One Couple + Two Dogs = Our Waldo Bungie

Sheltie attacks pit bull and owner

October 13th, 2011 | Posted by Emily in Doggies! | Super serious.

For those of you who have been following the blog for awhile now, you know that I like to keep things positive around here. I typically do not vent my frustrations about things on the blog – I like to keep it light and happy – a celebration of all things pittie and home improvement related!

But I am frustrated and conflicted and I need the advice of my ever-so awesome doggie community to figure this thing out… so here is the story:

The short version: A sheltie-type dog was running loose in the neighborhood and bit me on the shoulder when I attempted to protect Turk (who was being pretty viciously attacked).

After the attack: The owner of the sheltie ran out of her yard when she heard the commotion, grabbed her dog and dragged him back across the street, leaving me shaking like a leaf and trying to compose myself enough to check out the damage the dog did to Turk. I stood outside this lady’s house for a good 15 minutes composing myself and she never came back out to apologize or let me know if her dog was up-to-date on shots. She just… disappeared.

I walked home, took photos of Turk’s abrasions (shallow bites on his back legs and deep bites on his back haunches) and my bite, then called Animal Control. I was basically told that unless I press charges, they cannot do anything.

This photo doesn't do the bite justice - the next day my bruise was HUGE! Plus, there are scratches lower on my arm that I neglected to take photos of.

The dilemma: If I press charges for my bite, the likelihood is that this lady’s dog will be taken into custody and put down. If I don’t, it is probable that this dog will attack again.  I keep thinking about what would happen if it had been Rufus who had been attacked – he is tiny and could have endured a lot more damage before I would have been able to pick him up! And this is the worst thing that has been running through my head: what if it had been the other way around and Turk had attacked this lady and her dog? A pit bull attacking a sheltie and it’s owner?! We’re talking headlines on the 9 o’clock news! But since it is a sheltie attacking a pit, there are no news crews knocking down our dog to get the story.

So what do I do? Do I press charges, which will ultimately only hurt the dog (who is obviously just not socialized), or do I let it go and just avoid that neighborhood from now on?

I want to stress that I am not mad at this lady – for all I know she was completely embarrassed and just didn’t even know what to say to me – but I am frustrated because both me and my dog could have been seriously hurt and it is not right that I should have to feel unsafe to walk my dog in my own neighborhood.

What do YOU think? How would you handle a dog attack?

(and because I can’t have a totally super serious post – here is a photo of Turk in his costume from last Halloween – because Shark costumes = appropriate for dog attack stories)

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21 Responses

  • avatar Alana says:

    What an awful situation :( Did the sheltie owner seem to understand the gravity of the situation at all? Is it a long term neighbor? Have you taken Turk to the vet to get checked out? I’d want to check the status of the attacking dog’s shot records.

    I’d suggest taking Turk to the vet to get checked out, then taking a copy of the bill for that to the sheltie’s house (With your fella, without pups) Knock on their door and calmly and rationally give them the vet bill, and inquire when their sheltie last had their shots. Then talk to them about what concrete steps they were willing to take ensure this doesn’t happen again. If they don’t agree to pay the vet bill, if they are rude and defensive, I’m afraid going to AC is your only option. Honestly, what if their dog was acting crazy because she/he is sick? What if your dog gets sick? They are 100% liable. BUT it quickly becomes a he said/she said :( I’m surprised AC said charges = PTS. I worked at a vet and several times we held dogs for 10 days on rabies watch following bite incidents, and they were always returned to their owners in the end…but that’s been several years ago.

    Speaking from experience, I can say going to war with neighbors NEVER ends well, but you have a responsibility to Turk to make sure the dog is UTD on shots, if nothing else. I’m sad to admit it, but loose dogs are why I carry pepper spray when I walk my pups.

    I’m so sorry this happened. Hopefully they will be responsible enough to do the right thing.

  • avatar Miranda says:

    Oh no! Poor Turk! I can honestly say that you are a better person than I, because I would have gone right up to her door and given her a piece of my mind. But, like you, would be unlikely to press charges for fear that something would happen to her dog.

