LONGMONT -- Longmont Humane Society officials landed in Boulder County Court after Longmont police ticketed them on suspicion of keeping a dangerous dog. The incident happened in June, when a dog in foster care attacked a neighbor and his leashed dog, according to reports.
Executive Director Liz Smokowski accepted the two-misdemeanor ticket on behalf of the organization.
Longmont Police Cmdr. Jeff Satur said Thursday that the ticket came after police officials noticed a disproportionate number of dog bite reports in the city were coming from animals adopted out of the local humane society.
"The humane society is a great partner of the Longmont Police Department. We want them to be releasing dogs that are safe for the community, and they want to do that, too," he said. "It is a challenge."
According to police reports, a pit bull mix named Bridgette that belonged to the humane society escaped from the yard of a couple who were fostering it on the 1600 block of Harvard Street. The dog attacked a man walking his Weimaraner. The man intervened to help his own dog and Bridgette turned and bit him on the hand, police reported.
Police report that passersby and the foster owners quickly contained the dog, which later was euthanized.
The couple fostering Bridgette were ticketed on suspicion of failing to restrain and control the dog, but the humane society still owned her, so officials gave the tickets for keeping a dangerous dog to the society.
Longmont animal control officers investigated the case and learned that Bridgette had a history of biting animals and humans and a judge declared her to be a "dangerous dog" in Mesa County. According to police records, in October 2012, she bit a handler who pulled on her leash after Bridgette charged to attack two kenneled dogs. In March 2013, her previous owner was walking her on a leash and she saw another dog and bit through her leash to attack it. She badly injured the miniature schnauzer in that case.
Mesa County officials who reviewed the attacks ruled that Bridgette was a dangerous dog and required that her owners surrender her. She was allowed to be released if her owners opted to surrender her to the Longmont Humane Society, police reports show.
Her previous owners had taken her to the Longmont Humane Society before the dangerous dog hearing, according to police reports. After she was surrendered, police records noted, she got into a fight at the humane society in May 2013. She was in training to work on aggressive behaviors. Trainers ultimately determined she was progressing well and she was released to a foster family when a volunteer at the humane society offered to foster her, police reported.
Bridgette moved to her foster home on June 13. She got out of the yard and attacked the neighbor and his Weimeraner four days later. Satur said that police and animal control officials have reached out to the humane society about ongoing safety concerns and want to work with the humane society to see if additional screening can be done before releasing dogs into the community.
"Is there something more they can do, because it is their responsibility to be sure to put a dog that is safe into the community?" he said.
He said that in 2012, nearly 16 percent of reported dog bites in Longmont were traced to dogs adopted out of the Longmont Humane Society. So far in 2013, 13 percent of reported bites were from humane society dogs. However, he could not say where residents got the remaining dogs or how many dogs live in Longmont on the whole.
Amy Okubo, who represents the humane society in the misdemeanor case, said the organization adopts a disproportionate number of animals into the community, which may explain why so many bites are tracked back to humane society adoptions.
"They want to be good citizens in the community. They want to work with the police department and that is what they are trying to do in this case," Okubo said.
She said the society has never before been ticketed and faces considerable challenges to care for troubled animals.
"This specific case is easily resolvable, but the bigger picture is figuring out how they can continue to do their mission and also be good to the community," Okubo said. "What I think and what we are trying to resolve is the police have a feeling ... that perhaps isn't accurate."
She said humane society trainers sought to give Bridgette a chance and to rehabilitate her. Because she was progressing in training, being fostered was the logical next step.
"These are reasonable people trying to do a reasonable job," she said. "Their heart is in the right place and they are definitely willing to work with the police," she said.
Boulder County prosecutors are working with Okubo to resolve the dangerous dog charges. Catherine Olguin, spokeswoman for the Boulder District Attorney's Office, said attorneys are working on a possible disposition. The next court date is Nov. 14.
Pierrette J. Shields can be reached at 303-684-5273 or at email@example.com.