After pit bulls attack horses, some residents afraid to let kids play outside

Published 12:00 am Saturday, January 29, 2011

By Shelley Smith
Two horses in different parts of the county are nursing serious leg wounds after pit bulls attacked them on Tuesday.
And for one of them — Honey — it was the second attack in three months by the same dog.
Honey’s owner, Tammy Fisher, keeps the horse in pastures on family land on Sells Road. She is furious — and scared.
“She was in her lot, in her pasture,” Fisher said. “That dog was in her pasture attacking her.”
Bruce Rufty has kept two horses in his pastures on Bernhardt Road since 1992, and he had never had trouble with dogs or other animals until Tuesday afternoon.
Rufty’s 28-year-old horse, Gypsy, was attacked by a neighbor’s pit bull. The pit bull ripped open the inside of Gypsy’s front right leg, and also punctured a back leg.
Gypsy had to have a tube sewn into her skin to help drain the infection.
“I’m sick about it,” Rufty said.
Fisher, Rufty and their neighbors all want the same thing — to see the law changed so any dog that attacks will be taken from its owner after the first offense.
Everyone is worried the dogs will strike again, and they say the next target could be people.
n n n
Fisher said the first attack was the worst.
The dog, Lucy, belongs to Cortenea Winchester of 1470 Sells Road, according to Animal Control officers. Lucy got loose and ran toward Honey, biting her legs and going for her throat. On Friday, Winchester denied the dog was hers and asked a Post reporter to leave her property.
On Tuesday, Lucy came back to the pasture and attacked Honey’s rear legs again, leaving Honey with two puncture wounds and two tear wounds.
“Every time that dog gets loose, he’s going to come over here and attack this horse,” Fisher said.
Fisher is giving Honey antibiotics and pain medicine, but since she’s an older horse the pain and stress may lead to her being put down if she doesn’t heal. “I can’t be here all the time, I’ve got to work to take care of my horses,” Fisher said. “It’s not right for the working person to pay taxes and let these people get by with whatever.”
Fisher’s neighbor David Ramsey helped chase the dog away from Honey on Tuesday, and he recorded a video of the November attack. “This dog has been aggressive to me before, and this dog gets loose a lot,” Ramsey said.
n n n
Bill Smith, who lives less than a mile from Rufty, has many horses, miniature stallions, goats, chickens and a pot-bellied pig. He’s worried his animals, and even his grandchildren, could be the next target.
“They’re dead if they come here,” Smith said of the dogs.
Smith said he’s scared to let his three grandchildren play in the yard, and he said the law needs to change.
“We need some teeth in our laws,” he said. “It’s time for a public outcry. It’s time for a rebellion.”
Rufty said the animal control officers need more power.
“All he (the officer) can do is go down there and give him that citation — but what does that do?” he asked. “It doesn’t keep him (the dog) from coming back.
“How many complaints is it going to take for something to happen? It just really bugs me that I can’t do anything about it, that I can’t stop it.”
n n n
The dog that attacked Gypsy was a pit bull named Baby, one of many that belong to Scott Arrowood of 425 Bernhardt Road.
A neighbor, who wanted to remain anonymous, said he saw the attack.
“It ran across the street in the pasture and he ran it all over the pasture,” the neighbor said. “Then I seen it come back this way.
“I would see the horses run by and he was jumping up at their neck. He kept right after the horses. And if he gets out again, he’s going to go back.”
Arrowood said Baby was a rescue dog that his wife had brought home only a few days earlier. He said Baby got out of the house because the door wasn’t latched.
“It was an accident, a one time thing,” he said. “I’m sorry, but it’s not necessarily the dog’s fault, and it’s not the horse’s.”
Arrowood apologized for the attack and agreed to pay for the vet bills in increments, Rufty said.
n n n
This week, Michael Gordon was charged with involuntary manslaughter after his two pit bulls mauled and killed a 5- year-old in Waxhaw.
It’s unknown if the dogs in Waxhaw had been known to attack, but some say if a dog does it once, it will try it again.
“I think they should remove them after the first attack,” Fisher said. “I’m living in fear that it’s going to happen again.”
Rufty agrees.
“You can’t sit there 24 hours a day guarding your horse with a gun,” Rufty said. “The fact is, is that it’s happened, and I can’t stop it. It could come up here tomorrow and do the same thing.”
Animal Control Officer Ann Frye took Lucy from her home, Fisher said, and said the dog would be at the shelter until a court decides otherwise.
But that doesn’t solve the problem with irresponsible dog owners, Rufty and Fisher said.
Brian Romans, an American pit bull terrier advocate, said it’s the owner’s responsibility to provide everything a dog needs.
“And with a high energy breed, like an American Pit Bull Terrier, or Staffordshire Terrier, they need exercise and structure, and love and companionship, just like any human, really,” Romans said.
Romans has two pit bulls and is fostering a third.
“To me, it’s a dog attack,” he said. “It’s unfortunate that people — owners — aren’t responsible for their animals, and unfortunately the media portrays the animals in that way.”
He called the Waxhaw killing a “tragedy.”
“The responsibility falls solely on the owner of that dog,” he said. “And I don’t want to defend anybody whose dog has killed anybody or whose dog has taken a livestock’s life.”
Animal Control Field Supervisor Tommy Staton said N.C. law states that people have a right to protect their own property, “however, you have to.”
“If the dog is in the act of attacking livestock and you have to do that (kill it), then you’re in the legal right,” Staton said. You can also kill the dog if it’s being aggressive, but Staton said it’s always best to call animal control or 911 first.
Staton said he gave Arrowood a $25 citation for allowing a dog to run at large, and Arrowood told him he was in the process of getting rid of the dog.
If another attack happens, Staton said, Arrowood will go “straight to court.”
But, if Gypsy ends up dying, Arrowood would have no additional consequences, only the vet bill.
And although there have been two attacks by pit bulls this week, Staton said pit bulls are not their biggest problems.
“Yesterday we had a border collie trying to attack chickens,” he said. “Pits are what make the news but pits are not the majority of the problems we get.
“We get calls, not just pits, but dogs in general, chasing horses, in with the cows, chickens, anything,” Staton said. “And unfortunately it is fairly common that we get calls.”
Contact Shelley Smith, 704-797-4246.