Catoosa County Magistrate Court Chief Judge John Gass gave Burton the option of having a jury trial rather than a bench trial when he pleaded not guilty on April 24 to a charge of unprovoked attack.
Burton’s dog, Rocco, attacked 7-year-old Tanner Eaves of Ringgold, prosecutors say.
Tanner’s parents, Gerald and Jackie Eaves, said their son was bitten on the face and groin. The Eaves say their son’s doctors have said the boy has a 50-50 chance of fathering children someday. Jackie Eaves has said her son has been experiencing urinary issues, but Tanner’s physician was not sure if it was related to the bite injury.
The initial citation charged Burton with provoked attack, public nuisance and potentially dangerous dog. Animal control later amended the citation to charges of unprovoked attack and failure to register the dog with the county.
Burton’s attorney, McCracken Poston of Ringgold, maintains his client did “everything he was supposed to do,” by keeping his dog attached to a runner in his yard. The dog was euthanized at Burton’s request following a 10-day quarantine. Rocco was previously impounded at the shelter last fall for allegedly biting two girls, according to county animal control. Poston questions whether the girls received true bites and wonders if Rocco might have jumped on them and scratched them. Burton kept his dog properly contained following that incident, his lawyer said.
Poston said Tanner came into Burton’s yard the day of the incident without an invitation.
“The child was innocent (of wrongdoing), but the child should have been supervised,” Poston said.
Poston is gathering testimonial letters from Burton’s neighbors, who claim Tanner and his younger brother were often seen roaming the neighborhood off Sparks and Guyler streets alone, without adult supervision. As of May 2, Poston received 12 such letters from the Eaves’ neighbors.
Some neighbors wrote they saw the boys out until 10 p.m. without an adult during the summer. A number of them wrote that the children were seen without shoes or shirts on in the winter. A few even expressed their opinion that Rocco was not an aggressive dog.
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