Three days after a 7-year-old boy was killed by a dog, Dodge County Sheriff Pat Ninmann is continuing to refuse to release details of what she has called a “tragic incident.”
Logan T. Meyer was “severely bitten” by a Rottweiler about 5:20 p.m. Friday, according to an updated press release issued by Ninmann late Monday morning. The release also indicated the dog was owned by the family.
“At this time, further names, addresses, and any additional information in regards to the nature of the incident and the animal will not be released out of respect to the family,” Ninmann said in the release.
Ninmann also noted in the release that the family had no interest in speaking to the media and she went on to say “the Sheriff’s Office would like to express our sincere sympathies to the family in regards to this terribly tragic incident. Sheriff Ninmann asks that you keep the family in your thoughts and prayers.”
The Reporter asked Ninmann several questions about the incident, including its location, what happened and the name of the family. She declined to release those details, claiming the incident is “under investigation.”
Over the weekend, Dodge County Sheriff’s Office Lt. Brian Loos told media the sheriff’s office does not anticipate filing criminal charges. So it is unclear at this time what is under investigation.
Ninmann said she had weighed the release of information against the public’s right to know and the public’s right to know did not outweigh withholding information.
In a written statement emailed to The Reporter, Ninmann said,
“Pursuant to s. 19.35 (1)(a), Wis. Stats., a balancing test will be conducted, by the custodian of the record, when statute nor case law absolutely requires release of a record(s). Application of the balancing test must include the weighing of competing interests involved and determine whether the public interest in disclosure is outweighed by public interest favoring non-disclosure.
“Elements of our record are currently being withheld after current review and application of this balancing test. The benefit to public at large is currently outweighed by potential emotional impact to those citizens involved if certain aspects of the record is [sic] released at this time.
“Further, this is, at this time, an open and on-going law enforcement investigation. We will withhold those elements of record that, if released, could negatively impact any future witness statements or gathering of evidentiary information.”
Ninmann declined to comment when asked how release of the address of the incident or the family’s name/occupation would negatively impact the investigation.
Online records indicate the family recently moved to the area to open a “dog protection” business called Platinum K9 Protection.
Magon Tomasiewicz, who identifies herself as Logan Meyer’s aunt, created an online donation option through gofundme.com to assist the family. She set a goal of $20,000 and there was more than $6,000 pledged by Monday morning.
“Words cannot express how loved this little boy was and how much he will be missed by his parents: Tiffany Smith, Rob Meyer and Jessie Smith; and his siblings: Jordan, Izzy Jr. and Halee; as well as all his extended family,” she said.
Tomasiewicz noted that her brother and his wife recently moved and started their own business and were in between insurance. She thanked people in advance for financial contributions, saying it will help her family “worry about one less thing.”
The site includes a photo of a boy, presumably Logan, and the same boy in what appears to be a family photo: mother, father and two siblings.
The family photo shows them in front of a business listed as Platinum K9 Protection on Highway 67 in Iron Ridge. The company Facebook page opened Oct. 14.
Jessie Smith is listed as the owner of Platinum K9 Protection since Oct. 12. His Facebook biography lists him as a former Dougherty County, Georgia, police officer and a U.S. Army veteran.
While Sgt. Dale Schmidt would not comment on the dog bite incident, the sheriff-elect said roadblocks with the media will be lifted when he officially takes office in January. Schmidt defeated Ninmann by a margin of 300 votes in the Republican primary election in August. However, Ninmann has launched a write-in campaign for Nov. 4.
“The employees here are aware of (Ninmann’s withholding of information),” said Schmidt. “(Former Sheriff Todd Nehls) had a very good relationship in working with the media, and I plan to go back to doing some of the same things he did when he ran the sheriff’s office.”
Schmidt said he would not restrict the flow of information.
“I’m not going to restrict media releases to be issued just through me,” Schmidt said. “While the information will come out as I see fit, it will be released as soon as possible. But honestly, we’ve never seen anything quite like this.”
This isn’t the first fatal dog attack in Dodge County in recent years. In 2010, a 4-year-old girl was killed in the town of Hubbard when she was attacked by a boxer. Information on that incident was released by then-Sheriff Todd Nehls.
Ninmann also refused to release details when a child was severely injured in a lawn mower incident in Theresa earlier this year.
Certified professional dog trainer Jake Guell of Lomira said he is interested in learning what transpired before the fatal attack. Without the information, it is hard to tell what went wrong, he said.
“The biggest thing I would say, is usually dogs aren’t unprovoked,” Guell said, adding it is likely there was a missed communication between dog and human.
Guell said a dog may perceive a person, a child in particular, as threat or as prey. Previous warning signs often are missed by families. Growling is common and a tell-tale sign of stress but “displacement behaviors” in dogs may include tongue flicking, excessive yawning, excessive scratching or tightening the corners of the mouth.
“(Tongue flicking) doesn’t mean they’re hungry, it means they’re stressed,” he said.
A dog who doesn’t get results from warning behaviors, may go to the “next level” of behavior that could include biting.
“Once a dog learns what works, they will rehearse it,” Guell said. “If a threat goes away, and a warning sign didn’t work, they will use (a behavior) that worked.”
Guell said it will be very important to learn what the child was doing, what the dog was doing and what the environment was like before the attack.
“(Rottweilers are) powerful and have one of the strongest psi (pounds per square inch) of bite pressure (of dog breeds),” Guell said. “They are strong and bred to protect. A lot of them now are being bred to be companions. (But) any dog can be provoked.”
Peggy Breister, Colleen Kottke and Laurie Ritger contributed to this story.