CHS student aims for change after dog’s death

Marty, left, and Emilee Elzy with Buttercup on Christmas Eve of 2022.

Marty, left, and Emilee Elzy with Buttercup on Christmas Eve of 2022.

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A 14-year-old Carson High student wants to turn a personal tragedy into an opportunity for good.

“I want to do this because I don’t want anyone else to go through what we had to go through, and the process we went through; and I don’t want anybody to feel like they’ve been left in the dark because I feel like that’s something we felt like,” said Emilee Elzy.

On May 5, Emilee lost her dog Buttercup when two other dogs in her Baker Drive neighborhood attacked the 4-year-old chiweenie. The attack occurred in the young woman’s backyard after the two dogs had gotten through a hole in the fence. According to court documents, in October, Justice of the Peace Kristin Luis declared one of the attacking dogs “vicious” and ordered its surrender to the Nevada Humane Society, which oversees animal control in Carson City. The judge declared the other dog in the attack “dangerous.”

Months after the attack, Emilee was reading local and state dog policy. An avid bowler and a Girl Scout with Troop 35, she’s been making time for reflection and change if possible. She and her mother, Marty Elzy, met the Appeal on Dec. 6 at Scoups in downtown Carson to talk about the case.

Emilee recalled the attack vividly:

“It was just like a normal day and about 7 o’clock that night, she was out back, and she wasn’t barking or doing anything like that, and all of a sudden I heard a cry from her, and it was just abnormal, so I went, and I looked and saw two … dogs at her, attacking her, and blood just everywhere,” she said.

The Elzys believe something needs to change in the way such cases are handled. Emilee’s grandmother, Denise Stewart, is onboard as well. Stewart told the Appeal she filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request and discovered past incidents in the neighborhood involving the same dogs.

“So right now, I’m trying to find all the city ordinances that relate to dogs and just kind of see what they say and go from like county to county to see and just compare,” said Emilee.

Emilee said she’d like clearer language in the city code. The Elzys have also thought about a database that could notify people of dangerous dogs.

“I would definitely say it (the system) was very slow to respond,” said Marty. “I realize to a lot of people, this is a dog. To us, she was a family member. She really was very much part of the family. And so, while it may have been insignificant to others because it’s a dog, she wasn’t just a dog. She was very important to us.”

In the aftermath of the attack, the Elzys reached out to some Carson City supervisors and to a lobbyist at the state level. Emilee said she wants to make the issue central to her Girl Scout Gold Award project.

One supervisor contacted was Maurice White.

“When the family approached me, I became concerned with the apparent lack of victim protection and straight forward direction for law enforcement to act in this situation,” White told the Appeal. “I was impressed with the family’s intent, without anger or vengeance, to create a better situation. What really concerns me is what appears to be an absence of continuity between NRS and Carson City Code. I am happy to work with this family, where I can, assisting them in their desire to create change that will keep another family from having a similar experience.”

According to Carson City Municipal Code 17.13.100, a dog is deemed “dangerous” if “without provocation, on two separate occasions within 18 months, it behaved menacingly, to a degree that would lead a reasonable person or another domestic animal to defend himself, herself or itself, as applicable, against substantial bodily harm, when the dog was: (1) Off the premises of its owner or keeper; or (2) Not confined in a cage, pen or vehicle.”

In the same code, a dog is deemed “vicious” if “(1) Without provocation, it killed or inflicted substantial bodily harm upon a human being; (2) Without provocation, it killed or inflicted substantial bodily harm upon another domestic animal; or (3) After its owner or keeper has notice that the dog has been declared dangerous, the dog continued the behavior described in paragraph (a) in such a manner as to threaten substantial bodily harm to a human being or another domestic animal.”

Jerleen Bryant, CEO of Nevada Humane Society, sent a statement to the Appeal about the distinction between “dangerous” and “vicious.”

“When an animal is deemed ‘vicious’ (which must happen through a judge’s decision) per Section 7.13.100 of Carson City Municipal Code, the animal must be humanely destroyed or given to Carson City Animal Services within three days of the owner’s notification that the animal was deemed ‘vicious,’” Bryant said. “An owner has three days to appeal the judge’s decision. The animal remains in animal services custody until a judge can review the appeal.”

A designation of “dangerous” is less clear, Bryant pointed out.

“When an animal is deemed ‘dangerous’ (also through a judge’s decision) per section 7.13.100 of CCMC there is no clarification as to what is required of the animal owner per state or county (Carson City) code,” Bryant said. “Even state NRS 202.500 does not list any requirements of an owner if their animal is deemed ‘dangerous.’

“Per 7.13.100, animal owners have 10 days to appeal the ‘dangerous’ declaration. It is not required that the animal stay with animal services pending the judge’s review of the appeal. A ‘dangerous’ declaration can be upgraded to ‘vicious’ dependent on whether the dog continues the same behavior that resulted in it being declared ‘dangerous.’”

Bryant said if NHS believes a dog meets the requirements of either designation, “we escalate the case to the District Attorney’s office for further review.” Bryant said while “vicious” dogs may be euthanized, in the case of “dangerous” dogs, the judge’s decision is documented and included with the specific case and animal profile.

“Per established county (Carson City) and state code there are no requirements for owners of dangerous dogs,” Bryant said. “Regarding how someone might know if a dog being adopted is dangerous, the information on dangerous dogs and owners is kept within Nevada Humane Society case records and shelter management system and is confidential. Further, we do not adopt out dogs that have been designated as dangerous and follow clear policy for any dog with a bite history or serious aggression to other animals.”

The Elzys told the Appeal they don’t blame the dogs for their behavior but rather how they were raised. Emilee has since adopted a new dog named Candy, which Carson City Sheriff’s Office personnel alerted the family to after Candy’s previous owner died, Marty said. Emilee has been enjoying Candy, though the family does not let her out in the backyard unattended.

When asked what she misses most about Buttercup, Emilee said, “her personality.”

“I just want to look at more of the positive because that was Buttercup: positive,” she said.

For information about NHS, visit


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