A pit bull that attacked an Effingham County child last July will be sent to live the rest of his days at a New York animal refuge.
Ogeechee Judicial Circuit Judge William Woodrum issued an order late Wednesday afternoon to have Kno, a pit bull, sent to Glen Wild Animal Refuge. The county had sought to euthanize Kno after it was classified as a dangerous dog.
The judge met with Wesley Frye, the child Kno attacked, and observed the dog before making his ruling.
“Although the minor child suffered severe injuries, Kno is not a vicious dog such that Effingham County should be permitted to euthanize the dog,” Judge Woodrum ordered.
In his decision, Judge Woodrum said Kno should be relocated to the New York state animal refuge but it will not be adopted out, will not be used for breeding purposes and will not be allowed to be near children. He also ordered that Liz Keller, the animal refuge’s director, and the refuge will be under the jurisdiction of the Effingham County Superior Court “for any and all future matters pertaining to Kno.”
“The judge had a very tough decision,” Keller said. “But he did his due diligence. Nobody is forgetting the fact this dog hurt a young boy. The first priority should be the little boy. For me, I’m just glad I can offer closure to the family. I think this is an overall good solution to a horrible situation."
The judge also ruled that Mickey Kicklighter, the dog’s court-appointed attorney, had 30 days from the issue of his order, to arrange for Kno’s transportation to New York.
Judge Woodrum held a July 30 hearing on the dog. Kno, who had belonged to Julie Grace and Larry Long, attacked Wesley Frye, then 5 years old, three times, according to Wesley’s mother Melissa, and severely injured the child. Wesley Frye suffered severe facial injuries and is expected to undergo further surgeries. His mother said Wesley also will have paralysis on the right side of his face.
In issuing his order, Judge Woodrum said the first issue was to determine if the court could terminate rights of ownership and the second issue was if the county could put down the dog. Since the dog’s owners had signed a waiver relinquishing their rights, Judge Woodrum ruled the first issue was answered.
The magistrate court issued an order Aug. 7, 2012, two weeks after the attack, classifying Kno as a dangerous dog. The county filed a petition with superior court on Sept. 12, 2012, seeking to euthanize the dog.
Two days later, Judge Woodrum appointed Kicklighter as the pro bono attorney for the dog, citing concerns “that the requirements under the Dangerous Dog Control Act pertaining to notice and the opportunity to be heard had not been properly followed.”
In last month’s hearing, Kicklighter argued that there was not a clear procedure or standard of review for such cases. Judge Woodrum ruled the law does not clearly state the nature of referral or appeal from magistrate court to superior court and the magistrate court declaration of Kno as a dangerous dog had no validity.
Melissa Frye said in her testimony that she originally wanted the dog to be spared and eventually studied to help determine why dogs attack. However, her son asks her about the dog every day, and both her sons still have nightmares about the attack.
Since the attack, Kno has been kept at the Effingham County animal shelter. Costs for caring for the dog have approached $2,000.
Keller said she is planning on keeping the dog in her home and Kno will be handled only by her.
“They had no issues the entire year they had him in the shelter,” she said. “I’m pretty comfortable I’m going to have an easy time with him. The real deal for me was to offer closure to the family, to know the dog isn’t going to languish in a shelter and run up the court’s time and taxpayer dollars.”