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Newton County Vicious Dog Concerns
By Eric Crosswhite
NEWTON COUNTY, MO.--- Newton County law enforcement and residents are speaking out about a new law in Missouri, they say is not protecting citizens. KSN's Eric Crosswhite visited a neighborhood outside of Joplin where homeowners claim they're living in fear because of a vicious dog on the loose. Russ Bingman says his dog, Ozzie, is his best friend, which is why he was devastated when a pit bull roaming his neighborhood attacked the 15 pound dog. It left Ozzie nearly dead on Bingman's front yard.
"He was seriously injured, his lungs were actually coming out through his chest. He was pretty torn up," said Russ Bingman, Newton County Resident.
While explaining to a Newton County deputy what happened, Bingman quickly realized this wasn't the pit bull's first attack.
"He cut me off. He said 'we know exactly where this dog is. We've had calls on this dog before," said Bingman.
However, deputies also told Bingman there was nothing they could do about the dog on the loose. They were restricted by requirements from the 2013 Animal Trespass Law.
"We would have to prove that their dog was off of their property and out of control for 12 hours at a time. It's almost impossible for us or anybody else to prove that," said Sheriff Ken Copeland, Newton County Sheriff's Department.
The Missouri law went into effect in October, and according to Sheriff Ken Copeland, it's made it difficult for his office to hold owners accountable for their animal's actions. He blames state lawmakers for making the change.
"They did a disservice to the citizens as well as to the sheriff's office when they did away with the law as it had always been," said Sheriff Copeland.
Sheriff Copeland says even though his office and his deputies are limited on how safe they can keep the streets from vicious dogs, he believes that every resident still has the right to protect themselves.
"If a dog, vicious or not, is over on your property if you live out in the county, and is attacking one of your animals or children, you have a right to shoot that animal," said Sheriff Copeland.
A few weeks and $3,000 in treatment later, Ozzie is almost back to normal. Bingman started a petition, signed by 25 of his immediate neighbors, asking the courts to do something about the dog on the loose, but he doesn't believe it will do him any good. He says it's up to the state lawmakers to make the changes.
"If any child in the state is hurt or killed between now and when the legislature goes back into session this fall, I can at least know that I have done everything I can from preventing this from happening again," said Bingman.
KSN contacted the owners of the pit bull, but they chose not to comment on the issue. Sheriff Copeland suggests people speak with their state representatives if they would like to see the Animal Trespass Law changed.