Puppy Left Dead After Gruesome Dog Attack in North Tonawanda

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By: Brendan McDonough

Reporter for North Tonawanda

Debbie DeVirgillio watched in horror as an unleashed dog jumped through her screen door and killed her puppy Tucker.

“The dog came up my front porch and ripped my puppy out through the screen door, my grandkids ages 3 and 5 saw the whole thing,” said Devirgillio.

She lives at 398 Payne Avenue and is just one of many residents in North Tonawanda who have been terrorized by this dog.

Like many residents the DeVirgillio’s are now afraid to go outside, worried the dog could return.

This past week they brought their concern to the North DeVirgillio and her husband brought their concerns to Tuesday June 19th’s Common Council meeting where, while holding back tears, they begged city leaders to act.

“I think that something needs to be done,” she said.

“Two dogs attacked the neighbors dog a year ago. The police were there and nothing was done,” said her husband Jim.

In fact, Jim said that there has been numerous other reports of dogs from the home causing problem for residents.

“The dog got lose again and it attacked another neighbors dog, less than a week before it attacked and killed our dog,” said DeVirgillio.

Although the dog that killed DeVirgillio’s dog was an Ankita, the same owner also has a pit bull mix that has reportedly attacked multiple animals in the past.

One resident, who wishes to remain anonymous, said that the dogs are hardly seen. Often times not coming out of the house for days or weeks. The occasions when the dogs were seen usually ended with death or serious injury.

“We had been told numerous times that the dogs would be put down,” said DeVirgillio, “but nothing was ever done.”

It has put a terrible strain on our community.

“The citizens need to know that there is no one out there to help them,” she continued. “I was told to call the health department, then the health department tells us they area not involved with dogs but if I need rabies shots for me and my grandchildren, they can set that up.”

The DeVirgillio’s say they were told by police that they were going to designated this as a dangerous dog and that the owner would be allowed to keep it, so long as it a was kept isolated and in a cage. However, this did not last long as the dog was spotted one day later outside.

“My neighbor who lives behind me was chased by the dog into his car on the same night that our dog was killed. I do not understand the City cannot do something about a dog that is harassing the neighborhood, especially when it has been proven that it will attack another dog,” said Devirgillio.

One of the problems is that North Tonawanda does not have an animal control officer. Common Council members are promising to take action on this incident and prevent it from happening going forward.

“I do not know what we can do at this point,” said North Tonawanda Mayor Art Pappas. “I know the police are looking into it and the dog in question is supposed to be put down. I think we need to look into this because it may come up again with another family and another neighborhood, which is unnaceptable.”

In the meantime, the DeVirgillio’s are trying to move forward but admit the memories of the dog attack still haunt them.

“My grandkids are starting counseling now because I can not even leave my front door unlocked because they are afraid the dog is going to come through,” said DeVirgillio.

“I just began using the front door to get the mail because of this whole incident. I might be able to get a replacement of my screen, but I will never be able to replace my dog. I am not looking for a monetary gain, I just want the citizens of North Tonawanda that they are protected and can play with their kid on the front lawn.”

13 Comments

  1. The same thing happened to my beagle puppy and it was also an Akita that killed her..ripped her right off her leash that was on my porch. My son was 7 and saw it happen it effected him terribly. I took the owner to court and was awarded vet bills but the drug dealer the dog belonged to never paid me a dime.and there is no enforcement for small claims court. The police looked at it as a dog is property killing property and the owner couldn’t be charged. Something needs to be done so things like this don’t happen.

  2. So awful and the city must take action against the owners of this Akita dog.

    On a side note to the author and publisher…
    I could not believe all of the grammatical errors, not just typos and misspellings but even misuse of apostrophes, as I was reading this article. Proof reading is seriously needed prior to publication!

  3. BigBob in the COT says:

    I own a German Shepherd. He got loose one time and “love nipped” someone walking on the sidewalk. The City of Tonawanda wanted him classified as a Vicious Dog. This tag leaves a lot of “grey area”.

    While I agree, after reading this article, that something needs to be done with these dogs and someone really needs to be accountable (the owners), the City of NT must step up and enforce ordinances to help residents and protect their residents. If these dogs are getting out and running loose, why isn’t the owner being hauled in to court? There is your problem, the owner(s). Make them accountable and have animal control take these dogs out of that environment (obviously a hostile one for animals). Be fair to the animals for a new lease on life and to the neighborhood as they are no longer “prowling” and the current owners are to make amends and restitution for their behavior(s). Bring the hammer down, NT

  4. Does the Niagara Reporter have proof readers??????

  5. Amy K-Genung says:

    Basically, proofreading is lacking. “Akita” . Deb and Jimmy: their last name is DiVirgilio.
    That being said, thanks for getting the family’s heartbreaking incident out there.

