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Pitbull that bit Salt Lake City police officer could be euthanized

Published June 12, 2012 3:00 pm

Courts • The dog's owner also allegedly ordered it bite a man in a wheelchair.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Salt Lake County Animal Services plans to put down a pit bull that has attacked at least two people, but the animal's owner is not cooperating.

"We are going to have a judge determined whether or not we can euthanize the dog, or if we are going to have to redeem it back to the owner," said April Harris, animal services division director.

The pit bull's owner, who is currently sitting in the Salt Lake County jail on suspicion of aggravated assault, failure to stop on command of an officer and giving false information to police, has refused to turn over ownership rights of the dog to the county.

Harris said that because the dog has attacked twice, and has inflicted severe bites both times with people ending up in the hospital, allowing it in the community poses too great a liability.

"We don't want to put children, other animals or adults at risk. We don't want to release this dog," Harris said Wednesday.

The pit bull named Gotti and its owner, a 23-year-old man, were taken into custody Monday night after the man alledgedly ordered the dog to attack a police officer earlier that day.

The same man allegedly ordered the dog to attack a man in a motorized wheelchair in May, according to court documents.

The Monday incident occurred at about 5 a.m., after officers were called to the 2300 South block of Foothill Drive on a report of a man sleeping against the wall of a coffee shop.

When officers approached the man, he gave inconsistent information about who he was, said Sgt. Shawn Josephson. Police soon verified the man had given them an incorrect name, and that he had an outstanding warrant.

"That's when he decided to run from the officers. When the officers chased and caught him, he released the dog," Josephson said.

The pit bull bit an officer on the arm, which allowed the man to get away, police said. The officer used his Taser to get the dog off. And when he did, the dog ran, too.

The man's whereabouts remained unknown until Monday at about 11 p.m., when an anonymous caller reported he had returned to the Foothill Drive area. This time police responded with a K-9 unit. The man did not put up a fight and was arrested, Josephson said.

Police said they believe the dog that bit the officer is the same one that attacked a man in a wheelchair on May 15.

That attack occurred at 1820 S. Main St. when a man in a wheelchair asked the pit bull owner to return a cellphone and an apartment key, police said.

Instead, the dog owner twice ordered his dog to attack, police said. The dog bit the man on the stomach and arm, and knocked him to the ground. The dog removed a piece of flesh and muscle the size of a large marble from the man's arm, according to 3rd District Court documents.

The 23-year-old man told police he ordered the dog to attack because the man was chasing him with his motorized wheelchair.

For the May incident, the dog owner was charged with second-degree felony aggravated assault resulting in a serious bodily injury, court documents show.

rorellana@sltrib.com