Dog attack trial reset after defendants don’t show

The misdemeanor trial of a Lake Charles couple charged in connection with a dog attack on a 30-year-old man in February was reset after the two defendants were no-shows in state district court Thursday.

Joshua Hickman and Kristian Demeritt face one count each of negligent injuring. Authorities said the couple’s pit bulls, Bonnie and Clyde, attacked the victim Feb. 5 as he was walking his dog on Auburn Street.

“The owners know that the dogs are dangerous. The owners know that the dogs will bite people,” said John DeRosier, Calcasieu Parish district attorney.

“But they still did not maintain a secure facility to contain these two dogs. These defendants knew of the propensity of their dogs to bite people, and that is why we charged them.”

DeRosier said the victim suffered multiple bites on his hands, arms and legs and to the back of his neck. The attack only ended when a passer-by fought the dogs off with a metal trash can lid and the victim was put into the back of a pickup truck and driven away.

“If this Good Samaritan had not shown up to actually fight these dogs off of our victim, he would have been killed,” DeRosier said.

Defense attorney Alyson Vamvoras Antoon said Hickman and Demeritt were being “treated differently than the vast majority of other similarly situated persons.”

She said dog bite incidents are typically addressed through an animal control panel hearing, where fines and penalties can be imposed and owners can be required to take measures to ensure their dogs can’t escape the home’s property in the future. DeRosier said a panel hearing has been scheduled.

“There are a multitude of dog bite cases in Calcasieu Parish every year,” said Antoon. “To my knowledge, few, if any, result in the owner being criminally prosecuted.”

The District Attorney’s Office had filed a proceeding to determine whether the dogs were vicious and should be euthanized. DeRosier said Judge Ron Ware dismissed it without a hearing.

“I’m one of the last people who wants to euthanize a perfectly healthy animal. But human safety is (more important than) the protection of an animal,” he said.

Antoon said the dogs, which were seized on Feb. 6, remain with animal control.

“I am not going to turn these dogs loose away from animal control unless I get a court order commanding me to do it and our appellate remedies are exhausted,” DeRosier said. “I’m not going to turn these dogs loose. I am not going to allow for a child to be mauled or killed by these dogs.”

DeRosier said the dogs were also evidence. “We are going to have to keep these dogs so that they can be identified,” he said.

Both dogs and over a dozen witnesses were at the courthouse Thursday for the trial. But the defendants didn’t appear.

Judge Thomas Quirk, after noting that the couple had been informed of the court date, granted the defense’s motion for a continuance. The proceedings were reset to June 15.

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