Neighbors split over pit bull's fate after owner's mother dies - | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

Neighbors split over pit bull's fate; owner's mother dies after being bitten

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(WRCB) - Neighbors say several pit bulldogs stand watch behind wire fences and warning signs over the houses of Jerry Harrison, Sr., and other members of his family, where Second Street NE meets Polk County Avenue in Cleveland.

Until December 18, one of those family members was Harrison's mother, 84-year-old Mable Harrison McCallister.

"It was just a tragic accident," neighbor Sherry Gamble says.

"She (McCallister) wasn't feeling well, went walking up to see her son and her grandson, and forgot that the dog was there."

Gamble says the dog in question belongs to Harrison's son, McCallister's grandson, Jerry Harrison, Jr.

"She was bit in her face and neck," Cleveland Police Ofc. Evie West says.

Privacy laws prevent Eyewitness News from examining the medical records to determine the extent of her injuries. But they were serious enough to put Ms. McCallister in Erlanger hospital's trauma unit for more than four days, according to Bradley County Medical Examiner Dr. Jeffrey Miller.

Those same privacy laws also are denying Eyewitness News access to records that could indicate why Ms. McCallister died in hospice care New Year's Eve. Did she succumb to complications that developed from the dog bites? Or from a previous medical condition?

"We became aware of the dog attack only after Ms. McCallister was brought to Erlanger," Ofc. West says. "Neither we nor Animal Control got a call when she was injured."

The dog has remained with the Harrisons since the attack.

Tennessee law allows such 'house-arrests', provided owners agree to keep them inside their homes during the ten-day quarantine period, Ofc. West says. They must allow Animal Control and Health Department inspectors to check on the dog periodically, and submit proof that the dog has been vaccinated for rabies.

"If it complies with those plans and procedures, it can stay with the owner," Ofc. West says.

"Even if the bite was serious enough to put somebody in the hospital," we ask.

"That's correct," Ofc. West answers.

"I think the dog oughta be killed, no questions asked,' neighbor Addie Shelton says.

Shelton shares the concerns of Gamble's son Blake, 14.

"They should put it down," Blake Gamble says. "If it hurt one person, you don't know what it's gonna do next."

"He's got a tight bond with Mable," Blake's mother, Sherry says. "She was like a grandmother to him."

Sherry Gamble says she has no worries for her safety, or for her two sons in a neighborhood full of pit bulls and other large dogs.

"I think people should just leave them (the Harrisons and their dogs) alone, you know. Let them be a grieving family, and stop all the hatefulness going on."

Services for Mable McCallister are set for Wednesday. Plans call for her body to be cremated, according to the directors of Jim Rush Funeral Home.

But Bradley County's Medical Examiner may hold off on signing the authorization without further review.

"The time frames and other issues raise questions," Dr. Miller says.

"I'm hoping that the Animal Control reports and medical records will answer them."

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