Owner charged in dog attack

Published:
Updated:

March 22nd update: 

Indianapolis - A man is facing criminal charges after his pit bulls attacked a neighbor two weeks ago.

Shawn Middleton is charged with two counts of a dog bite that caused serious bodily injury and two counts of having a non-immunized dog. Investigators say Middleton had just adopted one of the dogs from the Humane Society of Indianapolis.

"I'm just glad I'm alive today and I'm still standing here," said James Bates shortly after he was attacked earlier this month.

"His ears were almost literally torn off of his face," said Marion County Prosecutor Carl Brizzi. "If you own a dog, no matter what kind of dog it is, you need to exercise care and you need to be held responsible - criminally responsible, sometimes - for the damage these dogs cause."

According to investigators, Middleton had just adopted one of the dogs, "Yoda," from the Humane Society in January. The society's report on Yoda noted he is "quite a handful." It also called the dog a "challenging case" and recommended obedience training. The report also noted an instance where Yoda whipped his head around at an employee examining him after he was neutered.

"That was not aggression, that was simply fear," said John Aleshire with the Humane Society.

Employees at the Humane Society of Indianapolis say they're shocked it even came to this. They say Yoda was tested at the society and never showed any signs of aggression.

"We were comfortable with this dog. If we were not comfortable, we would not adopt the dog out," Aleshire said.

To make sure, Aleshire said Yoda went through an 18-step testing process.

"We have a very thorough temperament testing process," he said. "We don't know what happened to him when he came out. Once a pet leaves in a different environment, lots of things can happen."

A police officer shot and killed Yoda, once deemed not aggressive, as it and another dog attacked Bates, a defenseless neighbor.

The Humane Society says Middleton never told them he had another pit bull at home when he adopted Yoda. They say Yoda would never have been adopted to Middleton in that case, unless he had brought in the other dog and they tested it to see how Yoda and the other pit bull acted when they were together.

The other dog involved in the attack was wounded and put down by Animal Control.

Original story:

Indianapolis - A northwest side man is recovering from a dog attack that sent him to the hospital Thursday morning.

Channel 13 shot exclusive video of pit bull attack victim James Bates arriving home from the hospital, still a little dazed from medication.

"Stitches in the my head, stitches in the my ear, a few bumps and bruises but I am still alive," he said, pointing out his injuries.

Bates set out the trash for collection around 8:00 am Thursday morning. The 23-year-old says that's when his neighbors two pit bulls attacked.

"I looked over. The dog came toward me and took me down on the ground on the gravel and dragged me all the way on the grass," he said.

The dogs tore away the jacket Bates was wearing, along with his shoes. His young niece Jada saw everything and yelled for his mother.

"Uncle James, he went to take out the trash and the dog came and attacked him," she said.

"The dog was pulling at his coat, but they were ripping his coat off and he was hollering," said Queen Bates, the victim's mother. "I was terrified. I just thought they were going to kill him."

Bates says Metro Officer Marlon Minor came to the rescue.

"He killed one immediately and the other one was wounded and ran off next door," said Lt. Jeff Duhamell, IMPD.

Queen Bates says the pit bull owners have lived next door for just a little while. She was aware of the "Beware of Dog" sign but had no idea they were living this close to danger.

The victim's aunt says the dogs came after her last month.

"They were trying to bust the door open with their head. They would bump the door with their head to come in and get us," said Elaine Beverly.

Animal Care and Control officers took the dogs away, to the relief of the Bates family.

The Animal Control officers issued citations for owner responsibility for animal attack; at large, chase or approach; no rabies vaccination (only for one dog); and no permanent ID. The county prosecutor will review the case for possible criminal charges.

Note: Police identified the dogs as pit bulls.