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Dog attack justifies battery charge

January 1, 2007
Commanding an animal to attack a person can justify an aggravated battery charge under Indiana statute, ruled the Court of Appeals today.

In Shaquita Gilbert v. State of Indiana, 49A02-0606-CR-448, the Court of Appeals affirmed Gilbert's conviction for aggravated battery, a Class B felony under Indiana Code 35-42-2-1.5. Gilbert appealed, saying there is insufficient evidence showing she caused the injuries that brought on the aggravated battery conviction. Gilbert commanded a pit bull in the home where she lived to attack Veronica McAtee.

The facts of the case show Gilbert had a hostile relationship with McAtee. When McAtee showed up at the house where Gilbert was staying to drop off medication, Gilbert attacked her. Gilbert repeatedly punched McAtee and told the pit bull, "Get'er. Get'er. Sic. Sic. Get'er. Get'er." The dog latched onto McAtee's arm while Gilbert sprayed McAtee with mace and beat her with the empty can. Gilbert also yelled for the dog to kill McAtee; another person living in the house had to get the dog off of McAtee.

As a result of the attack, McAtee had swollen eyes, a black eye, bite marks on both arms and feet, and her right hand and arm suffered nerve damage to the extent that she now has no feeling in three fingers.

Gilbert was found guilty of criminal recklessness and aggravated battery and given a 10-year sentence with two years suspended to probation. She appealed the ruling, arguing the dog caused the most serious injuries and her own actions only caused McAtee's bruising and swollen eyes.

Not only did Gilbert command the dog to attack McAtee, she made no attempt to remove the dog from McAtee and encouraged the dog to continue to bite McAtee. The Court of Appeals cited several cases that determined dogs could be deadly weapons when used as such by a human. If a defendant uses a gun to injure someone, the courts would not find insufficient evidence to convict someone because the gun, rather than the defendant, killed or injured the victim, Chief Judge John Baker wrote for the majority. If a defendant incites and encourages a dog in an attack, it is logical and justified to hold the defendant responsible for the injuries.
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