Carissa Curry says her loyal dog Duke is being unfairly labelled as a "dangerous dog" for defending their home from an intruder
If an intruder broke into your house while you were away, would you hope that your dog would defend your home? What would you do if you were then accused of being an irresponsible dog owner and charged with the crime of failing to confine your dog? Even worse, what if your loyal, protective dog was then labelled "dangerous"?
A single mother of a 2-year-old boy named Kaleb and a 4.5-year-old American Bulldog mix named Duke, is at risk of losing everything she has because she says that this is exactly what happened to her while she was at work in Toledo, Ohio. Now, Carissa Curry is facing criminal charges and Duke has been labelled a "dangerous dog".
Carissa is charged with a 4th degree misdemeanor, and if convicted, she faces a number of serious consequences including:
- 30 days in jail
- possibly losing her job as a healthcare worker
- possibly losing her home, if the landlord chooses to not allow a "dangerous dog" on the premises
- possibly getting sued by the man Duke bit
- dangerous dog fees, including insurance that could cost $1,000 a year
Duke's label as a "dangerous dog" also impacts his happiness and quality of life, including:
- possibly losing Carissa and Kaleb as the only family he has known
- living in a fully fence yard that is enclosed at the top, making it a cage-like structure
- being microchipped as a dangerous dog and labelled as dangerous, which will stay with him for the rest of his life. Should Duke ever get involved in another incident, the consequenses could be much more serious.
- being muzzled anytime he steps outside of his yard
- being publicly labelled as dangerous, as dangerous dog signs both words and pictures will be required to be posted in his yard
Toledo Police received a 911 call at 11:30am on August 7 and arrived at the scene to find a man with a sizable puncture wound on his left thigh. According to the official police report, the man involved in the incident claimed that he was strolling down the sidewalk when Duke pushed open the gate to his fenced yard and attacked him. Duke was then seized by the Lucas County dog warden and quarantined for ten days. When Carissa returned home from work that day around 4pm, she was immediately alarmed when Duke wasn't there to greet her, as she entered her home through the back door.
She searched the house and began to fear the worst. Carissa then noticed that her front door was ajar. Confused, she found a note pinned to the door from the Lucas County dog warden with a phone number to call. Toledo Police then received a second 911 call from Carissa herself, who was calling to report a B&E (Breaking and Entering).
Just after Carissa called the police, Bernadine (Bernie) Tammarine, the fiance of Carissa's next-door neighbor, approached her. Bernie had witnessed the events that day while Carissa was at work. Bernie relayed that she had even spoken to a police officer at the time of the incident, telling him that she had seen the man inside Carissa's yard before Duke had bitten him.
In a written statement, Bernie claims that she saw the man walking quickly from the open driveway gates of Carissa's home to the opposite side of the street. She heard the man say that Duke had bitten him and when she asked him where he was bitten, the man responded by saying that Duke had followed him across the street to bite him. Bernie added that, "At no time did I ever see Duke leave the yard even as the gates were open....I never remembered hearing Duke bark until I went outside and noticed this man crossing the street. Duke still remained in his yard barking profusely at this man."
Bernie also states, "The police arrived and I expressed my concerns about Miss Curry's door being open, the way the man had crossed over and stated Duke had crossed to bite him when I never witnessed Duke ever cross the street. I did not actually see at any time Duke bite this man but I am certain Duke had remained in his yard."
As Carissa waited for police to respond to her 911 call, a second neighbor who lives across the street from Carissa, knocked on her door. Carissa says that he told her that he had also witnessed the incident and was so worried for Carissa that he had taken photographs of the man Duke had bitten to warn Carissa to be wary of him should their paths cross. He also told Carissa that he saw her leave that morning and, notably, that he saw her lock her gate behind her.
Police responded to Carissa's 911 call later that evening and even spoke to Bernie and Carissa's other neighbor. The police officers told Carissa that they could not charge the man of breaking and entering because the front door had not been locked, as Carissa had forgotten to lock it that morning. However, since the man was seen in her yard, they could charge him with tresspassing (two 'No tresspassing signs' are posted in her yard). But police also informed Carissa that it would be a very difficult case to win, as it would be the man's word against Carissa's neighbors. Despite the witness testimony gathered, no police report was filed.
Dangerous and guilty, until proven innocent
When Carissa spoke with the Lucas County dog warden, she discovered that she was being charged with "Failure to vaccinate" and "Failure to confine". Carissa insists that she is innocent of both charges and that Duke did nothing wrong.
Carissa has proof that Duke was vaccinated for rabies, but when Duke was quarantined, she was given just two days to provide proof to the Lucas County dog warden - a deadline she wasn`t able to meet given the circumstances at that time. Regardless, Carissa says she accepts responsibility for not providing proof of vaccination before the deadline set by the Lucas County dog warden.
