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Parker Family Says Dog Isn't Vicious

January 9, 2012, 5:06 PM by Brady Mallory

Parker Family Says Dog Isn't Vicious
PARKER, SD - There is a dispute brewing in Parker over whether a dog that chased a meter reader from a home is a threat.

The couple who owns the dog says she is part of the family and they're surprised that a judge has ruled that their pet is vicious.

Tim Verhey says his mastiff was named after a Roman goddess.

"Vesta, which means the protector of home and hearth," Verhey said.

But a city employee says the dog was more than just protecting the Verheys' home. Eric Nelson was posting electrical bill notices on homes. He says when he got to the Verheys, Vesta was barking at him through the door. As he was walking away, the dog got out, followed him and continued to bark and circle him.

Monday in the Turner County Courthouse, Nelson said the dog didn't bite him and went back to Verhey when he called her.

A dog behaviorist evaluated Vesta and says if she was truly vicious, she would have done more than just bark.

"It wouldn't have paid any attention to the owner. It would've attacked and bit the pant leg or any physical part of the person," dog behaviorist Tom Gunlicks said.

Gunlicks has worked with hundreds of dogs and has evaluated some in the past as a threat. Even though he says Vesta is a loveable mutt, a city ordinance says different. The ordinance states any animal that chases or approaches a person on sidewalks, streets, private or public property is vicious. Now the Verheys have to pay a $120 fine.

"They need to change that part of the law because the dog just running out to protect its property, they shouldn't have to pay a fine," Gunlicks said.

" I'd love for the ordinance to be re-worked because it could include a cat that approaches you and hisses at you," Verhey said.

A Parker city worker who was with Nelson says he has had problems with this dog barking at him before and has felt threatened. However, neither he nor anyone else has ever reported the dog as a problem.

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