The owner of two pit bulls faces imminent criminal charges in the December attack that resulted in the death of one dog and injuries to another and their owner.
Kesean McBath will be charged with a class 1 misdemeanor in the unprovoked mauling on a Tortosa street, according to the City of Maricopa prosecutor.
Pit bulls in recent Tortosa mauling had attacked before
Fatal dog mauling in Tortosa stirs controversy
He looks to face additional legal troubles, too.
Kevin and Carol Cook, who had to put down their miniature schnauzer Kali because of the extent of injuries suffered in the attack, are planning a civil lawsuit against McBath.
As McBath walked them in the neighborhood on Dec. 5, his pit bulls slipped out of their collars and set upon Carol Cook and her two dogs, who were on their own walk.
Lacey, a Maltipoo, survived the attack, but Kali’s injuries – a punctured lung, broken jaw and internal bleeding – were catastrophic and she did not survive.
Cook suffered puncture wounds to her forearm, cuts and scrapes on her elbows, knees and arms from being dragged into the street by one of the pit bulls and may have re-injured a previously broken foot that had almost healed.
The attack was the second involving McBath’s animals in just over a year. In the first incident, on Dec. 2, 2019, the pit bulls ran out an open door and attacked a Dutch shepherd being walked by Tortosa resident Jeff Clark. Clark was bitten on the arm and hand while trying to protect his dog, Sigrun, who has since suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder.
City prosecutor Murdock Holloway said this week that criminal charges are warranted in the Cook incident.
“There is enough there to charge,” Holloway said. “I suspect charges will be issued relatively soon. Since it’s a misdemeanor we have up to a year to file the charges, but I expect the complaint will be issued by the end of next week.”
Maricopa police investigated the attack and referred the case to Holloway for prosecution.
“As far as we are concerned, Animal Control responded and investigated, we assisted in submitting charges and no further contact will be made,” said Luis Vila, the city’s communications coordinator.
‘THERE WAS SOME HISTORY’
Asked for comment on the criminal and civil cases he now faces, McBath said, “I guess my last comment is, there’s not really much for me to say. I can’t bring the dog back. And (Cook is) hounding me like I pulled a gun out and shot the dog. It was an incident – they’re my family’s dogs. He’s mad like I did it or something. I can’t bring the dog back.
“I feel bad for what happened to the dog, I didn’t mean for that to happen to the dog but (Cook) leading it on and on and on, what’s that going to do? There’s nothing that I can do. He feels like he wants justice, I guess, is that what he wants?”
According to Arizona Revised Statutes, an “aggressive” dog is defined as one “that has bitten a person or domestic animal without provocation or that has a known history of attacking persons or domestic animals without provocation.”
State law requires an owner of an aggressive dog to take “reasonable care” to prohibit the dog from escaping to the outside of a home or an enclosed area, yard or structure and to control the dog in a manner that prevents the dog from biting or attacking a person or domestic animal while the dog is off the owner’s property.
A violation is a class 1 misdemeanor, the most serious type of misdemeanor, with conviction carrying a sentence of up to six months in prison and a maximum fine of $2,500.
The December 2019 and 2020 attacks show a pattern, which contributed to the decision to move forward with a prosecution, Holloway said.
“There was some history with respect to Mr. McBath’s knowledge of his dogs’ propensity to become aggressive and that knowledge happened well before this (Cook) incident,” Holloway said. “The history is, apparently, he can’t control these dogs. Having knowledge of that and ignoring it is a problem. Whether we can charge under statute for aggressive dog is not a question. That’s well within the bounds of a Class 1 misdemeanor.”
‘IT DIDN’T MAKE HIM LOOK GOOD’
In December, McBath spoke to InMaricopa about the Cook incident.
“My only comment is to tell the guy to move on,” McBath said of Kevin Cook. “Move on. It was an accident. You want an apology, and you want to be consoled. I can be respectable and apologetic and do that. But don’t harass and attack me over a f—ing dog. Just let it go. Get another dog and move on.
“Nobody wanted nothing to happen and I’m sorry it did, but it’s over,” he continued. “Animal Control came out, I did the 10-day quarantine and in my mind this whole thing is over.”
Those comments did not sit well with many in the Maricopa community and Halloway, for one, took notice as well.
“He probably shouldn’t have said what he did to you in the first article, it didn’t make him look good,” he said. “I have printed that out and will be using that as well in the prosecution.”
The civil suit, which is being prepared on the Cooks’ behalf by attorney Sean Hennick of Phoenix law firm Hastings and Hastings, will likely seek reimbursement for Carol’s medical expenses and unspecified additional damages. The couple has already spent more than $4,000, Kevin Cook said, including medical bills for his wife and veterinary bills for Kali.
After the attack, Cook said McBath was told by Maricopa Animal Control to only walk the dogs if they were in a harness, not a standard dog collar. A harness encircles a dog’s chest, making it much easier to control and virtually impossible for the animal to slip out.
According to Cook, McBath left the neighborhood shortly after the incident in December and returned around Feb. 15. He said he has seen McBath walking the dogs in the area in the past two weeks.
“Monday, I saw him walking the pit bulls with collars instead of harnesses,” Cook said. “I called Animal Control and they went there to talk with him. He said he would use harnesses and only walk them one at a time. On Tuesday I saw him walking both of them, so I pulled over and took pictures. He was not thrilled about that. I sent the pictures to Animal Control. They came back on Tuesday.”
According to Vila, Animal Control was trying to get a court order to remove the dogs, but he was not sure of the status of those efforts.
Animal Control did not return calls for comment about whether an order to remove the dogs had been issued, or if there were restrictions placed on the dogs, including a mandatory harness and walking the dogs one at a time.
But McBath may not be seen walking around Tortosa soon.
“He packed up and left again on Wednesday,” Cook said of McBath. “Not sure if he will be back.”