Dogs On The Run

June and Sandy Davies love everything about their Henderson Point home, except for their neighbors. William Morris lives next door with who knows how many dogs--animals that find it easy to slip in and out of Morris' gate and run loose around the neighborhood.

Sandy says the dogs dug a hole under his chain-link fence, making it easy for them to run through his yard. He's been battling with Morris' dogs for 22 years, and he says the problem is only getting worse.

In January, the Davie's cat, Pete, was in the yard when he says Morris' dogs attacked, chasing the cat into a hole. June Davies heard the commotion and ran to see what was going on.

"When I got here, this one came up and started barking and pushed me," Mrs. Davies said. "I fell down and can hardly get up."

Pete survived, but is now too afraid to go outside. The Davies say that wasn't the first time they had a close encounter. And now, when Sandy goes out to get the morning paper, he carries a shotgun with him.

"It's kind of a tough way to live, but this is the circumstance," he said.

Tim and Angela Hanson agree that this is a serious problem. Angela says Morris' dogs have come after her twice as she ran with her small dogs on the beach. Last December, she says she was jogging with Mike, her beloved Pomeranian, when Morris' dogs struck the second time.

"Grabbed him, grabbed him like he was hamburger and that was it," Mrs. Hanson said.

"She come home yelling and screaming that their dogs had grabbed her dog and went into the woods," Mr. Hanson explained. "So, I got in my truck and went over there and went into the woods hoping that maybe he was just injured, and I walked through the woods and I found our dog dead and six other dead dogs."

The Hansons have hired a lawyer, but fear the court system may not take care of the problem soon enough.

"If you've read the papers, nationally, lately there have been a couple of women killed from dogs just single dogs and this is a pack of dogs and I hope it doesn't get to that," Tim Hanson said.

WLOX wanted to talk to Mr. Morris to hear his side of the story, but that was easier said than done. As far as we can tell, he doesn't have a phone or a mailbox outside his house. We sent him two letters to his P.O. Box asking for a comment, but he never responded. And so, we waited for him to come out of his house. When he did, he started yelling 'no' and then told us to talk to his attorney. I asked him who that was and Mr. Morris didn't respond.

Dentist and neighbor Tom Drake says the dogs chase and bark at him almost every morning he goes jogging.

"It's a nuisance and it's certainly dangerous to smaller children who might be out there alone," Dr. Drake said.

Drake says it's ridiculous that because of the dogs, his children have just about become prisoners in their own homes, but because there are no animal control ordinances in unincorporated areas of Harrison County, there's very little animal control officers can do about it.

"Our hands are pretty much tied," Harrison County Animal Control Officer Tom Wheeler said. "We'll try to do what we can to explain the situation to the dog owner to try to get him to do something, but some dog owners won't do anything."

"It's very frustrating, and governmental authorities can't step in unless somebody's hurt, which is a real shame that you can see that there's a danger there and they don't seem to be able to do anything about it," Dr. Drake said.

Drake says he's afraid officials won't do anything until it's too late. He fears the dogs will be allowed to run free until one day they attack a child.

"That's my fear, too, and I come here a lot and I leave notes and I try to explain it to the guy and I hate to see that happen myself. I'm afraid that's going to happen," Wheeler said.

If William Morris' name sounds familiar, there's a reason.  In January 1999, the county bulldozed Morris' house. At the time, county leaders described his property as unsanitary and rat-infested. They had battled with him for 10 years to clean it up. He wouldn't do it and so the county did.

The county picked up 18 dogs, many that were living in cages filled with feces. Ten of the 18 dogs had heartworms.

Several neighbors contacted District Three Supervisor Marlin Ladner He says he's aware of the current problem and did contact the county prosecutor to see if anything could be done. Prosecutor Bob Payne says there have been no criminal violations, so there is nothing he can do.

Meanwhile, Tom Wheeler says he plans to present an animal control ordinance to Supervisors in the next few months. It will be similar to an ordinance in Jackson County that requires animals to be on a leash and protects people from vicious dogs.