PARKERSBURG – Officials in one Wood County municipality are asking for a judge’s help in putting a collar on an allegedly vicious dog.
The City of Williamstown on Dec. 7 filed suit against Jason Westfall. In its complaint, the City alleges Westfall’s dog is a menace to the community.
According to the complaint, the Williamstown Police Department on Aug. 29 investigated an allegation that the dog, whose name and breed is not specified, bit a juvenile identified by the initials T.V.C. The incident occurred away from Westfall’s home on Woodview Circle.
Almost two months to the day later, WPD received another complaint that the dog bit a child. According to the complaint, the dog, while chained at a location away from Westfall’s home, broke free and attacked a juvenile identified by the initials J.E.L.
In its suit, the city says Westfall has violated state law by “own[ing], keep[ing] or harbor[ing] any dog know by him to be vicious, dangerous or in the habit of biting or attacking other persons…”
Because of that, it seeks a court order declaring the dog to be vicious or dangerous, and requiring Westfall to take measures to keep the dog from biting other people.
As a last resort, the city asks the dog be euthanized. However, a state Supreme Court ruling issued a month before the complaint was filed says the destruction of a dog can only come about as a result of criminal proceedings and not a civil lawsuit.
“For a magistrate or circuit court to obtain authority to order a dog killed, the magistrate or judge must first find, upon conducting a criminal proceeding, that a crime… has been committed,” Justice Brent Benjamin wrote in the opinion.
“This court holds that the authority to order a dog killed… stems solely from a criminal proceeding, and a private cause of action may not be brought for the destruction of a dog.”
Records show Westfall was served with a summons, a copy of the complaint on Dec. 11. As of presstime, he has not filed an answer or any responsive pleading.
Parkersburg attorney C. Blaine Myers represents the City. The case is assigned to Judge J.D. Beane.
Wood Circuit Court case number 12-C-562