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Frankie Byrne, a Knox County animal control officer, said she first met the dogs Mafia Lee and Passion Maria Aug. 28 after deputies in the area encountered them running loose and chasing a trash collector.The dogs then attacked the bumper of a patrol car that blocked their pursuit."I knew that something bad was going to happen with those dogs when the sheriff's deputies were telling me the story," Byrne said.She went back to the trailer on Sam Lee Road three days before Lowe's death to check on the dogs.The dogs were required to be kept in a fully enclosed, inescapable pen, in the house or on a leash, but they were loose in the front yard.Byrne did not issue a citation, pointing out that it would have meant, at most, a $50 fine."The laws are so lenient," she said.Byrne carries a knife with her on her job.She uses it for tasks such as slicing open bags of lime to cover decaying road kill, but she's also had it ready to defend herself."I've had pit bulls coming at me," she said.
Knox County Animal Control officer Frankie Byrne is greeted by some labs and a pit bull during one of her stops in West Knox County, Wednesday.Knox County Animal Control officer Frankie Byrne is greeted by some labs and a pit bull during one of her stops in West Knox County, Wednesday.
When Frankie Byrne heard a woman had been killed by two pit bulls at a Sam Lee Road trailer, she knew exactly which animals were involved.
"I knew that something bad was going to happen with those dogs when the sheriff's deputies were telling me the story," said Byrne, who filled out "dangerous dog" paperwork but said she wants tougher laws addressing problem animals. "The laws are so lenient. … I did everything legally I could do about them," she said. Tougher dog laws could be coming. The animal control department is represented on Jones' committee, and officers such as Byrne have ideas for controlling dangerous dogs. Byrne went to work in animal control in January after working at the Oakland Zoo in California. She returned to the Sam Lee Road trailer Friday, three days before the woman's death, to make sure all was well. "I stopped by, and (the owner) had the dogs loose in the front yard … which is a violation of the classification," she said. The dogs were required to be kept in a fully enclosed, inescapable pen, in the house or on a leash. Byrne did not issue a citation, pointing out that it would have been a $50 fine at most. Byrne said she believes pit bulls are inherently dangerous, because of the history of their breeding for aggressiveness. "It's my own personal opinion," Byrne added. "If I were to make the law, you would have to have a special license to have a pit bull," Byrne said. She said owner screening would help, as would special insurance requirements for owners of pit bulls. She said homeowners insurance policies could prohibit pit bulls or charge higher rates. Byrne went Wednesday to follow up with an owner whose pit bull had escaped its enclosure. In the meantime, Byrne keeps a knife at her hip, using it for tasks such as slicing open bags of lime to cover decaying road kill. But she said she's pulled it out ready to defend herself before. "I've had pit bulls coming at me," she said.
If Animal Control officer Frankie Byrne can refer to the dogs responsible as "pit bulls," then she too is unaware that "pit bull" is not a breed.And if we look at the case in Knox County and apply the human factor to it, we can so clearly see that humans failed the victim, not the dogs.There were warning signs which is why Byrne stopped by the home of the dogs several days before the attack.At that time she saw the dogs unrestrained, yet she did not cite the owner.Still she has the audacity to claim that breed-specific laws that also go on to not be enforced are the answer?It is further perplexing to see all the finger-pointing at the dogs and the pass-the-buck comments which serve only to divert public attention away from placing blame where it is due: squarely on the shoulders of the irresponsible owner and Animal Control who could have prevented this tragedy.Byrne claims that "pit bulls" are inherently dangerous because they were bred for aggression, pointing to their fighting heritage.Byrne should know, however, that fighting dogs are not born, they are made via systematic torture and abuse.