in all of this? The mother of the child and the owner of the dog are both guilty of allowing this circus to go on. As far as the news showing the same picture of the bite/scratch 3X’s shame on them for fear mongering the sheeple of Iowa.

    • Sue

      All you got out of this entire story was that two of the people involved were overweight? Wow, judgemental much? You are obviously a very small minded, insecure individual if you are THAT fixated on other people’s appearance.

    • Sue

      Brandi, I think they are saying the dog had to either be behind a locked door, or kenneled within the house to be considered ‘contained’. I suppose because with an unlocked door someone, like a confused child, could accidently walk into the wrong apartment and end up seriously injured. We used to have a neighbor boy that would, uninvited, walk right into our house. needless to say, we started keeping our front door locked! (not because of a dog, but, just because I didn’t like the child coming in uninvited)

  • Brandi

    Odds are the kid did enter the house uninvited, the fact that the door was unlocked does not mean the dogs was not adequately confined. The dog was still inside it’s home.

  • Mis

    I think this is sad. I don’t think the dog should be put down, it is not his fault if he was being provoked the first time. Why don’t parents teach their kids how to properly bheave around animals, if a kid started poking at one of my fur-kids, I would start poking at the brat child. As far as the second incident, the child entreed the house uninvited, if it was a gun-owners house he could have been shot. Maybe he’s lucky he only got bit. A dog will protect it’s home and owners. Save Cash!!!

    • Sue

      Eh…Mis…I think there is a big difference between protecting the home, and the attack on this child. most dogs that are protecting will only bite enough to subdue the threat, the will bite and back off…this dog attacked.

      • Mis

        Sue, the child should NOT have been Inside the home Uninvited! He would have never been bit had he not just barged right in! Someone needs to teach that kid some manners!!!!!

  • JakeE

    “Des Moines Dog Deemed Dangerous to be Destroyed”….in other news, today is brought to you by the letter D!

  • Dave

    What a stupid ruling from a stupid judge. If a person came to my home without an invite, they would get bit. No doubt about it! Would this judge also order that the dogs guarding the White House, who attacked a man who trespassed last week, euthanized as well? No, they were made heroes. Our society has their priorities out of whack for not allowing us to defend our private property. Trespass on my property when you are not supposed to be there and you get a choice, meet my dogs or meet my gun! Idiot judge.

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