Latest dog attack angers families, leaders in southwest Atlanta

Less than 24 hours after the funeral for a 6-year-old boy attacked by dogs, another man was attacked in the same southwest Atlanta neighborhood.

A Chappell Road resident shot one of two dogs as it mauled the man early Monday, possibly saving the victim’s life. When officers arrived, John Lee Billups was unconscious, with severe lacerations to his arms and face, according to police. Billups, 48, was rushed to Grady Memorial Hospital while investigators searched for the dogs, described as pit-bull mixes, and their owners. One dog was captured, but the owner had not been located Tuesday, police said.

The latest attack happened six days after kindergarten student Logan Braatz was killed as he walked to his school bus stop. A 5-year-old schoolmate was seriously injured and will spend weeks in the hospital, her family has said.

John Lee Billups survived his attack and remained at Grady late Tuesday. But all three attacks could have been prevented, according to the families and animal experts.

“The Braatz family is shocked, appalled and saddened this has already happened again,” a family statement released Tuesday said. “We have our worries that something bigger is at play with dogs in this area.”

‘It’s very frightening and unsettling’

The three dogs that approached children Jan. 17 on Gideons Drive were loose and owners were not present, police have said. During the initial investigation, officers determined that Cameron Tucker owned two of the dogs, and he was arrested and charged with involuntary manslaughter and reckless conduct.

Three days later, dogs were again seen wandering in the same area. By the time animal control officers arrived, only one dog was captured. But that dog had also been present when the two children were attacked, according to a witness.

“It’s very frightening and unsettling that there’s still a dog around this neighborhood that killed a child,” Atlanta City Councilwoman Keisha Lance Bottoms said Friday.

Bottoms had planned to visit Logan’s family last week when she saw a different large dog.

“It took Fulton County over an hour to get here, but they have 15 animal control officers for 15 cities in Fulton County,” Bottoms said. “So it’s no wonder that they couldn’t get here quickly.”

On Tuesday, the recent dog attacks were discussed for more than an hour at a regular meeting of the Atlanta City Council’s Public Safety Committee. Any recommendations from the committee will likely be taken up at the Feb. 6 City Council meeting.

The conversations are needed to spark changes after the horrific dog attacks, Logan’s family said. But some legal experts contend that laws are already in place — they just aren’t being enforced.

‘We need to hold people responsible’

Attorney Claudine Wilkins, co-founder of Animal Law Source, said Georgia’s Responsible Dog Ownership law, signed into law in 2012, was written in response to previous dog attacks. Wilkins wrote the law, which classifies dogs as dangerous or vicious based on past behavior, and stipulates the steps owners must take.

A dog considered dangerous “must not leave property unless on a leash not to exceed 6 feet and under the immediate physical control of a person capable of preventing the dog from engaging any other human or animal when necessary, or in a locked cage or crate,” a portion of the law reads.

Counties may have additional laws protecting citizens and owners, but Wilkins said laws are either are not enforced or understood by dog owners, law enforcement and judges. Wilkins and fellow attorney Jessica Rock hold conferences to educate communities about the laws. The goal of educating the public is simple: prevent further deaths or serious injuries from dogs.

“What I hope people will wake up and realize is that being a responsible dog owner is so very important,” Rock said. “We need to hold people responsible for being irresponsible owners. Being responsible owners means keeping your animals in a secure location.”

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