Several years ago, Liza McGee Vannoy and her 12-year-old son, Kamp, were attacked by a dog in their own yard. They weren’t merely bitten – they could have been killed. Kamp told the following story at a public input session on animal control ordinances for Walker County.
“My baby goat died and I was attacked and badly wounded by a pit bull mix. Watching my mom be attacked and dragged was very hard. It was painful to my heart. I don’t want that to happen to anyone else.
"This type of dog has a lot of power in its jaws. People who own dogs with this kind of jaw pressure need to:
Have secure fencing so neighbors are safe.
Ask themselves the reason for owning these dogs
Have a chip in the dog for identification, rabies shot verification and records for the animal control officer to verify they are following the law.
"Pit bulls and other dogs with this kind of jaw power are not bad dogs, but people who treat dogs poorly should not have a dog with this kind of strength.
"My mom and I survived this attack, but many people have not survived, so that’s why we want to see changes in Walker County.”
by Kamp Vannoy, age 12
Kamp’s mother also spoke at the meeting, saying she heard her son’s screams and jumped into a pen on her property where a strange pit bull mix was tearing into his leg. Adrenaline coursing through her body, Liza somehow pulled the dog off of her son, and he managed to climb over the fence. The dog immediately attacked Liza, nicking an artery in her arm and yanking her off of a structure in the pasture that she was trying to climb onto for safety. She had 10 wounds on her body ranging from puncture wounds to torn flesh.
Jamie Frierson and Lane Brown heard their screams from the stables at Long Branch and rescued them, performing first aid and calling an ambulance. And their healing began.
Undaunted by the chances of locating the owners of the dog after Walker County Animal Control said they were slim, Liza’s sister, Tallulah McGee, then director of Beaufort County Animal Services in South Carolina, immediately posted a plea on social media. She then contacted the postal carrier, FedEx and UPS carriers and water meter reader, and, based on a tip, she located the dog at a property a few miles away.
Liza and her husband didn’t press charges against the family, assuming the county would prosecute to the full extent of the law. When Liza learned the family was simply warned to keep their other pit bull mix inside, after the attacking dog was euthanized, she was confused, and at a loss as to how this could be. Surely there were laws in place to govern things like maulings by dogs on ones’ own property?
She learned that there are laws in place in Walker County and the state of Georgia. But Walker County Commissioner Shannon Whitfield said he believed the county animal control ordinances needed updating since they haven’t been addressed in many years, and Liza was and is appreciative of his efforts.
Liza, Kamp and their family are asking for two things – education and accountability. They want: full awareness of the capacity of certain breeds that can maul or kill; awareness of how crucial it is to have secure systems in place to keep domestic animals on their owners’ property; awareness of the importance of training and nurturing to create an environment of kindness, yet realizing the natural instinct of some animals may be to protect at all costs. Regarding accountability, they are lobbying for licensing to own certain breeds with enormous power, microchips for identification, neutering and spaying, up-to-date rabies, vigilance of animal control officers to enforce and involve police force if necessary.
Both Liza’s and Camp’s scars are healing, but, years later, there are traces of the thick and swollen and jagged wounds. Liza is adamant about changing the law in her county. “If nothing changes [about the animal control laws], then these scars are wasted,” she said of the remnants of the life-threatening wounds that will remain with them the rest of their lives. And although she is on a mission, she chooses not to harbor any bitterness about the event. Her son helps her with that.
“Mama, I’ve been thinking. When I think back on the attack, I think we only need to be thankful,” Kamp told her.
Shortly after their attack, Emily Colvin, a beautiful young woman on Sand Mountain, Ala., went to her mailbox to get the packages she’d ordered for Christmas presents. A pack of five pit bulls attacked her, mauling her horrifically and killing her.
So not only does Liza work for her boy and for her neighbors and anyone in her county, she particularly works for Emily Colvin, thinking of this beautiful young woman as she fills out forms and petitions and speaks in public, not giving up until a better law and its proper enforcement is in place.
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Ferris Robinson is the author of three children’s books, “The Queen Who Banished Bugs,” “The Queen Who Accidentally Banished Birds,” and “Call Me Arthropod” in her pollinator series. “Making Arrangements” is her first novel. “Dogs and Love - Stories of Fidelity” is a collection of true tales about man’s best friend. Her website is ferrisrobinson.com and you can download a free pollinator poster there. She is the editor of The Lookout Mountain Mirror and The Signal Mountain Mirror.