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PERU – The Peru Board of Works last week upheld a vicious-dog designation for a puppy after a 5-year-old girl sustained scratches and lost a tooth when the animal jumped on her.

Police and Animal Control Officer Greg Douglass responded to the 300 block of 6th Street on May 16 after the parents of the child reported the 10-month-old dog attacked their daughter while she was playing outside.

The child sustained scratches to her arms and face and had a baby tooth knocked out during the incident, according to a police report. Douglass seized the animal at the scene and transported it to the pound, where he deemed it a vicious dog.

But Jessica Stanley, the dog’s owner, appealed that decision. She said the animal escaped from her backyard after pushing through a loose board on her fence. Stanely argued the purebred Old English bulldog has no history of aggression and was likely only trying to play with the child.

“He’s more likely to lay around and eat our shoes than attack anyone,” she told the board. “ … He’s a puppy. I don’t understand deeming a 10-month-old puppy a vicious animal. I’ve seen cases where a dog has bit a hand off. He’s not like that. He’s very, very docile.”

But Douglass defended his decision, saying he considered it an attack regardless of whether the dog was being aggressive or trying to play.

“Because there was bodily harm done, you’re talking about a vicious dog situation,” he said. “I felt that with the amount of harm that was done to the girl, regardless of any puncture wounds, it was a vicious attack.”

Douglass told the board the designation gave Stanley two options – either buy vicious-dog insurance, which costs around $1,400 a year and comes with a host of requirements like wearing a muzzle during walks, or put the dog down.

“I just want to make sure something like this doesn’t happen again,” he said. “I’m not saying I want to put this dog down … I don’t want to see that happen. But I don’t want to see a situation where it happens again and it’s worse the next time.”

Peru Mayor Gabe Greer, who serves on the board, said his main concern was whether the dog was acting out of aggression or playfulness when it jumped on the girl.

“For me, the big question is the demeanor of the dog,” he said. “Was it just being playful and scared the girl and she got scratched, or was the dog being aggressive and we’re just lucky that this is as bad as it got?

“But regardless of how the animal ends up loose in their neighborhood, if people are concerned for their children’s safety, that’s not a situation we want to be in,” Greer said.

Board member Steve Anderson said he felt the dog was only a puppy and was likely behaving without aggression when it jumped on the girl.

“To me, it looks like it was a 10-month-old puppy that got a little carried away and scratched a girl and knocked her tooth out, unfortunately,” he said. “I’m not a dog handler, but I’ve never seen a 10-month-old vicious dog.”

But after reviewing city code, board members determined if they upheld the vicious-dog designation, Stanley also had the option to give the dog to someone outside of the city limits, as long as the new owners agreed to follow any ordinances or rules set for vicious dogs in that jurisdiction.

Stanley said she knew people in the county who were willing to take ownership of the animal and would be open to doing that.

The board then voted to uphold the designation with the understanding Stanley would give the dog to someone outside the city. Douglass said the dog would be held at the pound until the transfer was complete.

Peru city attorney Dustin Kern said Stanley also had the option to appeal the board’s decision. A Miami County judge would then make the final determination in the case.

Carson Gerber can be reached at 765-854-6739, carson.gerber@kokomotribune.com or on Twitter @carsongerber1.

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Carson Gerber is a reporter for the Kokomo Tribune and can be reached at 765-854-6739, carson.gerber@kokomotribune.com or on Twitter @carsongerber1.