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Dog owner guilty of three-year-old's brutal death by pit bull pack

The Local · 31 Mar 2011, 15:48

Published: 31 Mar 2011 15:48 GMT+02:00

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The 45-year-old woman, who was also the child’s great aunt, was found to have caused girl’s death through negligence in her failure to control the pets, the Nordhausen court said.

The child’s great grandmother, who had brought her to visit the woman in late May 2010, had already faced a failed case against her for responsibility in the tragic death. The 71-year-old allegedly put the child in danger with by not watching her closely enough before the four American Staffordshire terriers suddenly attacked after sneaking into the house unnoticed through a dog door.

The elderly woman also suffered severe bites to her face and arms in the attack.

But it was the defendant in Thursday’s proceedings who was responsible for the child’s death because she was not in control of the powerful dogs, traditionally bred for fighting, Judge Gerhild Grote said.

“Those who sow danger must ensure that no one is injured or killed by it,” she said, adding that “dogs become weapons” in certain situations.

The woman had taken inadequate precautions to prevent such an attack on her property in Oldisleben-Sachsenburg, the court ruled.

“The accused didn’t want what happened,” the verdict read, but she should have been aware of the risks after warnings from family members, it added.

State prosecutor Gert Störmer accused the defendant of failing to properly raise and care for the dogs, calling the pack a “ticking time bomb.”

But her lawyers called the child’s death a “human catastrophe,” saying their client had been overwhelmed and underestimated the potential danger posed by the dogs.

Story continues below…

During the two-day trial family members bickered bitterly, the incident clearly having “shattered” their relationships, Judge Grote said as she read the verdict.

“Hate doesn’t lead to overcoming grief,” she told the court, adding that there was professional help available to the family.


The Local (news@thelocal.de)

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Your comments about this article

18:51 March 31, 2011 by chicagolive
Oh wow, the verdict is so surprising I bet if the owner had not paid her dog taxes should would be looking at 10 years.
19:21 March 31, 2011 by wildcowgirl
"But her lawyers called the child¦#39;s death a ¦quot;human catastrophe,¦quot; saying their client had been overwhelmed and underestimated the potential danger posed by the dogs."

Wait...WHAT? The lady didn't know/underestimated the potential danger of having four pit bulls??? Am I reading this right?

This goes along with the same theory of how long does a person do their business on a toilet lid before someone tells them to put the lid up??
19:26 March 31, 2011 by Gretl
So the girl's life was worth 80 hours of community service? Heck, her mother put in 6720 just building her. What a farce.
19:27 March 31, 2011 by xx.weirich.xx
I myself have an American Staffordshire, and many people that have them too... I'm sure many people will use this story to prove that these dogs are horrible and violent, but this is not true. It's all in how they're raised. My Staffy is a nice dog, he's just so big that he hurts people without meaning too. We have to put him outside when little kids come over because it's difficult to watch him, and he is dangerous with small children.

Not to say her dogs were mean, but she should have been much more cautious with them. Poor family of the little girl that was affected... :(
20:15 March 31, 2011 by nashville
@xx.weirich.xx "Not to say her dogs were mean"

No? What would you call them, then? It's not like the dogs licked the girl to death or just jumped on her and knocked her down. Those dogs were vicious. They didn't hurt her without meaning to, they killed a human being.

I've had a dog nearly all my life, but make no mistake, the life of a dog is not worth a little finger of a person. The dog we have now I would trust around anyone in any circumstance. I don't know what she would do if someone were attacking our children, but thank God I've never had to witness a situation like that. It helps to raise the dog well with obedience and leadership, but it also has to do with what the dog was bred for and it's heritage. Some dogs are just dominant and aggressive. An owner can control his dog, but he cannot remake the dog's personality.
22:00 March 31, 2011 by Simon_Kellett
xx.weirich.xx > My Staffy is a nice dog

So nice that he hurts people 'without meaning too' and you consider him 'dangerous with small children'. Perhaps 'nice' has another meaning I am not familiar with?
22:18 March 31, 2011 by romber58
"Nice" is just a nondescript.filler type of word anyway.Used by people who cannot think of a real word to express themselves,Obvious because when someone says "nice",you always have to ask"But what do you mean".
22:30 March 31, 2011 by xx.weirich.xx
Hurt as in he plays with us and pushes us down and crap without meaning too. The dog is half my size and I refrain from playing with him most of the time because he plays rough. He's a huge lapdog, but can be dangerous when he's playing. You ever try to play tug-of-war with a dog that pulls you across the room when doing so, or frisbee with a dog that would take you down to the ground when returning it?

And @ nashville

Pardon me for my lack of proofreading. When in school, I try to pay attention to the teacher while commenting on this stuff. I mean that the breed didn't make the dog have to be mean. A dog acts as it is bred, and just because it's a Staffy doesn't mean it's automatically violent.

What did I say wrong in THAT comment?
22:42 March 31, 2011 by xxweirichxx
Oh wait. I caught myself.

Second full paragraph- A dog acts as it is RAISED, and just because it's a Staffy doesn't mean it's automatically violent.

See? I hardly pay enough attention when at home.

I support being able to comment on an article twice in a row rather than having to wait for someone else to comment -.-
04:35 April 1, 2011 by ronasch
I have lived with several breeds of dog and the breed does affect the dogs behavior. Seems one can commmit any crime now in Germany and get a slap on the wrist.
05:56 April 1, 2011 by Ludinwolf
Seems more and more that in this country things works like ''8 or 80''. There is not in between.