    Perhaps you could write her a little note and let her know that you called animal control, not knowing what to do. Let her know that her dog bit not only Turk, but you. You just want to make sure that her dog is up to date on his shots. Also let her know that you will not be pressing charges, though you have every right to do so, and if it does happen again, you may not be so inclined as to go with the “the dog just isn’t socialized” theory. I would think that would at least scare her into keeping her dog on a leash when he’s outside!

  • avatar Kate says:

    I’m so sorry that happened to you :( It’s so scary.

    We’ve had this happen too (unfortunately). Each time T has ended up going over to the person’s house to talk to them after the “incident.” He explains that we don’t “want” to go to AC or to press charges, but that they need to understand that their dog can’t be loose again like that again because it’s dangerous – both for their dog and for us. It usually works out pretty well – the other person gets really embarrassed and apologizes – but it’s never fun. So far we haven’t seen those same dogs loose again so it seems to do the trick. If Turk needs to go to the vet (if the punctures are very deep they’ll probably want to give him antibiotics) you can decide if you want to ask the other owners to pay for that or not (although that might just open up a whole other can of worms).

    I would be wary to leave a note, because a little face-to-face time goes a long way, but if they refuse to answer the door I might consider it if you think it’s likely to happen again.

  • I agree with both of the above comments but I fear sometimes people are too quick to protect the dog. Of course I believe in second chances but what if this isn’t the first time the dog has done this? I’ve also worked at a vet’s office where people have brought in dogs to be observed for rabies because they had digressed to biting children. It would be awful if some kid was walking his puppy nearby and got mauled and in my opinion, that goes beyond being a poorly socialized dog–that dog actively and aggressively pursued your dog to attack him.
    It’s definitely very wise and mature of you not to be upset with at the owner and I would try to discuss it with her, give her the vet bill (she should certainly pay that) and get evidence that her dog is up to date on vaccinations. It will be embarrassing for her, sure, but that’s part of the responsibility of dog ownership.

  • I would talk to your neighbor and ask for vetting records – if only for your own peace of mind that the dog is up-to-date on his vaccines. If he’s not you have a whole lot more to worry about and potentially upsetting your neighbor is not worth the nightmare of rabies treatment.

    I think your neighbor was mortified that her dog behaved so badly and is probably too afraid to come talk to you. So I think if you reached out in kindness and concern it should be fine.

    But you absolutely need to make sure his vetting is up-to-date for your’s and Turk’s safety.

    And poor Turk! Please give him kisses and hugs for me!

  • I’m also on board with the rest of you. I worked at a shelter, and bites happen. There is a protocol for a reason, and only repeat offenders with violent bites are typically put to sleep (at least around here). It is primarily important to get the vaccination records, and using an Animal Control Officer is an official way to make that happen. However, if you are comfortable going to that person’s house and talking it over with them, that is a great first step. It may be that they didn’t realize how bad it was, and will be willing to take precautions from now on. If Turk needs to see a vet, they should reimburse you. Period. A lot of times, if you go to them and explain that you’d rather not get AC involved, people are grateful enough to cooperate. But if they are rude or unwilling to change, it is important to go to the proper authorities. Serious injuries are the result of owners like that, and dogs don’t bite hard without practice. That sheltie has probably nipped or lightly bitten before, and it is getting better at it.

    If it were me, my priority would be making sure the dog had a rabies vaccine- you’d be surprised how many family dogs do not. Then I’d make sure the situation is resolved either with or without the authorities. Like Rachael said- you aren’t the only one walking a dog by that house, and the dog needs to be in control and supervised. I know it can seem like you’re the bad guy, but that isn’t true. One day the dog being attacked will fight back, and the owners need to realize that they are putting their own dog at risk as well. Good luck, I know it isn’t a situation anyone wants to be in, and hopefully things will be resolved without trouble.

  • avatar Anita says:

    I am so so so sorry that you and Turk had to endure such a scary situation. I also agree with everyone above. I want to stress that Turks and your safety is #1. Get him to the vet to make sure the puncture wounds don’t get infected and make sure that this dog was vaccinated. The truth is who knows if this has happened before to other neighbors and Of Pit bulls and Patience is right, dogs don’t bite hard without practice.

    Remember you are not trying to be malicious or petty with your neighbor. This is a serious situation. Please keep us updated on both you and Turk. Watch Turk around other dogs just to see if this affected his behavior. Dog attacks are super scary for dogs and can cause some weariness for them.

