FREDERICKSBURG, Va. - An elderly man in Stafford County is recovering after his neighbor's dog bit a piece of his ear off in a vicious attack.
Larry Marshall was on his own property when a Great Dane came after him, and he said he has been attacked by the dog more than once.
Stafford County officials said there is a difference between a vicious and a dangerous dog. To be classified as vicious, a person has to be seriously hurt or killed. A judge decided even though the 80-year-old man was attacked three times by the dog named Ike, it was not enough to euthanize him.
"We never step out of the house, even to the mailbox, without carrying a gun because the dogs have been allowed to run without a leash, and I would hate to have to shoot the dog," said Marshall's neighbor, Ken Fincher. "But I would rather shoot it than have it maul me to death."
Fincher is on edge at his own home after his 80-year-old neighbor had his ear partly ripped off by the dog that lives next door. The bite was so vicious that it broke through Marshall's skin.
Marshall did not want to go on camera with us, but he said every time Ike has run over into his yard, it started mauling him.
Last month, Marshall went to civil court where an animal control officer recommended the dog be declared vicious and put down. However, the judge decided to label Ike as a "dangerous" dog, which allows him to live but carries extra requirements for his owner.
Fincher is not happy with the judge's decision.
"The dog actually attacked him very quickly, bit the ear, a big chunk of it off and ate that part of his ear," he said. "I guess the thing I don't understand is in a zoo, if a lion attacks a zookeeper, a lion is just being a lion -- you know it's dangerous and you know it will kill you, but if it bites somebody, it's tasted human blood, so you put the lion down, which is a very expensive animal.
"But I don't understand why that would not apply more so to a dog? Because if a dog has attacked and tasted human blood and eaten a piece of a human, how much more does it have to do before it is deemed vicious? I would think with the leash law, and you know your dog is unpredictable, that he would be a little more caring of a neighbor to look after us."
The Stafford County Sheriff's Office is keeping an eye on the situation. The dog's owner will now be required to list the dog on a state registry, kept him muzzled on a leash and visible warning signs must be displayed on their property.
If another attack happens again, the owner could face criminal charges.
Meanwhile, Marshall needs reconstructive surgery for his ear. He is working with local representatives to explore possible law changes that would require a dog to be put down if an attack causes mutilation, and not just serious injury or death.