Waxhaw to study leash laws, dog ordinances following deadly attack

Waxhaw to study leash laws, dog ordinances following deadly attack

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by ANN SHERIDAN / NewsChannel 36

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WCNC.com

Posted on February 21, 2011 at 2:53 PM

WAXHAW, N.C. -- No one disputes it. Makayla Woodard should have been safe in her family yard.

Last week she was doing what kids do every day. She was playing outside. But the simple routine turned deadly for Makayla. The kindergartner was mauled to death by a neighbor's two pit bulls. Her grandmother was badly injured by the same dogs.

Now, Waxhaw town leaders are debating whether more needs to be done to prevent another tragedy like this from happening. Does the town need tougher, enforceable leash laws? Should pit bulls be outlawed in the Union County town altogether?

"The dogs were running around loose in the yard. This isn't about walking the dogs on a leash," said Michael Davis, president of the National American Pit Bull Terrier Association.

"You can only do so much, like take the dogs away or fine the guy," he said.

Heather Young brought her 4-year-old son to the Waxhaw Commission Meeting. She owns pit bulls and says the breed is safe, as long as the owner is responsible.

"I want to make sure the discussions are level headed, not based on the emotions surrounding this incident," she said.

Commissioners voted to study the issue. They'll form a committee and bring in veterinarians, animal advocates and law enforcement to weigh in on what, if anything, can be done going forward.

"I don't think leash laws would have made a difference. The dogs were not taken care of to begin with," said Lisa Thornton.

Thornton would like the town of Waxhaw to help Woodard's family pay funeral costs. She also wants commissioners to take some sort of action to prevent potential attacks.

Waxhaw Commission Mayor Pro Tem Martin Lane says he believes the incident could not have been prevented by laws. At the end of the day, it's about the "level of responsibility" of the pet owner, he said.

The Union County District Attorney is now investigating Makayla Woodard's death and is expected to determine whether charges should be brought against the dog's owner, 23-year-old Michael Gordon. Neighbors say they often saw the dogs roaming the neighborhood and felt unsafe and had complained to law enforcement. But because Union County doesn't have leash laws, the town of Waxhaw was unable to enforce their ordinance, Lane said.

Waxhaw will hire an animal control officer next month. That hire was scheduled and is not a result of the tragedy, according to Lane.

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