Judge orders destruction of pit bulls

Published 12:00 am Thursday, September 20, 2007

COURTLAND—Four pit bulls that attacked and mauled a Newsoms man in May will be destroyed after Sept. 21, unless their owner files an appeal before that date.

The dogs were declared vicious in Southampton General District Court last week after the man who was attacked and other neighbors testified that there had been previous bites and other incidents of a menacing nature.

Three other pit bulls owned by the same man — Marcus Terrell Doles, 23, of Thomaston Road in Newsoms — were declared dangerous. Doles must meet certain guidelines to be set by Southampton Dog Warden J.T. Cooke in order to have those dogs returned to him.

Doles will have to petition the court for the return of the dangerous dogs, said Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Jack Randall. The court, at the direction of the dog warden, can require that special pens and fencing be erected to house the dogs and that Doles meet additional insurance and bonding requirements to protect potential future victims of the dogs.

Doles also faces felony charges of failing to maintain control of dangerous or vicious dogs. He will be tried on those charges in Southampton Circuit Court Nov. 15. If convicted, he could face up to five years in jail and a fine of up to $2,500.

The code section under which he has been charged calls for a Class 6 felony charge to be lodged against &uot;any owner or custodian whose willful act or omission in the care, control, or containment of a canine, canine crossbreed, or other animal is so gross, wanton, and culpable as to show a reckless disregard for human life, and is the proximate cause of such dog or other animal attacking and causing serious bodily injury to any person.&uot;

Charging Doles with the felony, instead of a misdemeanor version of the crime, is part of an effort by the Commonwealth’s Attorney’s office to &uot;keep the community safer from dogs that are dangerous or vicious,&uot; Randall said.

Witnesses testified last week that Doles’ dogs had bitten other people at least twice prior to the mauling in May. They had also menaced neighbors by snarling at them and chasing them, according to Randall.

The most recent attack took place as Lawrence Murphy was pressure-washing property he owns next door to Doles. The dogs came from the next yard over and attacked the 53-year-old man, according to police reports at the time of the incident. Doles interceded to pull the dogs off of the victim.

Murphy was bitten multiple times on the neck, arm and leg. A rescue squad transported him to Southampton Memorial Hospital, but his wounds were considered significant enough to send him by helicopter to Sentara Norfolk General Hospital, where he was treated and released.

Doles also was charged with failing to have his dogs vaccinated against rabies, for which he was found guilty and fined $150, plus court costs. Previously he had been charged with failing to have valid licenses for five dogs. During last week’s hearing, he also was found guilty of that charge, for which he was fined $100, plus court costs.