"I DON'T FEEL SAFE. IT HAS TAKEN AWAY MY SECURITY." RAE DRIGGS WENT GROCERY SHOPPING AND CAME HOME TO FIND PIT BULLS IN HER HOME AND HER CATS DEAD AND DYING. SHE NOW SUFFERS FROM POST TRAUMATIC STRESS DISORDER.---- THE COUNTY ANIMAL CONTROL ORDINANCE DOES NOT CLASSIFIY AN ANIMAL 'VICIOUS' UNLESS IT BITES ANOTHER HUMAN. THEY ARE OTHERWISE CONSIDERED NUISANCE ANIMALS.
ANACONDA — About 45 minutes and two witnesses into his bench trial in Anaconda justice court Thursday, John Griswold had apparently heard enough.
Griswold, 59, listened with public defender Dan Miller to tearful testimony as a family described how his pit bull crossbreeds entered their home earlier this year and killed five of their cats.
The defense and prosecution then met in recess with Justice of the Peace Larry Pahut to discuss a settlement where Griswold would plead guilty to two counts of owning a nuisance animal and two counts of letting his dogs run at large.
A change of plea hearing and sentencing is scheduled for 2 p.m. Sept. 20. Griswold pleaded not guilty to the four charges last May.
In exchange, Deputy County Attorney Ellen Donohue is recommending consecutive six-month terms in jail, totaling two years with all time suspended.
As a condition of the suspended sentence, Griswold would not be allowed to have or keep dogs anywhere on his property at 305 W. Fifth St. during that time.
The recommendation also includes $1,000 in fines, with $600 suspended, and full restitution of $1,367.
Court documents allege Griswold had care and control of the two dogs, Goldie and Copper, on April 7 when they jumped into a fenced yard several blocks away on Locust Street and entered the house through a pet door.
Resident Rae Driggs testified at the trial, saying she had gone grocery shopping and came home to find her cats dead and dying.
“I was in shock. I couldn’t believe what had happened,” Driggs said.
Driggs stated the dogs then lunged at her, though they never bit her. She went to a counselor following the incident, and said she has since been diagnosed with post traumatic stress disorder.
“My last five months have been hell,” she said. “It’s taken away my security. I don’t feel safe.”
Driggs’ husband, Bob, also testified that he and a neighbor followed the dogs down the neighborhood until animal control officer Tom Williams could catch them.
Bob Driggs had been working when Rae called to let him know what had happened.
“I could barely distinguish her voice,” he said. “She was pretty upset, and fearful of that scene.”
Griswold did not speak during the trial.
Both dogs were euthanized by court order in May. One employee at the animal shelter previously filed a supporting affidavit stating she had difficulty controlling them, and had feared for her safety.
The county animal control ordinance does not classify an animal“vicious” unless it bites another human. They are otherwise considered nuisance animals.
A recently formed committee, appointed by the county commission, is reviewing an overhaul to the ordinance that would, in part, redefine vicious animals as those that kill, bite or attempt to bite both humans and other animals