  6. Ronald Harms says:

    Irresponsible dog owners need to be fined big time and go to jail. End of story

  7. I don’t think we need to specify what kind of dog it was that did the attack. Akitas and pitbulls are not vicious breeds by nature. It’s all on how you raise them. I feel awful for the family losing a fur-baby like that. It would kill me. I’m so sorry the kids had to go through that. Something needs to be done when the owners don’t respond to past aggressions shown by their dogs. But don’t blame the dogs because of their breed. I go to the dog park daily and meet friendly pits and Akitas.

  8. The mayor has the authority to make things happen. He could do so much more than he is doing. Enforce action, hold the owners responsible. Thsee dogs sounds completely unsociable, barely ever going out and when they do escape they have a lot of pent up frustration. Bad ownership 100%. Nobody should own a dog if they cannot get it outside with proper excercise and mind stimulation. For all we know they are kept in a crate all day regardless of what the breed is. I am an animal lover and I believe that aggression is often caused by the way an animal is treated or taken care of.
    The members of the community should not suffer loss due to irresponsible owners nor should it be ignored or written off as property destroying property. It sounds as if they won’t take action until it is a child or an adult that is victimized and at that point it is far too late.
    Then the mayor and the police should be sued for seeing the writing on the wall and being ignorant enough to not do anything about it. I pray it doesn’t have to come to that. I bet if it was the mayors puppy or any one of the police officers puppy, all of a sudden the owner of these vicious dogs would be held accountable. Wake up and help the people of your community, that is why you were elected. Seriously!!!

    To the author- if you want to be taken seriously as a writer learn how to properly punctuate and complete sentences so they make sense to your audience. You are lucky this was published. Next time you may not be so lucky. It is vital when sharing such important information.

  9. Heartbreaking! These people should be CHARGED!! None of the dogs deserve what happened💔 These dogs Need a lot of exercise & running! They Need people who are willing to train with them so they feel secure & know who’s Alpha! I just Don’t understand WHY this owner isn’t Charged! SO Sorry for what you went through💔

  10. John Hazel says:

    I am an animal lover, and I suspect the owner of the Akita mistreats the dog which causes him to become vicious. If the authorities refuse to correct the situation, I would just shoot this particular dog, and if I got any static about it, I would say I was in fear for my life.

  11. Chester Tacka says:

    I can’t find this horrific story anywhere but here! I would’ve expected this story to appear, if only sporadically, across the country (citing the Niagara Reporter).

    I would’ve have expected some local follow-up; not necessarily action by the city/county/police, but at least something from the NR saying that “local officials haven’t responded to our inquiries”…

    Akita, aside. (After the OJ-thing I figured everyone could spell it!)

  12. Have any of you people ever tried to talk to the owner of the Akita? Then maybe you would know she was just as horrified as anyone about what has happened, She had recently noticed the change in the akita’s behavior & tried to find a solution, The week before when the akita showed aggresion towards another dog (while she was leashed & the other dog got a piece of her) . The police were called , the owner asked the police to take the dog ,they could not , The spca refused to take the dog. The very next day the owner knew there was nothing she could do but put the dog down. The akita & the pittbull had been family pets for over 5 years they were never aggressive . The previous incident with the pittbull was typical animal behavior when another dog approached the akita (who was in heat, he was protecting her) . The owner had taken the akita to the vet to try to figure out why the change in her behavior , the akita had previous tumors , they think they may have spread to her brain.
    As for you people that think the dogs were taught to be aggressive you could not be more wrong, they were brought up with children & showed nothing but love. They also failed to mention in this article that everytime she tried to take the dogs for a walk one of the neighbors would call the police , she tried to only take the dogs for walks when no one was outside to stop the constant harrassment, also how the neighbors formed a mob and requested to the police to bring the dog out so they could beat it to death with a bat! Funny how none of their bad behavior was mentioned. Well in conclusion I hope you all will be happy to know the akita has been put down & the pittbull has become re-homed out of fear the neighbors would attack this innocent dog. The owner has been to court & took the appropiate action with the akita before ever being ordered to do so. You all may wanto blame the owner but she made every effort she could to keep the dog locked up until the dog was put down.

  13. Um, Melissa, pit bulls ARE animal aggressive by nature. They were developed to attack and hold bulls! Or any other animal they are aimed at. The dogs have further been bred for fighting. It is in their genes for sure.
    And Akitas are one of the few breeds who are not disqualified, in an AKC show ring, for showing dog aggression, because it is in their nature.

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