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Victim of dog attack demands pit bull ban

John Flanagan vows to lobby Westminster until breed-specific rules are adopted


If John Flanagan has anything to do about, Biki’s death will save the City of Westminster in the long run, making it a safer place overall — once all the pitbulls are gone.

“You don’t get to wear a hand grenade around your neck,” Flanagan said. “Why should you allowed to have a dog that’s effectively a weapon?”

Flanagan has vowed to attend every Westminster City Council meeting to call for a city ordinance banning the breed until they do. It’s his own private war, he said, that began at the Westminster Hills Dog Park on Dec. 29.

Flanagan had taken his nine-year-old Yorkie-Poodle mix Biki to the park to play, something the pair did regularly. He and wife Barbi Stephens had rescued the small dog from a shelter in April, adding him into their canine family alongside two Labrador retrievers.

The dog park, off of Simms Street at about 105th and just north of Standley Lake, is a popular place for dog owners to let their pets off leash to run and Flanagan said he’s been bringing dogs there for 21 years, with no problems.

This time however, Flanagan said he and little Biki were still close to the entrance when a huge brown and white pit bull ran up, grabbed Biki in her mouth and shook vigorously.

“It was a total surprise, an ambush,” Flanagan said. “I was there trying to pry my little boy out of this other dog’s mouth.”

There were witnesses, he said, at least 15 of them including three 20-somethings that quickly reigned in the attacking dog. But nobody had a cell phone to take a picture or call police.

Flanagan rushed his dog to a vet, but it was too late.

“His neck was snapped and his carotid artery was severed,” Flanagan said. “He died instantly.”

He called police and Westminster Animal Control. Nobody had reported the attack and the attacking dog and its owners had disappeared. He put up a handbill at the park with pictures of Biki from happier days alongside gruesome images of his dead body to plead for help from witnesses. So far, nobody has stepped forward.

“What if it had been a child?” Flanagan said. “Can you guarantee me the next time this dog attacks, it won’t be a child?”

Westminster Police confirmed that Flanagan had reported the attack and said it’s still being investigated, but they have very few leads.

Breed Ban

Flanagan took his fight to City Hall at the Westminster City Council’s Jan. 22 meeting, making his first pitch for a ban on pit bulls. The breed is a danger to Westminster residents, their pets and their children — one that will eventually kill a human being, he said. City leaders need to get ahead of the problem and ban the breed entirely.

“You have a four-legged explosive device — and explosive is the operative word here, folks — and we were ambushed,” Flanagan said at the meeting. “Biki was killed and now all we are looking for is justice for Biki.”

Flanagan said that’s made up of four parts: Identifying the owners, Identifying the dog, euthanizing the dog and banning the breed in the entire city.

“We want a comprehensive pit bull ban, not only at the dog park but at the entirety of the city of Westminster, “ Flanagan told councilors. “That is in line with public safety.”

And Flanagan said he will be back at every meeting he can, urging the city to enact a ban.

“I told the City Council that they have been given a gift,” Flanagan said. “The gift is that it was in fact Biki and not a child — that has to motivate someone to be proactive. When it does happen to a child, then it’s going to be too late. So I am going to go to every meeting and use my five minutes and get up there and make them realize what is at stake.”

Westminster Public Information officer Joe Reid said the city is aware of what happened to Flanagan and his dog and has reached out to him. Flanagan said he has not approached any city officials on a one-on-one basis but has forwarded copies of Louisville’s ban on the dog breed to them.

Westminster, according to the city’s Animal Management Web site does not have a breed specific ban but has rules designed to control dangerous and vicious animals.

“The city opted for this control method rather than a ban on specific breeds because research shows the problem more influenced by owner negligence then breed,” the web site reads.

In a written statement, Reid said there are no plans to change the rules.

“The city takes seriously the safety of its dog parks for both pets and humans,” he wrote.

“Westminster has adopted rules designed to control dangerous and vicious animals in the city. The city opted for this control method rather than a ban on specific breeds because research shows the problem is more influenced by owner negligence than breed.”

But Flanagan discounts that, saying there is nothing redeeming in the pit bull breed.

“If you are attacked and are killed in a dog attack, there is a two-thirds chance it’s going to be a pit bull,” Flanagan said.

“That is what the breed is made to do, nothing else.”


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