Two days after the Anne Arundel County Council proposed legislation to control "dangerous animals," a Brooklyn Heights toddler was severely injured by her family's pit bull dog, the latest in a series of dog attacks in the county.
Jasmine Nikole Powell, 2, was mauled shortly after midnight yesterday in her home in the 5200 block of Kramme Ave., when the dog vaulted a 3-foot gate in the kitchen, ran into her bedroom and grabbed her by the throat, her father told police.
The girl suffered life-threatening neck injuries, said Division Chief John M. Scholz, a county fire department spokesman. She was taken to the pediatric trauma center at Johns Hopkins Children's Center in Baltimore where her condition was upgraded from serious to fair yesterday afternoon.
Authorities suspect that the dog became excited moments earlier during an argument between the toddler's father and his girlfriend in a separate bedroom.
The father told police he ran to his daughter's room after he heard the dog jump the gate, but he arrived too late to stop the attack.
The dog, an unneutered 1 1/2 -year-old male named Benzo, was impounded at the county animal control facility in Millersville.
Tahira S. Thomas, county animal control administrator, said the agency will issue a "dangerous order," meaning that the animal poses a threat to public safety, and - if it is not destroyed - its owner must comply with confinement guidelines imposed by the agency.
Thomas said animal control cannot destroy the dog without the father's consent. The father could not be reached for comment yesterday.
Thomas said it is not unusual for an animal to react to domestic situations but said that it was unusual for an animal to leave its enclosure, go to another room and attack a person not involved.
"It's almost premediated behavior," Thomas said. "It demonstrates unstableness and a propensity to be unpredictable. We're very disturbed by it."
The agency had received complaints about Benzo from neighbors who complained about its barking and said they often saw the dog roaming the neighborhood unsupervised. No reports were received of aggressive behavior, Thomas said.
Unlike Baltimore City, Anne Arundel county officials said they are not considering a ban on pit bulls, because bans are difficult to enforce and do not prevent people from owning other kinds of potentially vicious animals.
Legislation introduced Monday would give county animal control greater authority in dealing with all animals that it deems dangerous.
Among other things, the bill would give the agency more latitude to define an animal as "dangerous" or "potentially dangerous," require tougher confinement for such animals and impose stiffer fines on irresponsible owners.
"What we see is if you eliminate one breed, people will seek another," Thomas said. "There's a hysteria toward pit bulls that makes pit bulls the issue, but we see it as a dangerous animal issue. We have Dalmatians we impose orders on."
County spokesman Matt Diehl said the bill was introduced by Council Chairwoman Shirley Murphy at the request of County Executive Janet S. Owens in the wake of several high-profile biting incidents over the past year.
In an attack in October, the hand of a 2-year-old Glen Burnie toddler was mauled by a neighbor's Rottweiler.
Last summer, Kane, a Millersville pit bull that had bitten two people, was suspected of mauling a 14-year-old girl. The dog, later stolen from county animal control custody, is still missing.
County Councilwoman Pamela G. Beidle, a Linthicum Democrat who has worked on the legislation with animal control and county administrators since 1999, said the bill's key strength is that it would allow animal control to label an animal dangerous "before it draws blood."
"It's much stronger than what animal control could do before," Beidle said.