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Publish Date: 5/28/2005

Firestone dog granted reprieve
New accusations surround Riley family’s canines


EVANS — Bruni, a boxer mix from Firestone involved in recent biting or attacking incidents, will live another month.

One of the dog’s owners, Jackie Riley, paid a $750 bond to keep Bruni alive, following a May 9 incident at her home in unincorporated Weld County in which the dog bit Dacono resident Pamela Flanders. Riley was cited for owning a dangerous dog.

Weld County Judge Marcelo Kopcow had given Riley until Friday to pay the bond, which covers the monthly costs of Bruni’s stay at the Humane Society of Weld County in Evans. If the money hadn’t been paid, prosecutors could have sought to destroy the animal.

The incident was Riley’s second dog offense. Last year, three dogs at her house got out of the yard and killed a cat, according to court records.

Bruni also was involved in a biting incident Sept. 3, when the three dogs escaped from the yard and rushed a woman while she walked her dogs in Firestone. One of the dogs bit the woman on the hand.

In that incident, Jackie Riley’s son David was found guilty of one count of owning a dangerous dog causing bodily injury, according to court files. He got the dogs back earlier this month after serving 60 days in jail. However, the attack on the woman can’t be used against Jackie Riley, because courts recognize only dog owners, not dogs.

On Sept. 23, the three boxer-mix dogs also attacked Adam Stutzman, an animal handler at Coal Ridge Animal Hospital, while Jackie Riley was visiting the dogs and her son awaited trial. Stutzman suffered multiple bite wounds that needed 200 stitches, said Roger Messick, executive director of the Humane Society of Weld County.

Prosecutors can’t use that incident in court, either, because state statutes don’t allow handlers taking care of animals to seek criminal charges if they’re bitten or attacked.

Messick said this case shows that Colorado laws are flawed, because the Rileys’ dogs obviously have a history. Still, Messick said he’d be surprised if Bruni gets returned to his owners.

“I don’t know if this dog has a particular chance,” he said.

Messick said Bruni was involved in the cat incident, which he believes will establish a second offense, giving the courts the power to euthanize the dog.

Jackie Riley is due back in court Tuesday, then again June 27 for a probation hearing for last year’s cat killing. Kopcow said the court will then consider the most recent biting incident and determine whether it’s a second offense.

Jackie Riley maintains that police have targeted her family because of the dogs and that officers have not accurately portrayed the biting incidents, though she was hesitant to give information connected to open cases.

“They have made me sound like I don’t care,” she said.

For example, Riley said, officials reported that Flanders was bitten on the neck — which Messick reiterated Friday — but Flanders told the Times-Call this week that she was not bitten on the neck.

Jackie Riley added that Stutzman knew the dogs were dangerous and confused because they were away from home.

“No one was supposed to be in there (with the dogs); they knew that the dogs were under stress,” Riley said. “He wasn’t allowed to be back there, and he knew it.”

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The Humane Society of Weld County also is housing another of the Rileys’ dogs, Scout, which also was involved in the past biting incidents.

Police seized Scout on May 20 from David Riley and arrested him on suspicion of trespassing and owning a dangerous dog.

A neighbor claims David Riley instructed Scout to attack the neighbor’s dog in its back yard, according to Firestone town records.

David Riley is still in the Weld County Jail, and he will also have to come up with a $750 bond by Tuesday to pay for Scout, according to the Weld County District Attorney’s Office.

On top of that, Firestone Police Chief David Montgomery told town trustees Thursday night that David Riley now faces a second set of municipal charges for a dog incident that happened a year ago.

He said one of Riley’s dogs broke free from its yard May 2, 2004, and charged two children playing in their front yard but didn’t bite them. Montgomery said the neighbor — who couldn’t identify which of Riley’s three dogs was involved at the time — came forward after community members began working together to rid the neighborhood of the dogs.

“People in the area do fear retaliation,” Montgomery said. “That’s why some folks haven’t come forward.”

David Riley will be in municipal court on that incident June 16 to face charges of owning a vicious animal and a stray dog.

His mother, however, said police just want her son out of town and that they used excessive force when arresting him May 20, drawing guns and rifles to serve him a citation. On top of that, the Rileys have been bombarded by big fines and court fees that she thinks are unjust.

“Eventually, with all Firestone’s false charges and false arrests, they figure I will run out of money, and maybe I will,” Jackie Riley said.

Montgomery said the Firestone Police Department has intensified patrols around the Rileys’ home and become more vigilant. He also said officers acted appropriately when taking David Riley into custody.

“They have only used the force necessary to make the arrest,” Montgomery said.

Douglas Crowl can be reached at 303-684-5253, or by e-mail at dcrowl@times-call.com.

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