Dog owner found not guilty of 'animal at large' charge in canine fatality

emoody@beaufortgazette.comNovember 8, 2012 

Sally and Buddy Germer sit with their dog and the box containing the ashes of their other dog, Zoey, at their home in Port Royal. The 3-year-old, 5-pound Chihuahua-poodle died after being bitten by a neighborhood dog as the Germers were walking their dogs.

DELAYNA EARLEY, THE BEAUFORT GAZETTE

A Port Royal resident has been found not guilty of letting her dog run loose during a July incident that resulted in the death of another dog.

A jury of six acquitted Mare Baracco in proceedings before Municipal Court Judge Ned Tupper.

Baracco was charged by Port Royal police after her dog, Bodie, a Rhodesian ridgeback mix, bit Zoey, a Chihuahua-poodle mix, causing fatal injuries.

"This is not an incident where you have a dog running around the neighborhood, wreaking havoc, mauling children -- this is a one-time offense," said Baracco's attorney, Kimberly Smith.

On the morning of July 4, Sally Germer and Buddy Brown walked their two small dogs on leashes past Baracco's Madrid Avenue home, where Bodie and another dog were in the yard. The dogs started barking at each other, according to testimony from witnesses and the police report.

The gate to Baracco's yard came open; Bodie bit Zoey, and Zoey died the next day at Port Royal Veterinary Hospital.

At issue was whether the incident occurred on Baracco's property or outside the fence on public property.

Brown testified the incident occurred outside the gate. He said Bodie "crashed" through the gate so fast he was unable to remove Zoey from harm's way before the larger dog bit.

Baracco said she was inside her home when the dogs started barking, and she watched the events unfold through windows. She came outside as the altercation came to a head and maintained that Zoey's injury occurred on her property.

Baracco, Brown and Germer were the only witnesses called.

Baracco is also is appealing a "dangerous dog" designation by Beaufort County Animal Control. Her attorney, Smith, said a hearing has not been scheduled.

Owners of dangerous animals must either keep the animals inside their homes or in secure kennels, unless they are leashed and muzzled. The owners also must have at least $50,000 in liability insurance, according to the notice Baracco was given.

After hearing testimony in August, Judge Joseph Kline ruled Bodie's aggressive behavior led to the death of Zoey, so the court must find it "a nuisance animal at best or a dangerous animal at worst."

After the incident, Port Royal Town Council discussed creating a dangerous-animal ordinance but postponed any action.

Related content

  1. Dog owner fights to remove 'dangerous' label, Aug. 20, 2012
  2. Port Royal officials continue research on animal control ordinance, Aug. 1, 2012
  3. Port Royal official calls for 'one-bite' ordinance, July 13, 2012

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