  • Having been the owner of a dog that has viciously attacked another, I can say that while paying the vet bill was not fun, it was 100% the right thing for us to do. I can also say that it’s embarrassing, mortifying, frustrating, etc to be the owner and hopefully, she just didn’t know what to do. When Maggie had her dog park incident, we weren’t sure how to handle the situation. She had never, ever bitten anything before, not even close, no nipping, nada (I call this the Dr Jekyll/Mr Hyde part of her personality). She had always been 100% friendly with all other dogs. This was an out of the blue type situation. Not saying that it’s the same with your neighbor but I think it’s the right thing to do to give them the benefit of the doubt until they absolutely prove themselves unworthy of that and you need to bring in the authorities.

    Give Turk some extra loving from his blog friends today. I’m sending kisses your way!

  • avatar Corbin says:

    We had a kind of, but not really similar situation last summer… except Corbin was the sheltie… and the woman over reacted because he IS a pitbull. We were out of town on 4th of July and a friend of mine was staying at the house with Corbin… Corbin figured out how to open the gate to our back yard and ran up to a woman and her small yorkie mix. She picked up the Yorkie and was screaming that Corbin was attacking her. In reality, he was only excited to see someone and play with her dog… wasn’t growling or nipping or biting – we had neighbors that witnessed it. It was a tough phonecall to get, but I tried calming the woman down. I had all of Corbin’s medical records in the house and had my friend get them for her. I also, thankfully, thought to have my friend take pictures of her “bites” incase she decided to press charges. Thankfully she didn’t… and I told her I knew how scary it was for a big dog that you don’t know to run up to you… I’ve had it happen before. I was super embarrased about the whole situation, and felt awful because I wasn’t there to deal with it. So when we got back into town, I walked to her house and apoligized in person and asked how she was healing up. She then said she over reacted and there were no lasting marks on her or her dog. I offered to walk Corbin up for her to meet him and show her that he’s just an overly excited large crazy dog, but that I didn’t think he would intentionally hurt anyone. She said no, that he scared her. So I said ok. A few months later, I was outside and she stopped on her walk to say hello. Her dog was barking, growling and throwing a fit. Corbin was tied to our lamp post as I was cleaning out my car, he never moved, never made a peep… she didnt even know he was there until I pointed him out.

    Anyway, that was a lot of explaining the opposite of what happened to you. But, if he had left a mark on that woman and he really was aggressively attacking her -I would understand if she pressed charges. However, where I live, Corbin would have been given a behavior test and deemed a “dangerious dog” instead of getting put down, as long as it was his first offense and he was registered with the town. I know it’s a tight spot… but that dog could seriously harm another dog – especially one smaller than Turk.
    -Corbin’s momma, Jenn

  • avatar Corbin says:

    Sorry about the super long comment! But I also wanted to say I hope you and Turk are healing up!!!

  • Poor little Turk, I know he was so scared, not knowing why this was happening to him. You will get lots of responses about this us owned by dog folks have strong feelings about this topic. And you are so right about if the rolls were reversed things would have been much different. I would first off go talk to the neighbor, hopefully it was just one of those terrible accidents, accidents do happen and maybe she is very sorry. Although I’m not confident that is the situation because in the same situation I would have put my dog up and instantly ran back out to check on you two. The fact that she didn’t does not bode well. But everyone deserves a chance to do right. If you are not satisified with the results you need to press charges. I feel for that poor pup because as you said it’s not the pups fault. Please keep us updated. What did the Vet say about Turk? They need to pay for that visit for sure.

  • avatar Kate W. says:

    The dog needs to be rehomed (since she is not controlling her pet) or put down. What if it had been a kid? I would go back to her house to discuss the situation. Tell her you need an apology and to know what she is doing to make sure it doesn’t happen again, or you will be forced to press charges to keep the neighborhood safe.

