PAWTUCKET — A loose pit bull caused chaos Monday afternoon when he ran into the yard of St. Cecelia's School and jumped at and bit three children waiting to go inside.
According to Animal Control Director John Holmes, the children's injuries consisted of minor bites and scratches. The adult pit bull and a pit bull puppy belonging to the same owner have both been taken to the Animal Shelter in Slater Park. The adult dog will be held at the shelter for a 10-day quarantine as required by state law, Holmes said. The state Department of Health was also notified.
Holmes said the dogs had recently been purchased in New Jersey and the owner had only had them at his apartment for about one week.
While the pit bull's owner could not show proof of vaccination, Holmes said the adult dog appears healthy and will be observed for the next 10 days for any signs of rabies or other illness. He said he believes the victims should not have to undergo any rabies treatment.
According to Pawtucket Police reports, officers were summoned to St. Cecelia's School at 755 Central Ave. shortly after 2 p.m. for a complaint of a dog bite.
Two teaches who witnessed the incident told police that the students were lined up to enter the front door of the school when a pit bull puppy entered the school yard and ran toward them.
A few seconds later, they said an adult pit bull ran into the schoolyard, being chased by the owner.
The teachers said they tried to herd the children into the school when the adult pit bull proceeded to jump at and bite at several of the children, wounding three of them. The owner of the pit bull was then able to get control of the dog and removed him from the school yard.
According to police, Officer Michael Cioe and Holmes saw a woman holding a pit bull puppy in the rear yard of an apartment house near the school on Central Ave. The woman said the puppy belonged to her boyfriend, but when told of the biting incident, the woman initially denied knowing who owned the adult pit bull, Holmes said.
Holmes tried to impress on the woman the importance of finding the owner of the dog so the injured children would not have to undergo rabies treatment as a precaution.
He said the woman later relented and identified her boyfriend, Joshua Rodriguez, as the adult pit bull's owner. She said, however, that she didn't know where he had gone with the dog.
Cioe and Holmes began to search the neighborhood for Rodriguez and his dog. As they passed the front door of 785 Central Ave., they heard the sound of a dog growling. Cioe tried to open the door, but found it blocked, so he kicked it open. He saw a man, identified as Rodriguez, and a brown pit bull at the top of the stairs. The pit bull began to growl and started coming down the stairs. Cioe said he removed his service weapon because of the dog's recent biting incidents and because Rodriguez had blood on his arm. He said that he and Holmes shouted at Rodriguez to control his dog and Rodriguez complied and then placed him in the Animal Control van.
When asked how the dog had gotten loose, Rodriguez stated to the officers that his dog “does not like kids” and had run out of the yard when he heard them yelling, according to the report. Holmes said Rodriguez had only had the dogs for one week prior to Monday's incident.
Rodriguez, 19, of Central Avenue, with charged with owning and keeping prohibited pit bulls, unlicensed, uninsured, unvaccinated and unmuzzled pit bulls, dogs at large, and failure to post a pit bull sign on his premises. He is scheduled to appear at Pawtucket Municipal Court on Oct. 13 for a hearing.
According to police, Rodrigues had also allegedly removed a hand railing from a wall and had used it to barricade the door. During the incident, the door, railing and one stair were damaged. As such, Rodriquez was arrested and additionally charged with vandalism and obstructing a police officer.
According to the police report, as Rodriguez was being taken into custody, the officers said he kept yelling for his 17-year-old girlfriend to not leave the premises without her pocketbook. Police then placed the girlfriend in custody for obstructing a police officer. A search of her pocketbook turned up several cell phones, a couple of I-Pods and $1,245 in cash, which police placed in an evidence locker for safekeeping. Police added that both Rodriguez and his girlfriend, a juvenile, have records for prior drug dealing charges.
Holmes said there seems to be a rash of people bringing pit bulls into the city illegally, despite the ordinance that has been in place since 2003 banning the breed. He said the Animal Control staff has picked up 8 or 9 pit bulls just in the last couple of weeks which are being held at the Animal Control Shelter.
Holmes said that city residents or people thinking about moving to Pawtucket need to take the ordinance more seriously and noted that anyone caught illegally owning a pit bull will automatically be charged. A violation may result in a fine of $500 to $1,000 and/or imprisonment up to 30 days. The dog must be removed from the city limits, and it may also be impounded and/or destroyed.
Holmas said that once an illegal pit bull is impounded, the animal is evaluated. If found to be of sound health and good temperment, the dog will be placed up for adoption to someone in a community where the breed is allowed.
In summary, in Pawtucket, it is unlawful to own possess, keep, exercise control over, maintain, harbor, transport or sell any pit bull dog. Exceptions are made for animal shelters, dog shows and dogs that have been previously registered and licensed (prior to 2003). For those who own pit bulls by “grandfathered” rights, the owner must be at least 21 years of age, keep liability insurance of at least $100,000, have the dog sterilized, keep the dog properly confined, and post a “Pit Bull Dog” sign.
The ordinance pertains to any dog that is an American Pit Bull Terrier, American Staffordshire Terrier, Staffordshire Bull Terrier; or any dog of mixed breed displaying the majority of physical traits of any one or more of the above breeds, or any dog exhibiting these characteristics which substantially conform to the standards established by the American Kennel Club or United Kennel Club for any of the above breeds.
Holmes noted that Monday's incident at St. Cecelia's School was “a perfect example of why the city has this law.”