It was one of the most terrifying moments of her life. While walking her two Scottish terriers in central Benicia in late February, Constance Beutel and her dogs were attacked by FIVE PIT BULLS THAT ESCAPED FROM A NEARBY CAR.
“It was a horrifying blur,” she said.
Though Beutel is a veteran of the Vietnam War, she ranks the experience as one of the scariest events she’s encountered.
The good news is that both she and her dogs are OK. A neighbor heard her struggle and came to her rescue. Her dogs recovered from their injuries, and Beutel said she emerged with only psychological scars.
She quickly reported the incident to the police, who had prior knowledge of the pit bulls living in a car. According to them, the city’s animal control officer had been working with the transient owner of the car to find stable homes for his dogs. Since he was not officially a Benicia resident — he often visits his grandfather, who is — he wasn’t required to adhere to the “three dogs maximum” rule in town and could not be cited.
Beutel got yet another shock when she reported the incident. She expected that the dangerous dogs would be impounded until an investigation took place. Instead, the dog’s owner was only issued citations for having unlicensed, off-leash animals, she said.
It was then that Beutel decided to advocate for changing the animal control regulations found in the municipal code. Beutel appeared at Tuesday’s Benicia City Council meeting to share her story and recommend that the issue be placed on a future agenda.
With her at the meeting were a couple who lost their cat after a dog jumped a five-foot fence into their yard. Though the neighbor’s dog killed their beloved pet, the owner was ordered to keep their dog in a secure area, and when the dog is in public, it must be on a leash and under the control of someone over 18.
Two other people took the microphone during the public comment period and shared stories of loose dogs and dog attacks and the need for better regulation of the issue.
Basically, Beutel and others would like there to be harsher penalties for dogs that bite or kill other animals.
At the very least, said Beutel, if someone has a dog that has been deemed vicious by its actions, a sign should be posted on their property notifying the community of the danger. But Beutel is requesting that the council consider the option of euthanizing dogs that attack or kill a domestic animal in town, after first impounding the animal and holding a hearing.
She’d also like to see the code updated to cover dogs that “chase or attack domestic animals.”
Were this in the provision, she argued, the owner of the pit bulls that attacked her could have been cited for more than just not having them on a leash and unlicensed.
So far she’s met with responsive ears from the police department and city attorney, both of which recommended she bring the issue to the council.
Mayor Elizabeth Patterson pointed out on Tuesday that the council had left room for discussion on this issue on the table when it revamped the code to include mini pigs.
The council is expected to agendize the examination of the current codes regarding dangerous animals and possibly adopt some or all of Beutel’s suggestions.
“We respectfully ask you to … put this on your agenda before another individual or pet is maimed or killed,” Beutel said.