A Bay City man facing three misdemeanors after his pit bull allegedly attacked his neighbor has turned down a plea offer in favor of heading to trial.
Brandon J. Hellebuyck, 30, is charged with single counts of having a stray dog, having an unlicensed dog and having a dog showing vicious tendencies, all of which are punishable by up to 90 days in jail. The prosecution offered to dismiss the unlicensed dog count if he pleaded guilty or no contest to the other two charges and got proper licensing for the dog in question. The offer also stipulated that Hellebuyck would have to pay $4,474.80 in restitution, but the prosecution would agree not to seek any incarceration time.
Hellebuyck on Monday, Aug. 4, rejected the offer. He is now slated to face trial before Bay County Chief District Judge Timothy J. Kelly on Thursday, Oct. 23, with an alternate date of Thursday, Nov. 20.
The last charge states that Hellebuyck “did permit or allow an animal, to wit, a dog, to show vicious tendencies or molest passersby or neighbors when such persons are lawfully on the public highways or right-of-ways or on their own property.”
According to court records, the dog was involved in an incident on April 8 at or near Hellebuyck’s home in the 900 block of Polk Street in the Bay City’s South End.
His neighbor, Denise D. VanWert, told The Times days after the incident that she was having problems with Hellebuyck’s dog, a female named Roxy, coming into her yard. She said the dog on April 8 attacked her and bit her upper lip and nose, rendering an injury that required stitches to mend.
Bay County Animal Control officers started an investigation thereafter and Roxy was quarantined at Hellebuyck’s home for 10 days, according to Bay County Animal Control Director Mike Halstead. Such an action is common when an animal draws blood from a person.
Interviewed by The Times, Hellebuyck gave a different account of how VanWert incurred her wounds. He said that on April 8, he and four children — his and his fiancee’s — were getting ready to take Roxy outside for a walk, and one of the kids was holding a leash tethered to Roxy.
Roxy, excited for the walk, darted outside and ran into VanWert’s yard, Hellebuyck said. He called Roxy back to his yard and the dog obeyed, he said.
VanWert then walked into Hellbuyck’s yard and the neighbors exchanged words, Hellebuyck said. At some point, Roxy jumped up and struck VanWert in the face.
“From what it looked like to me, she either head-butted Denise or maybe pawed her,” Hellebuyck said. “I didn’t see her actually open her mouth and bite her.”
Hellebuyck said Roxy is 2 1/2 years old and he’s had her since she was 6 months old.
Hellebuyck said no other neighbors have complained about having issues with Roxy and denied allegations that she is in any way vicious.
Bay County Prosecutor Kurt C. Asbury, however, has said the investigation report submitted to his office supported criminal charges. He also said the April 8 run-in with VanWert was not an isolated incident.
“There has been an ongoing problem with this gentleman and his dog,” Asbury has said. “This wasn’t the first time the dog has asserted itself against (VanWert) or her family.”
Since the charges against Hellebuyck were filed, The Times has been unable to reach VanWert for comment. A previously used phone number is disconnected and her residence has a mortgage foreclosure notice on the front door.