Jessica Mathews /

No further charges will be filed against the owner of an aggressive dog involved in a fatal attack in the Village of Fowlerville – and the owner of the small dog that was killed says something needs to change with the system as there were multiple complaints involving the same dog.

Leticia Spagnuolo’s 4 ½ year-old Yorkie named Pearl was attacked on Saturday of Memorial Day weekend by a roughly 100-pound bull mastiff mix dog that had jumped a fence with another dog.

After multiple surgeries, Pearl passed away that Monday. Since then, Spagnuolo tells WHMI people have been coming out of the woodwork and contacting her about their experiences with the dogs. The one responsible for Pearl’s death was surrendered and put down the week after the attack.

She and two other people attended last week’s Village Council meeting to share their stories of attacks, near attacks and being chased. She says the dogs have been a menace for a long time, even before the pandemic. Spagnuolo had a tear mark on her hand from trying to get the dog off Pearl and also has $10,000 worth of vet bills for Pearl that she says will probably never get reimbursed for.

Spagnuolo says thankfully Animal Control and police were able to get the owner to surrender the dog but questions why something wasn’t done sooner and it’s amazing no one has been killed.

Spagnuolo had wanted to pursue a trespassing charge against the owner, as she had tied up the aggressive dog after the attack so it couldn’t hurt anyone else but the owner came and took it away against her objections.

The owner was cited by Animal Control but the Livingston County Prosecutor’s Office recently denied the trespassing charge. Spagnuolo said the owner was cited by Animal Control and paid fines for allowing a dog to attack or bite a person, having a dog at large, and failure to obtain a dog license. However, she says the family still has two other dogs that have also been aggressive toward people on the block, which is right in the middle of town.

Dave Szuran was attacked by the same dog a little over a year ago while walking with his wife and 2-year-old twins in the same area of Power Street and reached out to WHMI after hearing the news about Pearl’s attack – saying none of these incidents should have happened and problems should have been taken care of.

Szuran says the dog was across the street when it turned around and started running toward him – saying he thought the dog was playing for a second but then quickly realized it was not. He says the dog jumped up and tried to bite him in the face but he was able to block him and the dog latched onto his left wrist and wouldn’t let go. Szuran noted he’s also a bigger guy at 240 pounds but could not get his arm out of the dog’s mouth.

Szuran said he initially thought his wrist was broken and had 3-4 puncture wounds. He went to the ER and couldn’t use his hand for 3-4 weeks and ended up spending $1,000 in hospital bills out of pocket. He also had lingering issues with his arm, which already had plates and screws in it, and he wasn’t sure if the dog ripped something loose so that resulted in more doctor visits.

Szuran noted he’s been around dogs his entire life and has dogs but was shocked by the force of which the dog had his arm, likening it to a vice. He said he couldn’t believe what was happening and there was “definitely something wrong with that dog and it had a screw loose”.

Szuran said his wife used to walk their kids daily but stopped for a few months after the attack because she was terrified from having watched it all happen with their children. He said he looked into prosecuting but was told it probably wasn’t worth the time and gave statements to police but never heard anything further. He said Animal Control and police kept pinning things on each other, so he doesn’t know if any investigation ever really occurred.

Once he heard about Pearl’s story, Szuran said it was “infuriating and like a slap in the face to his family” considering he was attacked by the same dog while walking on a sidewalk with his family and it cost them $1,000 at a time when they didn’t need to spend that on going to the hospital for something out of their control.

Szuran reached out to Spagnuolo after the incident but also cited other instances from people, including employees from a nearby business who are afraid to go out outside and leave work because the dog would be loose in their parking lot.

Szuran said it’s all very strange because this is right downtown with parks nearby and the area gets a ton of foot traffic – adding there’s also a bus stop at the corner where he got attacked and multiple kids wait for the bus. He said the dogs have been running all over town and it’s lucky it was him and not a kid who was attacked because five minutes after it happened, a woman was walking a six-month-old in a stroller and it could have easily been her.

Spagnuolo has since launched a petition at entitled “Justice for Pearl” to try and change the animal laws in Michigan, which she says are extremely antiquated and from the early 1900’s.

Spagnuolo said the police and Animal Control indicated their hands are somewhat tied in these types of cases but it seems like something fell through the cracks based on all of the horror stories she’s heard about these dogs and doesn’t understand “why the dots weren’t connected”.

Spagnuolo said laws need to change so something like this doesn’t happen to anyone else but also to give law enforcement and Animal Control more authority to actually take care of nuisance animals - adding things especially need to change if laws are preventing them from impounding dangerous dogs.

A link to the petition is provided. As of late Wednesday, 272 people had signed it.