PITTSFIELD -- The owners of three pit bulls implicated in the injury of a 9-year-old boy say they feel terrible about the attack, which they characterize as "an unfortunate accident."
"[Perrin Petell] is a wonderful, wonderful little boy," said Lori Rohde, speaking out Friday for the first time since the attack. "First and foremost, I want to say that he's in my thoughts and prayers every day."
However, Rohde and Adam Pollack, the owners of the three American Staffordshire terriers, disagree with Police Chief Michael J. Wynn's decision to declare all the dogs "vicious," ordering that they be "restrained, removed or disposed of as necessary."
They say only one of the dogs, 2-year-old Diablo, is responsible for the attack. Rohde said she and Pollack understand Diablo has to go, but that her other two dogs, Cleopatra and Zeus, are sweet, well-mannered animals -- claims staff at the animal shelter currently housing the dogs backed up on Friday.
The couple has appealed the police chief's order to have Cleopatra and Zeus put down. A hearing before a clerk magistrate is set for Thursday.
All three dogs have been held at the Eleanor Sonsini Animal Shelter since the June 11 attack. According to police, the dogs attacked Perrin Petell when he and his mother, Jessyca, came home and opened the door to the common hallway of the multi-family home they lived in with Rohde and Pollack. The Petells have since moved.
Police said the dogs burst out, attacking the boy, who suffered bite wounds totaling 35 tooth punctures and lost part of his scalp.
Rohde and Pollack, sharing their side of the story, said they were walking down the stairs from their upstairs apartment with the dogs leashed and walking in front of them. They said they were almost to the door when Jessyca Petell, who they said could see the dogs through the window, "flung open" the door, spooking the dogs, who broke away.
"[Diablo] was scared and did what a dog does, and that was to protect his home and his family," said Rohde. "Unfor tunately, Perrin was the subject of that protection.
"There was nothing we could do. [Both parties] are to blame; unfortunately, I have to lose my dog and unfortunately Perrin has to go through life traumatized. It's a no-win situation."
According to police, one witness said two dogs were involved in the attack and another witness said all three were involved. Rohde and Pollack maintain that, while all three dogs got out, only Diablo was to blame for the attack.
Rohde said Perrin has played with all the dogs before, and she and Pollack said none of their dogs has never so much as nipped at a human before.
"My dog that did the biting will pay with his life, which is unfortunate, but I believe that is the right thing to do. My other two dogs weren't involved at all, and I'm hoping I'm allowed to have them because I love them more than anything," Rohde said.
Saying they've received threats since the incident, Rohde and Pollack maintain they're not negligent dog owners. The couple has visited the three dogs at the shelter daily, spending as much time as possible with them.
Tricia Dehart, the adoption center manager, said she's only interacted with Cleo patra, a 4-year-old mother who gave birth to a litter shortly after being impounded. She said she hasn't had any issues with the dog.
"I've seen nothing from her that makes me nervous," she said.
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