After hearing an emotional plea from a couple whose 9-year-old son was killed in Mount Vernon last year by a couple of pit bulls, Beebe officials rejected a councilman’s request Monday night to rescind the city’s vicious animals ordinance.
Danny Mahoney, who said he owns an American Bully and was wanting the legislation overturned, was the only Beebe City Council member to vote against keeping the ordinance in a 5-1 decision.
Members of the public on both sides of the issue were given the opportunity to speak before the council voted, including Lyndsey and Robert Taylor, the parents of Robby Taylor, the Mount Vernon child who died after being attacked while checking the family’s mailbox May 28, 2020. Some of the following comments from Lyndsay Taylor contain graphic depictions of what happened to her child.
“Two pit bulls came from three houses over. We live in the country and that’s about a football field away from my house to their house,” Lyndsey Taylor said. “They went through two fence[s] to come to my property and rip my child’s face off. He, whenever we found him, ... had a half of face. He didn’t have ... his whole right face and eye was completely gone and my daughter had to find him, and do you all really want to lift that ban?
“That blood that is going to happen because those dogs attack and kill that’s going to be on your hands if you lift this ban. You can all fight me and say, ‘Oh, it’s how it’s raised, it’s how it’s raised,’ but these kids that have been killed in the past year and a half – they have been a 1-month-old, a 4-month-old – how are you going to tell me a 1-month-old or a 4-month-old deserve to be killed by a pit bull? Are you all willing to take that risk? These pit bulls can get out. They will get out.”
Mahoney had mentioned that one of two pit bulls he had owned had gotten out and Mayor Mike Robertson said it was hit by a vehicle and killed, so Taylor addressed Mahoney, saying, “Your dog got out, didn’t it? And it got hit and killed. I mean, it can happen and you really don’t want to risk that being your kid, ... your daughter, your niece, your nephew, your cousin. You don’t really want that.”
Robert Taylor, who said he served in the Marine Corps for 11 years, said that while he isn’t from Beebe, “we do come here to Walmart to go shopping and eat at the barbecue shop right down the street.”
“We come to Beebe once a week to do our shopping because it is a 30-minute drive to everywhere else [from] where we live in Mount Vernon,” Robert Taylor said. “You all sit here just like I did. Served my country just like the police officers; they serve this community. That’s what you all are doing in these seats right here: You are serving the community, not your own agenda. You are here to protect the community and the surrounding area of Beebe.
“I’m trying to urge you all to do the right thing for the community, for your neighbor, for the person down the street, for the elderly, little children on the playground at the park in Beebe or at the school playground. What if the kids are at recess and the dog gets loose and goes after kids on the playground? That police officer that is at the office might not be there in time to shoot the dog, to kill the dog to protect the kids on the playground. Do you have kids? Do you have grandchildren? Think about them. What if they are in the yard checking the mail like our son was? Just think of that. Thank you for your time.”
Robertson told the Taylors, “I can’t imagine the loss of a child. I am truly sorry for that.”
Mahoney added, “And I’m sorry for that.” He later added after the mayor told him that he and his family love their dog, “And I feel sorry for them [the Taylors]. Don’t think I don’t. I can’t imagine what they go through.”
Robertson continued, telling the Taylors, “And your courage to stand up for what you believe that is the cause, I know that it takes courage to stand up to tragedies. I know that we have had someone at this table that took the courage and stood up for tragedy and brought something positive from that.”
Emails and ordinances
Robertson had said earlier in the meeting that he knows “that there’s a lot of feelings about this issue” and told the council that he had received a couple of emails that he wanted the council to have.
“One email was speaking to keep the ban and one email was seeking to rescind the ban, but I want you to have all the information,” Robertson said.
A member in the audience asked for the emails to be read and City Clerk-Treasurer Carol Westergren asked if anyone who had written one of the emails was present and he said yes.
The first email thanked the council for keeping “us citizens safe ... by having a pit bull ban.” Robertson said the email gave a lot of statistics and history, like “one bite from a pit bull can leave you permanently disfigured, handicapped for life or death.” This email also included information on dog bite fatalities and some comments from doctors and veterinarians on statistics relating to them. It said the majority of those bites were from pit bulls.
The second email Robertson read was from Rebecca Church, who he said was raised in Beebe. “Basically, she’s going on to tell you that she saves pit bulls and she is committed to giving them a home and she doesn’t live in Beebe because of the pit bull ban, so she will not reside here as long as that ban is in place.”
Robertson said the ordinance “banning a breed of dogs, pit bulls, vicious animals” was adopted in 2007. In 2015, Robertson said, a new animal control ordinance was established, making the city’s ordinances “on farm animals, the raising of livestock, running at large, along with the dog ordinance, banned breed of dogs, vicious dog all quantified into one ordinance.” In 2016, there was an ordinance passed to allow an additional dog per household. There had been a limit of three dogs. In 2017, Robertson said, another ordinance was adopted defining pit bulls and vicious animals.
