Nev. Dangerous Dog Owner Must Insure It for $50K

June 21, 2010

A judge has ordered a man convicted of harboring a dangerous dog to take out a $50,000 insurance policy on the boxer mix named Astro if he doesn’t want it euthanized after it attacked a woman and killed one of her small dogs.

Sparks Justice Court Pro Tem Judge Gail Holderer also ordered Eric Wagner, 44, to build a special enclosure and post warning signs about his dog.

Kristi Empey, of Sparks, had two surgeries to repair bite wounds on her arm from the February attack in her neighborhood. Her Pomeranian was killed and her dachshund suffered a punctured lung. A bystander who heard her screams and tried to intervene also was bitten.

Empey said the attack left her physically and psychologically damaged and that she is afraid to walk her dogs.

Wagner’s attorney, Don Evans, said he is considering appealing the decision, which he called one of the worst he’d seen in 30 years. He said Astro had no history of aggression.

“The evidence was overwhelming he was not vicious. There was one bad incident where he attacked a dog,” Evans said.

Washoe Deputy District Attorney Jennifer Noble said the dangerous dog assessment against Astro is the only way to protect the community. She said if Wagner does not comply with the order within 60 days, Astro could be euthanized.

Wagner testified that he had no explanation for his dog’s behavior that day. He said children, including his own, long have played with the dog without any incidents.

Empey said she had been walking her Pomeranian, Foxy, and her dachshund, Daisy, on Feb. 11 when a neighborhood child opened the gate to the backyard where Astro was kept. As Astro barreled toward Empey and her dogs, she scooped up Foxy but Astro bit her arm trying to get at the miniature animal.

Noble said Astro remains in the custody of Washoe County animal services until Wagner meets the requirements for getting him back.

Evans said Wagner hasn’t decided what to do because keeping Astro will be expensive.

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