December 27, 2015
The Intelligencer / Wheeling News-Register,
EDITOR'S NOTE: Through Thursday, The Intelligencer and Wheeling News-Register present the Ohio Valley's top 10 stories of 2015, as voted on by the newspapers' editors.
WHEELING - Sheba, the pit bull terrier that attacked and killed a man during a tragic series of events in East Wheeling in March is still housed at a Pittsburgh-area animal shelter.
The dog is at the South Hills Pet Rescue and Rehabilitation Resort, a no-kill facility in South Park, Pa., a community 10 miles south of Pittsburgh. Wheeling City Manager Robert Herron authorized the dog's release to the kennel after it attacked and killed Roy Higgenbotham Jr., 62, as Higgenbotham was attempting to aid the dog's owner, 63-year-old David Wallace Jr., who suffered an apparent fatal heart attack inside his 14th Street home.
A preliminary autopsy report revealed a severed radial artery resulting from a dog bite as Higgenbotham's cause of death, but Herron chose to release the dog to the kennel rather than have it euthanized. Many believe the dog was acting to protect its owner when it attacked Higgenbotham.
"This is a licensed rehabilitation and placement organization with a licensed behavioral trainer that will make every effort to retrain and rehabilitate the dog," Herron said.
Ashley Rittle, president of the rescue facility, did not respond to calls requesting comment, but a kennel worker confirmed that Sheba is still there and is doing well.
If the South Hills kennel ultimately finds a home for Sheba, however, it won't be in West Virginia.
"It is important to note that this organization assumes all liability and responsibility for the dog, and the dog will not be permitted back in the state of West Virginia for any reason," he said.
Wheeling Police Detective Sgt. Gregg McKenzie said Sheba was not registered with the city as a dangerous or vicious dog as required by law.
Under city ordinance, pit bulls, canary dogs and American bulldogs automatically are classified as "vicious" and their owners must pay $5 for a tag and renew it each year. Owners of dangerous or vicious dogs who fail to register or place the tag on the animals face a potential $500 fine for each day they do not comply with the law.
Owners of dangerous or vicious dogs must maintain at least $100,000 in liability insurance, keep the dog on a leash and muzzled when not properly confined and prominently display signs warning any passersby of the animal's presence.