Robertson said he believed the reason that Mahoney wanted the vicious animal addressed is because Mahoney still owns a pit bull despite the city’s ban, for which Mahoney has been cited. (He is expected back in White County Circuit Court-Beebe Division in September.) Mahoney then clarified that his dog is an American Bully, which is breed derived from the American pit bull terrier and American Staffordshire terrier.
Robertson responded, “You currently have one pit bull, which is approximately 1-year-old.”
Mahoney said he has had pit bulls since he was 12 years old. When he moved back to Beebe in 1993, he had pit bulls and livestock. However, the area where he lived was annexed into the city, which he said grandfathered him into the vicious animal ordinance.
Robertson said an election was held Nov. 7, 2006, that brought Mahoney’s property into the city, but the banned breed of dog ordinance was not adopted until 2007, so it had nothing to do with “grandfathering in.”
“You currently have a dog that is 1-year-old that cannot in anyway be a grandfathered dog,” the mayor said.
Mahoney told Robertson that he has had phone calls from 38 residents who have pit bulls in the city.
He also asked Beebe City Attorney Tess E. Stewart about Cabot or any other cities having revised ordinances on pit bulls. She said that several cities in Arkansas had repealed their “pit bull ban.”
She said, for example, DeWitt amended its ordinance in 2020 and in 2019, Cabot amended “their absolute pit bull ban.” She said both of those cities require “those types of breeds to be registered, permitted, with that permit to be renewed annually.” She said there was also “certain limitations on the pit bull itself, including rabies vaccine, a city license tag worn by the dog at all times, micro-chipped, a photo, sterilization and owner-procured insurance.”
Stewart said Little Rock had a similar ordinance allowing the breed with restrictions and in April of this year, Maumelle “completely got rid of the pit bull ban altogether and does not impose restrictions on the ownership of pit bulls as far as registration and permits are concerned.” Stewart said if there is some type of an attack or an incident involving a pit bull, “then obviously there is recourse for that.”
Audience member Robert West told the council that he had previously never owned a pit bull in his life and he had the same opinion that a lot do “that they are vicious and will attack.”
“That is not true,” West said. “My pit bull is an American pit. He would lick you to death before he would ever, ever fight you. He is a good dog. When I am not home, I know my family is safe. He is going to do what he needs to do. He’s a dog and anybody that has a dog for that reason ... just because mine is bigger and better doesn’t mean that he’s a bad dog.”
Another audience member, Roger Crisco, said, “I always thought pit bulls were terrible, awful dogs. I got one a year-and-a-half-old right now and this is the most loving dog that you will ever find. She would lick you to death before she would bite you and if you go back and look at stats, a chihuahua had more bites, as many as a pit bull, so does that mean when a chihuahua is running at us we use it as a football?”
Angel Osborne of North Little Rock, a friend of the Taylors, spoke in favor of Beebe keeping its ban, saying, “Unfortunately, a pit bull attack has affected my life in a much different way than the gentlemen who said they would like to lick you to death. No, they will maul you to death, absolutely. Chihuahuas cause Bandaids not toe tags; let’s get that straight as well.”
Osborne then began giving what she called “some correct statistics.”
“Out of the 42 deaths in 2020 [from dog attacks], 30 of them were pit bulls. That’s a staggering 71 percent of the deaths,” she said. “I want you all to understand that – 30 of the 42 were known pit bull attacks, documented through multiple agencies, DNA sequence, everything like that. Yeah, you can DNA a dog and find out what its heritage is; not a lot of people understand that.”
Something else that Osborne said she wanted everyone to understand was that “from 1962-2012, as a population of dogs, pit bulls represented 4.4 percent and they caused deaths to over 300 people, maimings of over 1,200 people.”
From 2005-17, Osborne said there were seven total deaths caused by other dogs compared to 284 known deaths from pit bull attacks.
“Please don’t put your city through an attack where they have to live with this for the rest of their lives,” Osborne said. “The officers in Mount Vernon are still going through daily for what they saw in Robby Taylor’s death. I’m talking a 9-year-old child, a 3-year-old child.
“What most people don’t understand is that pit bull attacks originate in their own home; they attack their own owners. Pits attack visitors to the home of the owners. They are more dominant. They are not typically socialized dogs because they are not allowed in a lot of socialized areas that dogs are allowed because they are known aggressive. It is a DNA flaw that man made where they bred this type of animal. I just want you to have full presented facts, not think that my pit bull is going to lick you to death.”
She said she has done nothing but research pit bulls for the past year.
“I’m begging you from watching my best friend go through what she has went through this past year,” Osborne said. “I want you to understand as well that the owners of those pit bulls are right now being charged with negligent homicide. ... That is a serious allegation. You will always have that, that follows you for the rest of your life and a lot of that is, I hate to say it in this way, but is ignorance on the behalf of owners because they don’t do the proper research.”
