Story by Megan Boatwright
Eyewitness News Reporter

CLEVELAND, TN. (WRCB)-- A 10-year-old Cleveland girl says she still has nightmares after neighborhood dogs attacked and mauled her, just before Christmas.

The dogs' owner was cited for ‘dog at large', but the girl's mother says that's not enough.

She wants the dogs out of her neighborhood.

The dogs' owner admits his dogs attacked the girl, but he was never cited under Cleveland's vicious dog ordinance.

"Kirsten had to have 14 stitches on the outside of her cheek and we're not sure how many inside. I asked the doctor but he didn't count," says Sharon Tibbetts.

The police report states 10-year-old Kirsten Tibbetts was walking home from school on December 7th when two mixed-breed dogs from an area home attacked her.

One knocked her over and the other bit her in the face. The owner told police the dogs somehow got out of their fenced backyard.

"I have nightmares and I'm afraid that they're going to break into our house and look around and then they'll find me and bite me again," says Kirsten.

"At the very least, I'd like the dogs removed from the neighborhood so my children feel safe and can sleep without having nightmares," says Sharon.

Officers didn't cite the dogs' owners, even though the city of Cleveland has a vicious dog ordinance.

Karen Walsh with the McKamey Animal Shelter says if the same attack had happened in Chattanooga, the dogs would have been charged as potentially dangerous, immediately.

"One of the difficulties in animal control in a lot of small communities and a lot of states is that all of those things aren't defined," says Walsh, Director of McKamey Animal Shelter.

The Cleveland ordinance only says it's unlawful for any person to own or keep any dog known to be vicious, unless it is confined or restrained.

The word vicious isn't defined.

Animal control officials told Eyewitness News a citation was not issued because the dog has no other bite history and they didn't appear vicious while officers were on the scene.

"That's why we're lucky in Chattanooga to have ordinances that have a lot of definition to them, so it's easier to work within the constraints of the ordinance," says Walsh.

In Cleveland, even if the dog had been cited as vicious, officers couldn't take possession without a court order.

Kirsten says she wants to make sure what happened to her doesn't happen to someone else.

"They could get somebody else and somebody in my family and I don't want that to happen again," says Kirsten.

The dog owner wasn't home when we visited the house Monday and didn't return any calls.

According to animal control, Tibbetts' only option is to request the owner be cited under the vicious ordinance and take the matter to court.

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