The daughter whose pit bull attacked and killed her 59-year-old mother at their Madison Twp. home Monday afternoon told this newspaper that she remains unsure if she wants the dog back.
Cindy Whisman, 59, of 4743 Eck Road, was found dead by Butler County Sheriff’s deputies around 1:10 p.m. Monday, the victim of a vicious attack by the family’s pet. Whisman was in the back yard of her ranch-style home with her grandson when Polo, her daughter’s pit bull, attacked and bit her multiple times in the face, neck and body.
A neighbor who witnessed the attack placed a frantic 911 call in which she told dispatchers: “Hurry! My neighbor’s dog is biting her … It’s a pit bull, she’s all bloody.”
Polo is being confined at the Animal Friends Humane Society, awaiting the outcome of an investigation by sheriff’s office detectives. Family members do have the option to get ownership of the dog back, pending a court hearing and an order by a judge, according to Kurt Merbs, assistant Butler County Dog Warden Supervisor. If they opt to not keep the dog, it will be euthanized after the investigation is complete.
Julie Whisman, Cindy’s daughter and the dog’s owner, said she didn’t want the dog she had raised from a puppy back immediately following Monday’s attack. But on Tuesday, Whisman seemed to back off that stance slightly, saying she wants to see the results of the investigation to better understand what happened before making a determination about Polo’s fate.
She said after thinking about the situation for 24 hours, she is “indecisive.”
“I spoke out of anger,” Julie Whisman said of her initial reaction. “I don’t want to make a decision out of anger.”
Cindy Whisman was a “sweet woman who loved music,” her daughter said Tuesday.
Julie Whisman and her son Marcus, who will be 2 years old Friday, had just moved in with her mother and father in the past two months. Despite that, she said her mother had known the dog for years. Polo had never shown any signs of aggression with her son or anyone else, Julie Whisman said.
Butler County Coroner Dr. Lisa Mannix ruled Whisman’s death accidental from a dog bite following an autopsy Tuesday morning.
A neighbor called 911 frantically screaming for help and breathlessly trying to tell dispatchers about the attack.
Julie Whisman said that woman, a neighbor, told her the dog, her mother and the toddler were playing in the yard and “she said it looked like they weren’t playing any more and called 911.”
The neighbor decline comment when reporters knocked on the door Tuesday morning.
Merbs said because of the dog’s history of violence, the county would opposed the dog being returned to the owner.
Polo is believed to be a pit bull mix, but the dog’s behavior is what moves him into the vicious category, according to Merbs.
“We would proceed the same in any case in which a dog had killed someone, not matter what the breed,” Merbs said.
Monday’s dog attack marks the fourth serious dog mauling — and third fatality — to happen in southwest Ohio this year. It is the first fatal dog attack in Butler County since 1998, according to sheriff’s officials.
Meg Stephenson, executive director of Animal Friends Humane Society, said she does not support a ban of pit bulls in Butler County, but said there should be harsher penalties against owners of pit bulls if their dogs attack and harm other dogs or people.
Butler County Sheriff Richard Jones, who is the county’s dog warden, said some municipalities have bans on pit bull breeds for a reason.
“It (county’s current laws) need to be looked at very seriously,” Jones said. The current law in all areas of the county, except Fairfield, is not breed specific, but takes in the prior behavior of the dog. Fairfield has banned pit bull breeds from the city for years.
“I myself wouldn’t own one,” Jones said, adding he does have two small dogs. “It’s true any dog will growl and snarl and bite, but you don’t see too many people killed by a Chihuahua.”
According to Butler County dog license records, which requires breeds to be listed, 694 pit bulls are registered in the county. None were listed at Whisman’s address.
Merbs said the red-and-white colored dog had blood on its chest when deputies arrived and was “very aggressive” as attempts were made to remove it from the home A second dog — a black Labrador Retriever — was also removed from the home as a safety precaution, Merbs said.
Sgt. Melissa Gerhardt, of the sheriff’s office, said Whisman’s husband was home at the time of the attack, but he told investigators that he did not hear any screams. Detectives said the woman suffered injuries to her face, neck, body and hands.
Detectives are continuing to investigate the incident, but on Tuesday it was still unclear what caused the dog to attack.