As for the "Failure to confine" charge, Carissa adamantly denies that Duke was loose that day. She says that Duke is a loving family member and her best friend, and that he is never left outside in her fenced yard when she is not at home. Carissa knew that she had forgotten to lock her front door on August 7, but she is certain that she not only closed the front door, with Duke securely inside the home, but that she also closed and "locked" the gate to her yard with a carabiner before she left to work.
Carissa says that the only way that Duke could have escaped both the house and the yard would have been if a person had opened both the carabiner locking the gate and the door knob of her front door. Carissa suspects that the man tried to enter her home and startled Duke when he entered her home. Duke then chased the man out of the house.
When Carissa relayed her suspicions to the Lucas County dog warden on August 15, she was told that all charges against Carissa would be dropped if she could provide a copy of a police report stating the man was attempting to break into her home or that he was tresspassing. Unfortunately, that's when Carissa discovered that the police officers who responded to her 911 call and spoke to the witnesses, never filed a police report.
Carissa followed up with a visit to the police department in person the next day. The police took her statement and added it as a supplemental crime report to the original report. The original report indicates the man as a victim.
Carissa was then advised on follow-up procedures on how to file a police report herself, which she followed, until she was ultimately turned away by the prosecutor. The prosecutor told Carissa that she could not speak with her regarding the case because it would be unethical as she is the prosecutor representing the dog warden's office for the case against Carissa.
Flaws in the case against Duke and Carissa
Because the only witnesses to the actual dog bite were Duke and the man involved, only the word of the man has been used as evidence in the case against Carissa and Duke. There are several points of issue that beg for a deeper investigation of the incident, including:
- Conflicting accounts of the story given by the man. In the original police report dated August 7, 2012, the man stated that "he was strolling down the sidewalk when Duke pushed open the gate to his fenced yard and attacked him". However, during his testimony in court, he stated that the gates to Carissa's driveway were already open when he was bitten on the sidewalk in front of her home. In addition, neighbor Bernie Tammarine says that when she spoke to the man just after the incident, he told her that Duke had followed him across the street and had bitten him on the other side of the road.
(Photo at right: The gate not only has locking carabiners but also metal poles that are anchored into the cement)
- Personal histories of everyone involved. Carissa never leaves Duke ouside in the yard alone when she is not home, a fact that her neigbors confirm.
- In addition, Duke has never had a complaint issued against him and has even been commended for his good behavior in public by a board member of the Lucas County Pit Crew who stated that Duke was not reactive to people, to dogs or even after Duke had an object hit him on his head.
- Carissa has never been in trouble with the law either.
- According to several posts on the Support Duke Facebook page, the man involved in the incident allegedly has a criminal history, including two theft-related charges
Now, Carissa is in desperate need for a lawyer to help her fight the charges against her and overturn Duke's dangerous dog designation. Having been turned away by legal aid and other low income legal resources, Carissa - who has never been in trouble with the law before - faces what she is calling "a horrible nightmare" with little recourse and few resources available.
She is asking the public's help in securing legal representation and raising the funds to cover Duke's dangerous dog" insurance. The insurance is estimated to cost $1,000 a year and she is required by law to pay before her next court date in November.
Carissa also hopes her case will be shared by the public and gain publicity to help highlight a flaw in the legal system in her community. She hopes that positive changes can be made so that no other innocent person will have to go through this terrible experience, and that no other loyal dog will be punished for protecting their home.
Carissa's next court date is November 6th.
Update November 12, 2012:
After meeting in court on the 6th, a date of December 20th has been chosen for the next court date, where a trial by jury will take place. Carissa is hoping that support from the public with help finance the court costs, so if you would like to support Carissa and Duke, refer to the links below.
Update December 17, 2012:
At a pretrial hearing today, the "Failure to Confine" charge against Carissa was dropped. Carissa was happy with with the court's decision on this charge and expressed, "There are no words to explain the amazing feeling I have right now!! Thank you all! .... No court on Thursday!"
On a second charge of "Failure to Vaccinate" for rabies, Carissa says that she pleaded "No contest", although she insists that Duke has been vaccinated. However, due Carissa's inability to provide proof of vaccination within two days of the incident, the charge was upheld.
The case against Duke has yet to be presented and Carissa recognizes that there's still another battle to be won. "I'm on cloud 9 and hoping the same for Duke!", she said.
The Lexus Project is handling the case against Duke and representing him in court.
What you can do to help
If you would like to support Duke, Carissa and Kaleb, here is what you can do:
Update February 18, 2013:
Carissa and Duke have won their case! The court found that the Respondant failed to prove by clear and convincing evidence that Duke is a nuisance dog, a dangerous dog or a vicious dog.
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