In October 2013, West Deptford Patch brought you the story of an animal attack in the Oakview section of town, in which resident Megan Vedder was allegedly bitten by a pit bull belonging to her neighbor, Earl Breslin.
As that case heads back to court this week, Breslin said he doesn’t expect to be able to retain ownership of his dog—but he does believe he is fighting for its life.
Complicating the issue, Breslin said, is the deteriorating relationship between his family and the Vedders (“We were good neighbors”), as well as a number of details he said were misrepresented in the original reports from West Deptford Patch.
For starters, Breslin said, his dog’s name was Rambo, but the family changed it to Bobo after taking ownership of the animal in August.
During the two months before the incident, Breslin said Bobo had interacted with his 13-year-old dog, Brownie, and kitten, Casper, without any problems.
Secondly, Breslin said, Bobo is an American bulldog, not a pit bull. Moreover, to the permanently disabled father of three, Bobo was “the closest thing I ever had to a working dog.
“He would get me out of bed every morning, the whole bit,” Breslin said. “That’s the hardest thing in the world for me. He would sleep in my bathroom at night; sometimes he would sleep in bed.”
Breslin also claims that the photographs published by West Deptford Patch of a broken fence along his shared property line depict a hole made not by the dog, but by his friend, Steve Willadsen, who helped during the incident.
“Steve is the one who ran up and got the dog off,” Breslin said. “He’s the one who broke through that fence.”
Since the alleged attack, Breslin says he’s received death threats on social media, has been accused of harassment when he tried to discuss the incident with the Vedders, and claims he’s faced an uphill battle trying to present his side of the story to investigating authorities.
“My insurance company will never let me bring the dog back, and that’s long before I decided anyway that I was never going to put Megan [Vedder] through that,” Breslin said.
“All I’m trying to do is save the dog’s life.”
'Up to the judge'
Breslin claims that Gloucester County Animal Control Officer
Kim Franks, who is investigating the case, “will only speak to the victim and
her attorney.” He even claims that Franks told him once that Bobo will
certainly be destroyed.
“You know there’s no way this dog’s gonna live, right?” Breslin claims she told him. “I said ‘I thought the prosecutor had to prove this dog was vicious.’
“This is the dog’s first dog bite ever,” he said. “Never bitten anybody.”
Instead, Breslin alleges that Franks offered to label the dog “potentially dangerous” instead of vicious, which would still set specific—and costly—conditions on his ownership of the dog.
Chris Tisdale, Weekend Supervisor at Gloucester County Animal Control, said he was unable to comment on any specifics of the case, which is still in litigation. But he did object to Breslin’s account of Franks’ remarks.
“Our officers would never, ever say anything like that because it’s not up to us,” Tisdale said.
“Cases like this, it’s left up to the judge," he said. "There’s no personal opinion or anything like that given out.”
Tisdale said that there is “always a possibility” that an animal may be ordered euthanized—but that such an outcome has never happened in the history of Gloucester County animal control cases.
“There’s always options, especially with a potentially dangerous dog case,” he said. “If a dog is being vicious, it’s automatically put to sleep. Potentially dangerous is different.”
Tisdale also pointed out that authorities and pet owners can, and frequently do, make alternative arrangements to avoid taking a case to trial.
“Our focus is two-pronged,” he said. “We’re animal-focused; we have to make sure pets are safe and secure.
"We also have to make sure the community is safe and secure," he said. "Work with us; we can work within the courts and get something set down in writing.
"We love animals," he said. "We don’t want to take people’s animals away.”
Accoring to Tisdale, a dog that is deemed "potentially dangerous" must be licensed annually at a cost of $250-750, depending upon municipal statute. Such dogs must also be kept in special pens and muzzled at all times when outside of the home.
He further balked the notion that Animal Control officers are free to seize and destroy a household pet, as Breslin feared would be done to his dog if he were able to bring Bobo home again.
“The only way an animal control officer can remove a pet from a home is through a court order,” Tisdale said.
“Animal control officers do not have the right to trample constitutional rights.”
Breslin said his case is headed back to court January 7.