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Dog trial goes to jury

Cary Ashby • Oct 29, 2015 at 12:06 PM

Huron County Deputy Dog Warden Gary Ousley recalled defendant April Smith saying she didn't think one of her rottweilers would attack anybody.

Ousley came to Smith's home at 1066 Old State Road on Dec. 3 after the two dogs attacked her neighbor and later charged at two sheriff's deputies. He said he had to "put down" the female dog after Detective Sgt. Dane Howard shot it twice with his service revolver.

"I believe at that time it was near death," Ousley said. "She (Smith) said it was 'my baby.' ... She said that was like one of her children."

He snared the male dog which he found healthy and uninjured under a van in front of the victim's home. That dog was released from the dog pound Jan. 11 to Smith.

Her trial on two charges of failure to confine dogs and one count each of no dog license and failure to display a dog tag was Friday in Norwalk Municipal Court. Closing arguments were this morning, followed by the jury deliberations.

Before being attacked, Morris Van Vlerah Jr. was "piddling around" in his pole barn, about 200 feet from his house. Smith lives two houses away.

Van Vlerah was about to step onto the deck of his house, when "out of nowhere, an animal bit me on the left arm and started shaking," he said. At the same time, the other dog bit him on the right ankle.

The man testified he hit one dog in the snout and he ran the next 8 to 10 feet from the edge of his porch to get inside.

"I tried to close the patio door, but it was tough," Van Vlerah said, because the dogs were jumping at the door and his hand was bleeding. The latch broke in the process.

He called his wife Crystal, who was coming home with their son, to tell her not to come home for her own safety. Van Vlerah said he had to call back, "but she was already in the driveway."

Crystal said she and her son entered the home through the front door instead of the back porch because of the dogs.

"As soon as she closed the screen door, the dogs were jumping, trying to get in," her husband said.

Howard, the first responding deputy, said the dogs headed toward him as soon as he got out of his vehicle.

"I felt threatened and got back in my car," he added.

When Major Greg Englund arrived moments later, he saw the dogs running along the front and side of Howard's vehicle. When Englund got out of his cruiser, he said the two dogs turned and charged at him, forcing him back into his car.

The dogs eventually went back to the porch. The two deputies fired their Tasers twice each at the dogs. One dog rolled, pulling out the cable when the animals became intertwined, Englund said, and the male dog fled to the front of the home.

"(Being Tasered) appeared to make them more aggressive," he said. "They were aggressive in the first place."

When Englund had his Taser in his hand, he ordered Howard to shoot the female dog.

"He was yelling at me, 'Shoot the dog!,'" Howard said. "The dog cleared the (nearby) propane tank and the dog was shot. ... After I fired my weapon, the dog dropped.

"I hit the dog because it was attacking Major Englund," the detective said.

Englund described Van Vlerah as being "in a lot of pain" and said it was apparent "the force of the dogs" forced the patio door off its track. The Bronson Township man later went to Fisher-Titus Medical Center for treatment of puncture wounds on his hand.

Defense attorney George Ford asked Van Vlerah why the dogs would attack him.

"The only reason I can think of is it's the nature of this particular dog," the victim said.

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