City animal control officers had seized the pit bull earlier this year that was involved in a fatal attack on its owner early Friday, but returned the dog because they "did not feel the dog was a threat to the public," according to a statement from officials Sunday.
After the previous attack, the dog owner who died Friday, 56-year-old Terry Douglass, "was adamant in getting the dog back, so after vaccinating it for rabies, we returned the dog after the quarantine period was up," said a statement from the Baltimore City Health Department, which oversees animal control.
Animal control officials said the incident in April occurred after food was dropped on the floor. A nephew of Douglass' went to pick it up and was bitten, and Douglass was bitten when she tried to intervene.
There was no dangerous/vicious dog hearing conducted. According to policy, such hearings are scheduled only when investigators find certain circumstances, such as a bite history, the animal appears aggressive or the animal is considered a danger to the public.
Officials said they do not have special rules for pit bulls, noting that any breed has potential to bite.
"Baltimore City Animal Control supports responsible pet ownership and not laws that single out a specific breed," a statement read. "According to the [U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention], nearly 4.5 million Americans are bitten by dogs each year. Dog attacks often result from multiple factors; it is not necessarily the breeds themselves that are dangerous. This is a tragic situation for Ms. Douglass and her family."
Douglass' daughter Tamathia Davis said other family members did consider this animal a threat and pleaded with animal control not to return Boosie, a 4-year-old male pit bull that Douglass had raised from a puppy.
To get her mother to give up the dog, Davis said she wouldn't let her 1-year-old son visit from their home in Pennsylvania. She also said she asked the landlord to ban the dog.
"She loved that dog unconditionally," said Davis, who said Friday's incident was actually the third time the dog had attacked her mother.
Douglass, of the 2000 block of E. 30th St. in the Coldstream Homestead Montebello neighborhood, had cerebral palsy and had been using a wheelchair for the past two years because of knee and back problems.
Although Douglass hadn't previously been a dog lover, she quickly grew attached to Boosie, Davis said.
"My mom had gotten to a point in her life when she felt like her kids didn't need her any more, and she latched onto this dog," Davis said.
Davis said the dog first attacked her mother about two years ago, biting her face so savagely that "whenever my mom would open her mouth, her cheek would open with it."
Torian Wellsey, Douglass' nephew, said he was once attacked by the dog, which his aunt originally got for protection.
"The dog was a vicious dog," Wellsey said. "She thought she could control it and she couldn't."
In the most recent attack, Davis said, her stepfather was home but couldn't stop the attack. He tried unsuccessfully to revive her with CPR, she said.
Wellsey said his aunt tried to stand from her wheelchair to reach for a glass of water but fell onto the ground when the dog attacked.
"He ripped her apart," he said.
Davis could not explain why the dog would turn on the woman who had raised it with tenderness.
"I know that my mother has been nothing but good to this dog," she said. "My mom loved this dog so much, this dog would sleep in the bed with her."