Thanks to good neighbors, lack of evidence and the Lexus Project, Toledo resident Carissa Curry and her 4-year-old American Bulldog mix Duke have both been cleared of charges that were made after Carissa's home was broken into last August.
This tale began on August 7 when Carissa arrived home from her job as a health care worker to find her front door ajar, her dog gone and a note pinned to her door from the Lucas County dog warden with a number to contact the Toledo Police Department. Carissa contacted the police concerning the note, and also to report a break in to her home.
As it turns out, the Toledo police had received a 911 call earlier in the day from a man claiming he'd been bitten by Duke while walking on the sidewalk in front of Carissa's home. The "victim" told police Duke had chased him across the street and bitten him. Shortly after, Duke was taken away by the Toledo dog warden and labeled dangerous.
It was later determined the alleged victim had a criminal record, including two counts for burglary.
Shortly after Carissa made the call to police, she was approached by the girlfriend of her neighbor, Bernie Tammarine, who told Carissa she had witnessed the man in her yard. Tammarine also spoke to the police officer investigating the dog bite, telling him that at no time did she see Duke leave the property. In other words, Duke was taken away and labeled a vicious dog for protecting his home.
Another neighbor from across the street verified he'd seen Carissa close the gate behind her that morning and had even photographed the man he later saw entering to warn Carissa. She faced criminal charges for failure to confine a dangerous dog, which is a 4th degree misdemeanor in Toledo. She also faced several harsh consequences if convicted, including losing her job as a health care worker, losing her home, being sued by the man bitten, and higher insurance rates. This would have been a great burden for the single mother of a two year old son, who had no criminal record whatsoever. Health care workers must have spotless records or risk losing their job, and aggressive dog insurance rates run $1000+ per year.
Duke also faced losing his family, being labeled for life as a dangerous dog and being required to wear a muzzle anytime he went for a walk off his property. Being labeled a dangerous dog meant a sign with his photo would have to be placed in his yard warning others he was considered dangerous.
Carissa admitted to leaving her front door unlocked, but insisted the gate had been fastened with carabiners. Not only that, but metal poles going down held in place by cement also ensured the gate couldn't have been opened by a dog. This meant the only way Duke could have escaped was for someone to physically open the gate, then open the front door to let Duke out.
Carissa spoke to the dog warden on August 15 and was told charges would be dropped if Carissa could provide a copy of the police incident report showing the victim either broke into her home or was trespassing on her property. However, the police never filed a report for burglary or tresspassing, even after speaking with neighbors who witnessed the incident.
The failure to confine charge was dropped in December. This left only the court date set for February in regards to the dangerous dog charge. The Lexus Project handled the case and also represented Duke in court. Duke was praised by a board member of 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."
A Facebook posting on the Support Duke page dated February 18 announced Carissa and Duke had won their case on the grounds of failure to prove by clear and convincing evidence that Duke is a nuisance dog, a dangerous dog or a vicious dog.
Hopefully this case will set a precedent on other dogs charged with biting an intruder or defending their owner. There are simply too many dogs being taken from their family. (many are killed) after doing what a good watchdog is trained to do.