Leash laws in Arizona are tougher than most parts of the country and one Ahwatukee Foothills resident says there's a very important reason for that.

Laurie Gargione said it was just a nice day in May when she and her Terrier-mix, Bella, were sitting outside their house waiting for her daughter to come home from college.

"We were all excited," Gargione said. "I saw my dog's ears perk up and usually that means there's a bird or something. All of a sudden this pit bull came charging through our bushes."

This wasn't the first time the pit bull had attacked her small dog. He'd also come dangerously close while they were out on a walk and still another time before that. At that time Gargione had been able to grab Bella in her arms and the owner of the other dog had been able to grab a choke chain. This time Gargione was caught off guard and she wasn't able to react in time.

With Bella in its mouth the pit bull clenched down. The owner came outside and tried to get it to release but the dog held on. Eventually Bella was let go and she fell to the ground.

"My dog just dropped on the ground," Gargione said. "She was obviously either gravely injured or already deceased."

Gargione says in the craziness she can't recall what happened next. Police were called and the county began its case.

They told her she may be able to get restitution but it doesn't make up for the emotional pain Gargione is still experiencing. Her goal now is just to make sure no one else has to experience it.

"Once I got to where I could think, I just said I just can't let this happen to somebody else," Gargione said. "Whether it's a dog or whether it's a child I would hate to know that it ever happened again."

In April, Gov. Jan Brewer signed into law House Bill 2137, more commonly known as Fabian's Law. It's a law about dogs dedicated to a family with a story just like Bella's. The law holds owners of an aggressive dog responsible if they don't take reasonable care to prohibit the dog from escaping, biting or attacking.

Dr. Marty Becker, a vet, pet behaviorist and author who is also a usual on ABC's "Good Morning America," made a visit recently to a local PETCO. He offered some advice for owners of aggressive dogs.

"That's a big red flag," Becker said. "If you have a dog that is aggressive to people or other dogs, that should be treated like a medical emergency."

Becker added that the best-behaved dog is a tired dog so taking them for walks is important. Of course in order to keep everyone safe a good leash is vital. A head collar or harness were Becker's suggestions. Both give the owner more control of a dog in a way that's different from any other leash or harness. He said retractable leashes are the worst product to get for a dog that's difficult to control.

The Arizona Animal Welfare League offers classes for aggressive dogs called the Feisty Fido class. More information on the class can be found at aawl.org/pet-training.

Gargione also has some advice for owners of aggressive dogs.

"I don't think I realized how horrible this could become," she said. "I think they need to know the other side. The side that I'm on. It's an incredible loss. It's somebody that was my really good friend. I don't know how long I'll struggle with this but the difficulty of experiencing it and the fears I have now, I think they need to see. I know everybody loves their dogs but there are rules for a reason. It's to keep people from being on the side I'm on."

• Contact writer: (480) 898-7914 or ahurtado@ahwatukee.com

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