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Article updated: 11/20/2012 5:12 PM

No decision on fate of dog in fatal Big Rock attack

By Harry Hitzeman

A week has passed since Kane County Sheriff's Office officials said a large mastiff was responsible for fatally attacking its owner, and it is still unclear what will happen to the dog.

Dawn Brown, a 44-year-old firefighter, was found dead in her Big Rock home Nov. 12, and officials said two days later she died from injuries from a large mastiff, which was one of three dogs at her home.

Co-workers said Brown, a veteran firefighter/paramedic at the Bristol Kendall Fire Protection District in Yorkville, had adopted the male mastiff about a week earlier and was working to acclimate it to her two other dogs, a pit bull mix and a boxer.

Sheriff's representatives said the three dogs had been turned over to the Kane County Animal Control Department.

A phone call to the animal control department Tuesday was referred to Kane Sheriff's Lt. Pat Gengler, who referred inquiries to the Kane County Health Department.

Messages left with Barbara Jeffers, the health department's interim director, were not returned Tuesday.

The Kane County Coroner's Office has refused to release any information about Brown's death.

Gengler said Brown had bites to her neck. "It's my understanding there were not any other bites" on Brown's body, Gengler said.

Officials have not disclosed the age and breed of the mastiff, and Gengler said last week that officials were trying to sort out what their options were and what was required by them under law.

According to the county's animal control ordinance, officials from the animal control office, the state's attorney's office or a county resident can file a court petition to have an animal declared "vicious."

Certain exceptions were in place for a dog, such as if it was defending itself; defending its owner; or a threat, injury or death was sustained by a person who was committing a crime or on private property.

The state's attorney's office has not filed a petition to have the mastiff declared vicious, prosecutors said. A search of county court records did not indicate a petition was filed by Brown's husband.

According to the county's animal control code, several rules apply to a dog that has been declared vicious, such as keeping it in an enclosure. The code does not explicitly state that it should be euthanized, or who would make that call.

Gengler has said officials may never know what happened because there were no witnesses to the attack.

Chuck Cuthbert, past president of the Mastiff Club of America, said that without knowing the breed of mastiff, it would be difficult to discern what led to the attack.

Cuthbert said he has more than 30 years experience with mastiffs and some breeds are docile, such as the English mastiff, and some can be more aggressive than others.

He said it was possible Brown could have been fatally injured while trying to break up a fight between the mastiff and her two other dogs.

"What can happen, and I don't know what happened, if you get two or three dogs in a fight and you're trying to get in there -- which is a normal response -- serious injury could occur. If you've got a number of dogs, three or more, and they get into a fight, you've got a frenzied situation," Cuthbert said.

"That would be the only way something like that would happen. Any dog unprovoked is going to just be a dog. They don't suddenly (think), 'Let's attack an owner and kill her.'"

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