A Rottweiler named “Johnny Cash” was unanimously deemed “not dangerous” by the Lewis County Dangerous Animal Designation (DAD) board during a hearing early this month.
In the early afternoon of Jan. 8, according to records, the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office sent a deputy to respond to a house in the 300 block of Burchett Road in Onalaska. There, a neighbor of Johnny Cash’s owner was being treated by medics for a puncture wound on his tricep inflicted by a dog bite. The victim said a heeler and a Rottweiler had left a neighboring property and that the Rottweiler bit him.
The deputy went to the dog’s owner, Amanda Ross, and issued her a citation for the dog being off her property and biting someone. She paid the fine. Ross told the deputy she has cameras around her house, which they checked. Neither the incident nor the dog leaving the property were apparently caught on video. At first, Lewis County Humane Officer Alishia Hornburg issued a notice to Ross saying Johnny Cash was “potentially dangerous” and that she should take precautions to ensure he was kept on the property at all times.
Then, according to Hornburg, the victim wanted to press further and take the dog to the DAD board, a quasi-judicial group of volunteers who make decisions on whether or not a dog — or any dangerous animal, but so far only dogs have qualified — meets the county code’s definitions of dangerous. In the setting, if the DAD board is the judge or jury, the county is the prosecution and the dog owner is the defendant.
The county argued the dog was dangerous. To meet that standard, according to code, the animal must inflict severe injury or death on a human, domestic animal or livestock without provocation. If a dog bit someone who first hit them, for example, that would be a situation of “provocation,” and the dog wouldn’t meet the definition of dangerous.
On the day of the bite, Ross said she was hosting a baby shower at her house, so doors were open as people were coming in and out, thus, she didn’t know where her dog was for some of that time. Her neighbors also have a Rottweiler, she said.
Ross didn’t claim Johnny Cash had definitely not bitten anyone, just that there wasn’t enough evidence to prove he did, despite there being recordings and people around from the time of the incident. Furthermore, she argued, if the dog did bite the man in question, it may have been because he was provoked.
Apparently, about a year earlier, Ross called 911 to report the same neighbor had been staring across the road at her for 45 minutes. On other occasions, she said he’d walked close to her property line, possibly irritating her dog.
All this considered, after only a few short minutes of deliberation, the DAD board concluded there was not sufficient evidence to categorize Johnny Cash as dangerous. The victim of the dog bite was not present for the hearing.
According to previous reporting by The Chronicle, in 21 DAD board cases between mid-2019 and earlier 2022, 13 dogs were declared dangerous while eight were not. Three of those that were not declared dangerous were put down before a hearing ever took place.
When a dog is deemed dangerous, its owners have to either euthanize the pet or adhere to a strict set of rules, which include keeping the dog in a six-sided enclosure with posted signs warning it is dangerous, renewing documentation of insurance annually and keeping the dog muzzled whenever it is being transported.