Nearly a year after her son was mauled to death, Atlanta resident Angelica Braatz sued the Fulton County animal control provider, saying it did not do enough to curtail a pack of vicious dogs that had been seen in the area.
Braatz’s son, Logan, 6, was walking to his bus stop with other children and adults the morning of Jan. 17, 2017, when a pack of dogs approached the group, according to a lawsuit filed last month against LifeLine Animal Project in DeKalb County state court.
Adults wielding sticks and bats tried to keep the dogs away, the suit said, and children ran for safety. But some were attacked, including Logan, who was killed, and 5-year-old Syrai Sanders, who lost an ear and whose scalp was torn from her head.
Joshua Stein, an attorney representing Braatz, said there had been a “tremendous problem” with loose dogs in the neighborhood.
In the suit, Braatz said the dogs that killed her son had been the subject of many calls to animal control, and had been an “ongoing nuisance” in her Southwest Atlanta neighborhood, where they damaged property, injured animals and attacked other residents.
Residents had long ago decided that calling LifeLine to report stray dogs was a “useless endeavor,” the suit said, because the company was negligent: it failed to answer calls and respond to requests, did not have a working answering service and did not properly patrol the southwest part of Atlanta.
“These neighbors called because they were afraid for their safety, concerned about the threats posed to their neighborhood, and impacted by the ongoing nuisance of dangerous dogs roaming free,” the suit said.
The suit claims that LifeLine failed to properly respond to requests to capture the loose dogs.
“It was LifeLine’s responsibility and duty to protect Southwest Atlanta citizens, like Logan, from loose animals and dogs and roaming vicious and dangerous dogs,” the suit said. “It was LifeLine’s responsibility to create a safe environment.”
The company, which contracts with Fulton County to provide animal control services, failed to properly train and supervise its employees, the suit said. It also said LifeLine improperly focused its attention on the north side of the county when it knew of issues in the Braatz’ neighborhood.
Stein said LifeLine did not uphold the duties of its contract. When confronted with the issues described in the suit, LifeLine “rejected our offers” to resolve the issues quietly, Stein said in a statement.
David Zagoria, who represents the Sanders family, said he plans to file suit against LifeLine next week.
“They failed this neighborhood,” he said. “This neighborhood was essentially neglected and ignored.”
LifeLine did not respond to a phone call seeking comment.
Braatz is seeking compensation for Logan’s medical and funeral expenses, as well as the value of Logan’s life, his pain and suffering and punitive damages.
“It’s a very public death of a 6-year-old child, mauled to death by pit bulls in front of his family, friends and neighbors,” Stein said. “Their intentions were to be sure this thing wouldn’t happen again to anybody else.”
Since Logan’s death, Fulton County and Atlanta agreed to add two more animal control officers who would focus only on the city, raising the total to nine, and to expand their hours to include the early morning, when children are waiting at bus stops.
Animal control is funded by the cities, but coordinated through the county. With the new hires, there will be 16 animal control officers countywide.
Response zones will also be reconfigured to be smaller, and focused in the city. Previously, Atlanta was divided into two zones that included areas outside the city limits.
Fulton County cities are also discussing the possibility of expanding service levels in specific cities, or throughout the county.
Fulton County’s animal control gets about 26,000 calls a year, with more than 60 percent of them coming from Atlanta. Officers prioritize animal bites, and get about 270 such calls a year. Calls from fire and police departments, as well as injured animals, are also considered high priorities. Loose dogs are not.