AUGUSTA, Ga. (WJBF) – Changes could be coming to hold pet owners in Columbia County more responsible after an 11 year-old was attacked by dogs despite previous complaints.

According to county records, three prior incidents involving the dogs that attacked Justin Gilstrap were reported to Columbia County in 2022. 

The first report came in January from Justin’s aunt claiming her Yorkie was attacked by the dogs and sent to an animal hospital. 

Her sister, Justin’s mother, tells me they didn’t follow up with the county after the report.

“We didn’t follow through with it,” says Ericka Stevens, Justin’s mother. “My Daddy got sick and unexpectedly died, so that was just like the least of our worries at that point.”

A few weeks later, Justin’s aunt made another call after seeing the dogs loose in the neighborhood.

Final notices of violation were issued to the owner for: failing to confine his animals, the Yorkie attack and vaccinations.

Justin Gilstrap Timeline:

“We do place responsibility on the pet owners in Columbia County as it relates to leashes or keeping your dog inside your fenced yard,” says Scott Johnson, Columbia County Manager.We do not allow dogs to run at large.”  

Records show two other complaints from neighbors about the dogs in July 2022. 

On the evening of Friday, January 6, Justin was attacked by the same owner’s three dogs while riding his bike home.

Johnson says the dogs are now deemed “vicious”- as per state law- and have been impounded.

“We issued 15 citations,” says Johnson. “Now, the Sheriff’s Office is also conducting an investigation and they have made an arrest that is parallel to the cases that we’ve made and the citations that we have written.”

Johnson says that, while the state has its own laws, county ordinances about pets could change.

“We have an animal advisory board that’s made up of citizens, that meets on a regular basis, that makes recommendations to Animal services- and, ultimately, to the Board of Commissioners,” says Johnson. “I think you could possibly see something there. There’s no guarantee that something’s going to come out of that.”

Justin’s mother said that, after a run-in with the same dogs, Justin’s late grandfather worried this would happen.

“He said, ‘the next time it’s going to be one of my grandkid’,” says Stevens. “Well, he passed away and he was right…it was one of his grandkids.”

“Our hearts go out to the family and to the child,” says Johnson. “And, again, no child should ever have to go through any kind of trauma like this. We are continuing to investigate this, the sheriff’s office is actively involved in it, our district attorney is actively involved in it. And this is something Columbia County intends to see through to the end.”

Justin’s mother shares on her Facebook page that Justin is now sitting up. He also said in a video to his supporters: “Hey everybody, I love y’all. And I’m just letting you know I’m okay”.