RINCON GA - RUTHANN HEIN, 67, WAS WALKING HER BELOVED PET "RASCAL" IN JULY 2016 IN HER NEIGHBORHOOD WHEN 2 PIT BULLS RAN UP AND FATALLY MAULED HER..NOW HEIN AWAITS FOR A JUDGE'S DECISION ON RESTITUTION FROM THE 18-YEAR-OLD OWNER AND IS SPEAKING UP FOR STANDARD PROCEDURES AND TRANSPARENCY IN SUCH CASES
It haunts Ruthann Hein.
She was taking Rascal, the 24-pound, black-and-white terrier mix that never left her side on a walk on a leash in her Rincon neighborhood when TWO PIT BULLS ran up and attacked her.
They were on Madison Oaks Drive, about three blocks from her house.
She screamed and used her umbrella to try to beat off the dogs. Neighbors tried to help, but the pit bulls shook Rascal like a rag doll.
When police arrived, the attack was still ongoing.
A man passing by in a car was finally able to separate the dogs. Hein took Rascal to an emergency vet in Savannah, where she learned her lungs had collapsed. She made the difficult decision to have her beloved pet euthanized, to keep her from suffering since she was going to die no matter what they tried to do to help her.
That was July 20, 2016.
In the following months, Hein’s attorney, Rick Rafter, said he made repeated calls to Rincon City Attorney Raymond Dickey to find out what happened to the pit bulls and to inquire about restitution for the $1,000 in vet bills, but never heard back.
Rafter said Hein’s main concern was that the pit bulls could attack someone else or their pets.
“Are they still running around and just waiting for somebody to innocently walk by and be attacked?” he asked. “What if it was a kid?”
His client also sorely misses her very special companion. Rascal was a therapy dog for Hein, 67, who suffers from depression.
Dickey told a reporter from Effingham Now that the dog’s owner paid a $397 fine in January for two counts of dog at large. He said the owner, who is 18 years old, said at his first city court date in September that the dogs were no longer being housed in Rincon.
The owner did not reply to telephone calls or a message left at his house.
Dickey said a city judge will schedule a hearing for restitution in February and the defendant and victim will be subpoenaed.
A lack of standard procedures and transparency in such cases are some of the reasons Effingham County Animal Shelter Director Lorna Shelton would like to see a revision to the county’s animal control ordinance, and would like to see the new version adopted by Rincon, Springfield and Guyton.
She would like the county to adopt the state’s spay and neuter requirements and rules about dangerous dogs so they can be easily enforced here.
Dickey said he believes Rincon’s ordinance allows for a nuisance animal, which includes one that attacks another animal, to be permanently removed from the city. If an owner refuses to abide by a judge’s order, the animal can be destroyed.
What happens with problem dogs is something that keeps coming up in Effingham. On Jan. 15, a resident of the Guyton area gave up her 1-year-old German shepherd to be euthanized after it bit a child.
Having a clearer, uniform ordinance would help, Shelton said. “It would help alleviate problems in the future and have everyone on the same page,” she said.