Dangerous dogs will be taken to Senatobia under new policy

Published 2:38 pm Wednesday, April 5, 2023

Vicious attack on Sardis woman prompts County Board action

Recent incidents of dog bites and attacks in Panola County have prompted the Board of Supervisors to review a 2014 Dangerous Dogs ordinance, and make arrangements for vicious animals to be kenneled for 10 days while law enforcement and courts determine whether it should be returned or euthanized.

The board approved a plan presented by Supervisor Earl Burdette to take dogs deemed dangerous to Senatobia Animal Hospital at a cost of $30 per day, a price that includes rabies screening.

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“We have to get something in place to get these dogs off us because it’s not our duty to chase dogs. They have to get off the streets and stop them from biting people,” Burdette said. “What happened in Sardis was a bite, it was a mauling.”

The Sardis incident happened Sunday, March 19, on Camille St., just east of the town off Hwy. 315. Camille is a well traveled road for residents of the area, and is the street beside the skating rink.

Michelle Shields, 52, was attacked by dogs while walking on the street, and may have been killed if a neighbor had not heard the commotion and helped run the dogs away. Shields suffered serious bites and tears.

She was taken by ambulance to the former Emergency Operations Management headquarters in Sardis where a medical helicopter was waiting to carry her to the Regional One Medical Center in Memphis.

She has been at the trauma hospital since, and has undergone five surgeries and numerous skin grafts. Family members said doctors moved her to an ICU step-down room this week, and believe she will recover, although months of therapy will be needed before she will regain full use of her arms and legs.

Terry Shields, a Courtland resident, said his sister did nothing to incite the dogs.

“She has the mind of a child and was just walking to her friend’s house to check on her because she thought she was sick,” he said. “That’s just the way she is, and somebody should be held responsible for letting her, or anybody else, get attacked when they know it’s a wild dog.”

Shields said he was told by neighbors that several complaint calls had been made to the Sheriff’s Office about the same dogs this year, but no one in his family had made any complaints.

“When I could finally see her at the hospital she told me the dogs had always been tied up or put up when she walked by, but this time they were out,” he said.

At Monday’s meeting of the Board of Supervisors the board was reminded of a 2014 ordinance adopted that allows both law enforcement and members of the general public to sign an affidavit against owners of vicious dogs, and allows deputies to pick up dangerous animals.

Sheriff Shane Phelps told the supervisors the kennels behind the county jail for vicious dogs in the past are no longer used.

“Liability stopped that,” Phelps said. “We can’t take the chance of a trustee or anybody getting bit or attacked there, that’s a lawsuit against the county for sure.”

In addition, Phelps said, detention centers are not equipped to handle and care for vicious dogs and can’t administer tests or medicines without veterinary oversight.

The board members agreed that the jail complex is not conducive to vicious dog boarding, and supported Burdette’s suggestion to transport dangerous dogs to Senatobia in the future.

The existing ordinance defines a dangerous dog as “any that causes injury to a person or domestic animal, or has been designated as one that poses a threat to public safety.”

Phelps told the board that deputies have cited several dog owners under the ordinance.

County Attorney Gaines Baker stressed to board members that the costs of boarding dogs who have bitten people doesn’t necessarily fall to the county. He said officers should attempt to find the owner and allow courts to pass those fees to them.

Senatobia Animal Hospital will keep dangerous dogs 10 days before euthanizing, Burdette said, unless law enforcement can’t find anyone to claim the dog, in which case the full 10 day waiting period wouldn’t be necessary.

The dogs in the Camille St. attack were shot by deputies after the attack on Michelle Shields.