Fatal dog attack breeds safety concerns, warnings

By Anna Yee

March 5, 2013 Updated Mar 5, 2013 at 11:13 PM CDT

PEORIA & KNOX CO., Ill. -- Lauren Malmberg is the animal control director in Peoria County, where she deals with at least one "dangerous" dog investigation per week.

"We feel that it's always the owner's fault when an animal acts out in an inappropriate way, because it's our responsibility to make sure that it's trained properly, that it's socialized to other people," said Malmberg, the Director of Peoria County's Animal Protection Services/ PAWS. "You don't want an animal to be aggressive."

According to the Centers for Disease Control, nearly 5 million people are treated for dog bites each year in the US, more than two dozen are fatal, and the numbers are growing.

"You get bacteria underneath the skin, and the bacteria grows and spreads and turns into a bad infection and abscess and could result in the need for surgery, and some people do die from those," said Dr. John Wipfler, Attending emergency physician at OSF St. Francis Medical Center.

Malmberg warns owners to get their dogs spayed or neutered and vaccinated for rabies and says keeping a pet constantly chained only breeds frustration.

"Any dog kept on a chain in that fashion without having more natural restraint is going to develop some bad behaviors," said Malmberg, "and if it breaks loose, that's the dog that's going to hurt someone."

Galesburg police say the dog that attacked Ryan Maxwell was tethered in some fashion.

No word yet on if the owners are facing charges.

There's no law dictating who can or can't own a pet, but those who are found negligent can face anything from jail time to hefty fines, including thousands of dollars in insurance claims.

"When you think about a lawsuit coming from a liability, if I don't have the right amount of coverage, that's my assets," said Jodi Brown, a State Farm Insurance agent. "That's the things that I have, that I own. That's the money that I have in the bank that's at risk."

... Just one of many risks pet owners are better off not taking.

Citizens with inquiries about animal control issues can call their local animal control center or humane society.

In Peoria County, you can call PeoriaCARES at (309) 494-2273 between the hours of 8:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m. After hours, please call our Emergency Communications Center at (309) 674-3131.

For more information, visit http://www.peoriacounty.org/pcaps/ or click on the link above.