  • avatar Kerin says:

    To echo:
    – Turk should go to the vet if he has any marks at all for *independent documentation* and pics.
    – If skin was scratched infection is a risk; however, if he had a puncture, I guarantee it will get infected. Also, vets are much better at finding holes than mom (at least at my house).
    – Antibiotics for you as well if the skin was broken, I can’t tell from the pic. If you don’t think you need them now, signs of infection include swelling, redness, heat, etc. Speaking just of regular, dog normal oral flora and depending on the bug generally within 24hr
    – She really does need to provide vaccination documentation, for you both (and see your boo-boos). That’s part of being a grown up. If she does not provide them, then I think Animal Control needs to be mentioned in the conversation to improve her attitude.
    – If all goes well, it should be over at this point; however, it should be impressed that the outcome would have been much worse had it been a child walking its dog and is not training your dog worth being sued for all you’re worth plus some jail time?


  • avatar Kerin says:

    Forgot to mention, I DO think she needs to pay for the vet bill and any medical care you may need.

    • avatar Emily says:

      Thank you for all of your kind words and advice, everyone! It sounds like you all think it’s wise to speak to her in person, so I think I will do that. I am more of a “you catch more flies with honey” kinda girl, so I plan to be nice about it, and hopefully it will be a positive experience. I’ll keep you all updated as to what happens!

  • avatar Crystal K. says:

    With its preponderance of wayward dogs, our neighborhood is a real hotspot for this kind of thing. Dog bites are no fun — I’m glad yours don’t appear to be very deep. I’m also glad you seem to be viewing this as an educational opportunity for the sheltie’s owner. Of course, my pack and I are eager to hear how it all turns out. Hugs to Turk.

  • This is so awful, I wish I had good advice! We want Havi to be a shark, too! Thinking of you!

  • avatar Kristine says:

    I don’t have any advice to give that hasn’t already been shared but I wanted to wish you and Turk well. I hope you both are healing up and you don’t have to deal with anything like this again. What an awful experience all around! I am so glad it wasn’t worse!

  • avatar Jess says:

    I think the above support and advice says it all… thoughts to you and Turk. I agree its just incredibly frustrating that if the tables were turned, it would be on the news, no doubt. :( We’ll all keep fighting to change the image of these amazing dogs, one person at a time! Knox sends love and hopes Turk is healing up well.

  • avatar Ann Davis says:

    Yes, Jess…. it’s biased media that only reported pit bull attacks. Give me a break. This woman wouldn’t have a minor bite if it were a pit. Her arm would be broken and halfway torn off. THat’s the facts with pit bull attacks. Let’s stop pretending it’s this big media conspiracy…

    That said, you absolutely need to report the bite – it doesn’t matter the breed.It is very unlikely that the dog will be taken and destroyed. Most ordinances are very lax and if you do live in an area where animal control will put restrictions on her, it will most likely be a minor inconvenience to her – such as neutering/spaying of her pet, taking it to obedience training, having a secure kennel/fence to confine dog in. that’s usually the only restrictions on a minor bite and aggressive behavior by a dog off its own property.

    But you need to do it for the safety of your neighbors and their pets. This dog is out of control, has shown its propensity to bite and its behavior will only get worse if this owner is not forced to do something about it.

    • avatar Emily says:

      Ann – I have to disagree with the first paragraph of your comment. According to the National Canine Research Council, “Unfortunately, certain groups and individuals seek to capitalize on the already disproportionate dread that some people feel toward dogs. They persist in making claims about the severity and nature of incidents involving “pit bull” dogs versus other types of dogs. They expose victims identities and traffic in descriptions of the victims injuries in order to forward their personal theories and agenda. Claims about the “unique damage that ‘pit bull’ dogs inflict” are made by individuals or special interest groups with no knowledge or experience in analyzing dog bite-related injures that result in a fatality. In the interest of accuracy and fairness, NCRC feels compelled to address these tactics and claims. For nearly two decades, NCRC has investigated and analyzed injuries from every dog bite-related fatality for which data is available and has found that no type of dog has a particular method of inflicting injury; claims that one type of dog inflicts injuries unlike other types have no merit.”

      The bite from that sheltie was only minor because I was able to quickly remove myself from the situation. My pitbull-type dog suffered several puncture wounds and left absolutely no marks on the sheltie. Rather than saying “this dog” or “that dog” is known to bite, I choose to work on educating people to leash their pets for the safety of other humans, and for the safety of their pets (and my own) as well!