The owner of the pit bull involved in an attack on a Wichita TV host faces a Friday hearing on whether she’ll be able to get her dog back.
The dog, “Buddy,” is in quarantine at the city animal shelter, where it also bit an animal control officer.
The dog was locked up after a Dec. 19 biting attack on R.J. Dickens, news director at KCTU-TV and best known for years of hosting public-affairs and talk shows on the station.
After he bit the animal control officer, Buddy was deemed a dangerous dog, said Wichita police Lt. Joe Schroeder, unit commander for animal control.
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To get the dog back, owner Dani Bonanno would have to register it, have it microchipped and neutered, take out a $100,000 insurance policy and confine it to a secure enclosure at all times except for veterinary appointments, when it would have to be muzzled, Schroeder said.
Bonanno said she’s been working with a friend who has a house to see if she can build the required enclosure, but she doesn’t know how she could meet all the requirements to get her dog back.
“I don’t have any family; no income really, other than savings,” she said. “That dog is everything that I have.”
If Bonanno can’t comply with the conditions, the dog could be put down under the city’s dangerous dog ordinance.
Bonanno has a doctor’s prescription letter that allowed her to keep Buddy in her apartment as a therapy dog.
She said she moved from Atlanta to Wichita for medical reasons and because of the area’s low cost of living.
Her doctor wrote the prescription letter, she said, to help her deal with depression that set in after she moved to Wichita and found herself isolated – and in some cases harassed – when neighbors in the building learned she’s transgender.
She said that the biting incidents have been traumatic and that having to give up Buddy would be devastating.
“This has been the worst experience of my life,” she said. “I don’t know what I’m going to do if I don’t get my dog back. Really, I’d just like them to give my dog back and go back to Georgia.”
She said she doesn’t think her dog actually bit Dickens, because there was no apparent damage to his clothing.
“I don’t know what the answer is,” she said.
Dickens said he has the wounds to prove it – two punctures with a swollen, infected area between them that hasn’t healed three weeks after the attack.
Dickens, who has been off the air for about a year because of unrelated medical problems, said he got bit in the elevator at the Commodore Apartments building where both he and Bonanno live.
Dickens said the dog, which was on a long leash, attacked him as the elevator doors opened.
He said he may attend the hearing.
“I don’t think the dog should be released to her, and if it is, it should be under the condition she has to live in a house, not an apartment,” Dickens said. “Her trying to claim that is a therapy dog is ridiculous.”
He said the opening of the elevator door seemed to be what set the dog off, which wouldn’t have happened if it was properly trained.
“I’m sorry she thinks she has to have a pit bull for a therapy dog,” he said.
After the Dickens incident, Buddy was placed in a 10-day quarantine at the animal shelter to ensure he didn’t have rabies, which is standard procedure for dog-bite incidents where the owner can’t afford to have the dog kept in a private kennel.
The second biting incident occurred when Bonanno went to the shelter to pick Buddy up.
There’s no dispute that the dog escaped from his cage and bit the animal control officer.
But reports on how that happened vary.
According to animal control officials, Bonanno was trying to put a harness on the dog when it got out of the cage, ran behind the row of kennels, and attacked the officer.
Schroeder said animal control initially was going to let Bonanno off with a warning, but the biting at the shelter “tells me the dog will attack anybody unprovoked.”
He said Bonanno’s prescription letter gives her the right to have a service dog, but Buddy isn’t trained to perform any services.
Although the state doesn’t require certification of service animals, “by definition, that isn’t a service dog,” he said.
Bonanno said the animal control worker wouldn’t let her go inside the cage to put the harness and leash on Buddy and he tried to bring the dog out himself.
She said her dog was panicked by loudly barking dogs in the cages around him and “nipped” the officer when he was chasing it down.
The local pit bull rescue group Beauties and Beasts has been working with Bonanno on the case. Randi Carter, a leader of the group and a commercial kennel owner, said the biting at the shelter was probably a result of the dog being “amped up” from confinement and then being cornered.
Carter said Buddy was caged next to an aggressive German shepherd that tried hard to get at him.
“The dog already was not in a good state of mind,” she said. “In my opinion, I think she should get her dog back.”
The appeal will be heard by Capt. Brent Allred, Schroeder’s superior. His decisions can be appealed to the City Council and the council’s decision can be appealed to District Court.