- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 29, 2006

SPOTSYLVANIA, Va. (AP) — A woman whose three pit bulls fatally mauled an 82-year-old widow was sentenced yesterday to three years in prison.

Spotsylvania Circuit Judge Ann Hunter Simpson upheld the jury’s recommended sentence.

Deanna Large, 37, was convicted in December of involuntary manslaughter for the death of Dorothy Sullivan, who was attacked in March 2005 by the roaming dogs. Mrs. Large was walking her Shih Tzu, Buttons, in her front yard in Partlow. Buttons also was killed.

The case marked the first time in Virginia that a person has been convicted of manslaughter for the actions of his or her dogs.

Large, who also was found guilty of two misdemeanor charges of allowing her dogs to run loose, faced a maximum 10 years in prison. She also was fined $500 for the misdemeanor convictions.

“I’m sorry things happened this way,” Large said before she was sentenced.

Large’s attorney, Eugene Frost, and her family declined to comment.

Members of Mrs. Sullivan’s family wept as the sentence was read. Mrs. Sullivan’s daughter, Betty Greene, said she was glad the legal proceedings were over.

“I’m satisfied with it, but there’s nothing that’s enough,” she said of the sentence.

Commonwealth’s Attorney William Neely said the sentence “puts owners of dangerous dogs on notice that if they don’t watch their dogs and those dogs get out and kill someone — they’re going to be held criminally responsible.”

Mrs. Sullivan’s death sparked outrage in her rural community, where residents said they long have been terrorized by aggressive, roaming dogs.

Mrs. Sullivan’s family collected thousands of signatures on a petition urging stricter dog laws. And the General Assembly passed legislation imposing tough penalties on dog owners whose pets seriously injure others.

During the trial, witnesses testified that Large’s pit bulls menaced the neighborhood. Animal control officers had taken away two of the dogs in 2004 after they were accused of killing a kitten. At one point, Large had 13 pit bulls in her double-wide trailer.

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