Osborne said she understands that a lot of cities are requiring sterilization, the photo ID, but “a lot of homeowners’ [insurance] won’t even write you a policy if you have a dog that is considered breed specific ... .” She also questioned whether those who “don’t even keep up with their car insurance ... are going to keep up with their dog?”
West chimed in, “I do every year. You know why? Because I love my dog.” Council member Shannon Woods asked that everyone be respectful when someone else is speaking. “Let them speak,” she said.
Before Woods’ reprimand, Osborne added, “I just wanted to present the facts. I hope that this has been eye-opening for you. I appreciate and value your time and please think twice before you vote this, on behalf of Robby’s life.
“The only reason that I came to Beebe to talk about this as well is because I was actually contacted privately by a law enforcement agency, like a law enforcement officer, that told me that they did not want this in their city, that it was not going to be OK. That is the reason I’m here tonight. That is the reason we all got together and we were actually asked to reach out to the mayor and to the City Council. I just wanted to make that clear as to what my position was and why I was asked to be here as well.”
Robertson reminded the council after the Taylors spoke that “when we take office inside the city limits, you are taking office for the health and the safety and the welfare of all the residents in town, and that’s why we pass legislation. We don’t live in the county, we live in the city, and it is to assure we have rules and regulations to live by, and that’s some of the things when we live in the city we have to live by.”
Council member Derrek Goff said he couldn’t vote to “take this ban away,” because “whether it be tomorrow, a year from now or five years from now and something were to happen to a kid, that’s on my conscious that I was one-sixth of a vote that allowed for these animals to be in this town.”
Goff said he also has had “a bad experience with pit bulls. I mean, I think there are good ones and bad ones. My brother was bit in the face at 8 years old when I was 6 where at Thanksgiving, it was my cousin’s dog, and so I’m always cautious of them. But now that I’m in a position where I can make my voice heard to potentially save a life – and I’m not saying that this is obviously the worst-case scenario but if it were to happen – me voting to keep this ban in place to save one live, in my opinion, it’s worth it.”
With that, Goff made the motion to keep the ordinance in place, with Linda Anthony seconding it.
Charged in attack
In the Mount Vernon case, one of the individuals charged in Robby Taylor’s death was found guilty in early August in Faulkner County Circuit Court of class A misdemeanor negligent homicide and sentenced to nine months in Arkansas Community Correction. Trey Edgar Wyatt, 27, of Vilonia also accepted a plea deal Aug. 18 to drug-related charges and was sentenced to six years in the Department of Correction, with all of his sentences to run concurrently.
Faulkner County Sheriff’s Office Public Information Officer Erin Stone confirmed Tuesday that Wyatt remained in the Faulkner County jail after being arrested May 29, 2020, and held without bond. Wyatt’s attorney, Robert Newcomb, filed a motion to appeal his negligent homicide conviction Aug. 11.
In January, the Log Cabin Democrat in Conway reported that a second Faulkner County resident had been charged in the death.
Lisa Cheyenne Young, 26, of Mount Vernon faces a charge of negligent homicide, a class A misdemeanor, and a misdemeanor count of violating the Faulkner County animal ordinance. She was arrested Jan. 14, according to online records, but Stone said Young “is not in custody at the moment.”
According to the affidavits, Young reportedly “told investigators that she was aware of her dogs’ aggressive behavior” after around 20 of a neighbor’s chickens had been killed by them a week earlier. She reportedly said “she let the dogs out to use the bathroom when she got up in the morning to go to work,” but the dogs “were never out of her sight” and she secured them inside the residence when she left.
Lt. Matt Birdsong wrote that when he had interviewed Young at the residence, she reportedly said “she was warned by the deputy the week prior to keep her dogs up. Ms. Young kept explaining to me that her dogs were not vicious, although they did kill chickens.” The affidavit also shows that Young “was also aware the dogs could get out of the fence in the yard.”
Wyatt, who also said he knew about the dogs’ “aggressive behavior,” reportedly admitted to letting them out “after Young went to work.” He went back into the Chambers Lane residence “for several minutes” and “couldn’t see the dogs” when he “went back outside to bring them in.”
After reportedly calling for them and then going back inside to brush his teeth, “Wyatt said he again went outside to get the dogs put up and he noticed them squeezing through a gap in the fence and gate area by his horses in the backyard. He said they were covered in mud. He also said there was some blood on them and he was afraid they had been killing the neighbor’s chickens again.”
The dogs were taken and held by Conway Animal Welfare “for investigative purposes” and a search warrant was executed at the residence. The dogs had been cleaned up, according to Wyatt’s affidavit, but “blood evidence was found in close proximity” to the residence and there were “several spots of what appeared to be blood throughout the house ... several articles of clothing collected that appeared to have blood on them ... [and] several spots that appeared to be blood were found in the tub and around the tub.”
Suspected methamphetamine, drug paraphernalia and two firearms also were found in the residence, according to the affidavit.