Some ppl get years in jail for stupid things that should be enough community work. This case, shows that children arent welcome in this country..... just take a look at the numbers..10 years low.
07:39 April 1, 2011 by maplegrover
The sentence in this case should have been at least 10 years in prison for negligent homicide or manslaughter. The judge is the one who needs professional help, so that she realizes there should be a real penalty for carelessness that leads to the death of a human being.
07:56 April 1, 2011 by Roxt
Dogs are dominant and aggressive if they don't have a stable pack leader. Yes some breeds are more prone to this. Some can get away with their little Chihuahua (they mainly bark ferociously and run away) fancying themselves the pack leader, but not larger or stronger breeds.

Owning a dog shouldn't be a right, it should be a privilege. If people want to own dogs that are a bit harder to control, they should be required to know 2 shits about dogs. Take a test, take classes…hell, I don't know. Something. We just have to stop blaming the dogs and put responsibility on the humans.

Dogs also need controlled exercise. (I don't mean letting them run around aimlessly in an open field) Some need more than others. (Did I mention I own 3 dogs?) If dogs don't get their energy released in a healthy, positive way… they HAVE to release it! They WILL become unstable. If not properly trained they will revert to their basic instincts. In this case they protected the property.

They can also be given a job on their walks or whatever their exercise routine is. Dogs are pack animals and they want to contribute to the pack and most importantly, please the pack leader. (hopefully that's the human) Put a backpack on them with bottled water on each side. Be creative. Research your dog's breed and go from there.

What happened here could have been avoided.

Taken from dogbreedinfo.com: "When properly trained and socialized, the Staff makes a great family companion. This breed is not for the passive owner who does not understand that all dogs have an instinct to have a pack order. They need a firm, confident, consistent owner who understands how to display the proper leadership. The objective in training this dog is to achieve a pack leader status. It is a natural instinct for a dog to have an order in their pack. When we humans live with dogs, we become their pack. The entire pack cooperates under a single leader. Lines are clearly defined. You and all other humans MUST be higher up in the order than the dog. That is the only way your relationship can be a success."
08:47 April 1, 2011 by catjones
The article doesn't say whether the dogs were put down.

@xxweirichxx..in other words, you know your dog is dangerous...sorta like a loaded weapon in the house. If no one gets shot, then everything is ok?
09:03 April 1, 2011 by Roxt
Why did the verdict not include classes to properly train this woman on how to take care of her dogs? Someone should check in on her from time to time to make sure she is following through. If not, they need to give the dogs to a rescue society or an owner who is capable of giving these animals the care they deserve.

I wonder how educated on dog training this judge is. Shouldn't it be a requirement to have someone who is qualified present? Shouldn't a professional assess the situation? They have professionals to evaluate someone's mental health right? Why not evaluate the owner of a dog? Do they provide the proper care? If not, are they able and willing to learn?
10:23 April 1, 2011 by Enkida
I believe in Germany it is actually required to pass a written test before qualiying to be fit as the owner of a dog over a certain weight class; a written test is also available for all dog owners regardless of race or size, but it bears no legal consequences, rather is simply for the owners' benefit. This is what I learned at a dog behavioral course I attended over two years ago; I am not up to date on current dog ownership laws, but at the time the test was relatively 'new.' Perhaps it was unique to the NRW area as well.

Passing this written test was mandatory for adoption of a dog from a shelter, at both of the shelters we visited two years ago. The problem is the enforcement of this practice. Like paying the dog taxes or picking up dog poop after a walk, no one really seems to care enough to pursue the matter if you don' follow the rules. We eventually went with a breeder rather than a shelter dog, and the breeder, nice as she was, really didn't care if we were knowledgeable about dog behaviour, so long as we were kind to the dog and paid in full for it.

I would say, legislation for responsible dog ownership is already here, just enforcing it is a bit like the "blue laws" of the U.S. Simply put, no one cares until it becomes an issue too late.
12:59 April 1, 2011 by xx.weirich.xx
Just like any other dog, he is dangerous if not controlled. But, as dogbreedinfo says, he is a good family companion. His danger is his size. But, we make every effort we can to keep him calm.
16:13 April 1, 2011 by rob robertson
You cannot trust animals to be around children.
22:55 April 1, 2011 by Foreign interest.
Across the world dogs and their often irresponsible owners have been elevated above human right to safety and human right to quiet. Every year hundreds of thousands of innocent children are attacked and many killed, yet authorities sit back and do nothing.

Dog control laws favor the dogs and their owners. In the US, if someone complains about a dog's behaviour they are regarded as a nuisance. In their millions, domestic dogs are incarcerated in backyards far too small for their congenital roaming habits. There are few qualifications for keeping a dog.

In addition to physical damage done by too many domestic dogs unsuited to their owners and their neighbourhood, noise torture from their barking is all too prevalent. Confined, unhappy dogs keep nearby families awake at night with their howling and whining, ensuring drowsy driver danger. This uncontrolled barking causes psycho-physiological human health deterioration. Many people do NOT want someone else's dog barking inside their living and sleeping rooms. Dr Craig Mixon of California has written extensively on the harm done by barking dogs. His Barkingdogs.net website tells all.

For the child who has been killed, stop making excuses for the dog or its owner and spend effective time cracking down on dog control legislation - safety issues as well as the noise torture they inflict on others and people will be more respectful of those who do the right thing and properly manage their dogs so they don't damage those who only want to live safely in their vicinity.
20:23 April 2, 2011 by sabine1960
Sounds just like in England, only there they have more attacks, but in Germany, unlike the uk, they have different laws in different " lander" ie; like our english counties, on keeping this breed of dog, in some they are allowed, in others banned.
00:30 April 3, 2011 by FN Cee
Well it is good to know what a small child's life is worth ... and the dogs are still alive? ... Easy to remember that recently in the U.S. a famous athlete was sent to prison, lost millions including his home for killing some dogs ... seems a little out of step with justice on this one ...
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