JACKSON, Tenn. — A central Tennessee man was attacked and killed by a Rottweiler dog, just hours after adopting it from the county pound, according to the Madison County Sheriff’s Office.
Anthony Riggs, 57, had adopted the Rottweiler from Jackson-Madison County Rabies Control, which is a part of the health department, Thursday morning. The dog attacked and killed him later that same day, according to the Sheriff’s Office.
After leaving the county animal facility Thursday around 10:30 a.m., Riggs took the Rottweiler to show it to his son Thomas Riggs, according to Adrienne Riggs, Anthony’s ex-wife. Father and son had made plans for the holidays, hugged and said they loved each other, she said.
At about 3:30 that afternoon, Madison County Sheriff’s deputies responded to a call about a dog attack in the 2200 block of Highway 70 East. Deputies found Anthony Riggs on the floor. Emergency Medical Services pronounced him dead at the scene, according to Tom Mapes, spokesman for the Sheriff’s Office.
Mapes said Kathy Riggs, Riggs’ wife, called her husband from work at around 1 p.m., but did not get an answer. When she came home with a co-worker, she found her husband dead, Mapes said.
Kathy Riggs could not be reached for comment.
Adrienne Riggs said both Kathy Riggs and her co-worker were bitten by the dog, which ran out of the house and was shot by deputies.
Mapes said the co-worker was Teresa Sanchez, who posted on The Jackson Sun’s Facebook page that she was present and was bitten by the dog.
“He wasn’t growling or showing teeth he just bit us like he did it all the time or something,” Sanchez wrote on Facebook. “It was unreal what that dog did and he should NEVER have been adopted out period.”
Sanchez could not be reached for further comment.
The Sheriff’s Office is investigating Riggs’ death and more details will not be released until the investigation is complete, Mapes said.
The dog was a stray picked up by a city employee five days before its adoption, according to Kim Tedford, director of the county’s Regional Health Department.
Tedford said the dog will be autopsied for signs of rabies or other disease and any signs of recent abuse.
“It was a stray running at large, so we have no idea if the dog had been vaccinated or not,” Tedford said.
Tedford said the 5-year-old male showed no signs of aggression while at Rabies Control and she had not heard of it biting any Rabies Control officers. Officers handle the dogs while they are at Rabies Control and look for signs of aggression such as growling, showing teeth and lunging, she said.
“We by no means would adopt an animal out that showed any signs of aggression,” Tedford said.
Rabies Control had a photo of the Rottweiler on its website before the dog’s adoption, listing it as a 5-year-old male. The photo has since been removed.
The website also includes an adoption policy, but the policy contains no information about whether the facility informs potential owners if dogs have a history of aggressive behavior.
Adrienne Riggs said she and son Thomas Riggs went to speak to Rabies Control employees after Anthony Riggs’ death.
“I don’t believe what they said,” Adrienne Riggs said. “I just don’t. A docile dog does not turn in three hours and kill somebody. Something was wrong.”
Per Tennessee law, a dog picked up on the street or given up by its owner must be held for at least three days, Tedford said. If the animal has an identification chip or a collar with a name, they keep the dog for five to seven days.
During the three days, the animals are fed and watered, but not examined or tested, Tedford said. If unclaimed, they are then put online for adoption. Vaccinations and spaying or neutering are arranged by the owner after adoption.
Adrienne Riggs said policies should be changed for Rabies Control, including evaluating the animals over a period of time.
“They don’t assess the dogs, they don’t vet them, they don’t evaluate them, they just adopt them out,” she said. “You just can’t put a dog that may be dangerous out with an unsuspecting family. That’s just wrong.”
Tedford said Rabies Control leaves animals up for adoption for as long as possible, but has to euthanize animals when the 24 dog kennels are full.
Tedford said she hoped Riggs’ death would not stop people from adopting.
“We’ve never had this happen before through our Rabies Control office,” she said. “We certainly hope it’s something that never happens again. Our prayers and thoughts certainly go out to the family.”
According to his ex-wife, Anthony Riggs was a good man who loved animals and was loved by them.
“He never hesitated to be with dogs,” Adrienne Riggs said. “Sometimes I thought he related to dogs better than to people.”
During their marriage, they owned many dogs, including a Rottweiler, a Doberman, a wolf-mix and more, she said.
“Tony was a good man and a loving man and a good person with animals and he didn’t deserve to die the way that he did,” she said.
Follow Katherine Burgess on Twitter: @kathsburgess
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