Posted on November 5, 2012 at 6:30 PM
AUSTIN -- An Austin woman whose dog viciously attacked a 10-year-old girl has received her punishment.
Verna Cooper was charged with dog attack causing serious bodily injury. A jury convicted her in August for failing to properly restrain her dog. The third degree felony is punishable by up to 10 years in jail.
On Monday District Judge Cliff Brown sentenced her to three years probation. The judge also banned her from having a dog during probation. He also ordered her to pay more than $1,700 in restitution and complete 150 community service hours.
After the sentencing, Cooper released a statement that read in part, "My sympathy is with the dog bite victim that was bitten by my beloved pit bull Maya."
In court prosecutors argued that Cooper’s dog had a history of violent attacks. It bit the 10-year-old girl last March. The girl’s father says they went out for a bike ride when the dog ran over and bit his daughter’s leg. The bite required 100 stitches. In 2009 the same dog attacked a woman jogging through North Austin.
“It breaks my heart that this child was bitten because I felt like at least I was taking a bite for the neighborhood, and that now [Cooper] would take her dogs out of the city limits at least,” said dog bite victim Suzi Stern.
After Stern’s attack the City ordered Cooper to register her dog, keep it in a secure area and carry liability insurance. However investigators say it escaped through an unlocked door the morning it attacked the young girl.
“She had a chance beyond belief when I got bitten and didn't raise a case with it to say 'Oh my goodness. I need to be careful. Somebody could really be hurt,'” said Stern.
Cooper became the first of two people charged under the tough Dog Attack Law in Travis County.