Pit bull attacks at dog park
by Kendall Wright | Patterson Irrigator
Nov 12, 2009 | 6155 views | 16 16 comments | 21 21 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Patterson's Ron Toscano holds up his clothes that were soiled by his blood and that of his dog when a pit bull attacked them at the Patterson Dog Park. Elias Funez/Patterson Irrigator
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Terrier seriously injured; owners bloodied, bruised

Rachel Newcomb, 63, says she is still terrorized by dreams of a dog’s snapping jaws in front of her face.

Unlike some, her dreams spring from a real nightmare.

A relaxing Sunday afternoon trip for Newcomb, her son and her dog, Tiny, at Patterson’s dog park turned serious Nov. 1 when they were attacked by large male pit bull. The result was bite marks, bruises and thousands of dollars in veterinary bills for their near-paralyzed animal.

Newcomb said the near-100-pound pit bull broke away from two young children and grabbed her 12-pound female American terrier in its jaws.

“I asked the children if the dog was friendly, and they assured me of it before they brought him in,” she said. “It happened so fast. I remember seeing Tiny in its jaws and the blood dripping from her little stomach where her intestines were showing, and then how it went after my son.

“I don’t still don’t know how I had the strength to pull him off.”

Newcomb’s son, Ron Toscano — just days out of the hospital after heart surgery — said he went after the dog when it snatched Tiny and tried to run off, before the dog turned and bit him on the wrist.

“All I could think of was a segment I had seen during Shark Week on the Discovery Channel, and I started punching its eyes until it dropped her,” he said. “I don’t want to see this happen to any other dogs, or let alone people. If I had been a child, for instance, this could have turned out a lot worse.”

After a trip to an emergency pet hospital in Modesto and more than $3,000 worth of surgery, Newcomb said, the vet is unsure whether Tiny will walk again. The small dog is confined to a pillow in an upstairs bedroom of Newcomb’s house and eats a diet of baby food, with a tube inserted near its legs to drain fluids and a morphine patch for pain.

Breed or owner to blame?

While pit bulls have developed a reputation for being aggressive, many advocates of the breed — once known as the “nanny dog” because they were used to watch out for small children — say the breed is often misunderstood.

Donna Reynolds, executive director of San Francisco-based B.A.D. R.A.P., a nonprofit that specializes in educating the community on responsible pit bull ownership, said the size of a dog can cause more problems than its breed.

“What needs to be clarified is that this type of behavior is not a ‘pit bull thing’ but a ‘large and small dog thing,’” Reynolds wrote in an e-mail. “Unfortunately, small dogs are not always safe around larger dogs — especially in dog parks, where dogs excite each other as they run in packs, strict supervision is impossible, and chaos rules. Aggression can happen within any breed.”

The number of dog bites has continually risen in the past 20 years — with pit bulls, Rottweilers, Presa Canarios and their mixes found to be responsible for 74 percent of dog bites in the U.S and Canada, according to a November 2006 study by Merritt Clifton, the editor of Animal People.

But attorney Kenneth Phillips, author of the Dog Bite Law (dogbitelaw.com) and a noted authority on the subject, wrote on his site that the dog bite epidemic is a broader problem than just a few breeds.

“While pit bulls and Rottweilers inflict a disproportionate number of serious and even fatal injuries,” Phillips wrote, “the dog bite epidemic involves many different breeds, and results from many different causes.”

After the attack

Efforts to find the pit bull responsible for the Nov. 1 attack and its owner have been unsuccessful, according to Sgt. Dorothy DiGino of the Stanislaus County Department of Animal Services.

“At this time, we haven’t had much luck tracking down the owner or the dog,” she said. “However, even if they were found, because the park is off-leash, it could throw a wrench in things. It’s really an unfortunate thing that happened.”

According to California law, the owner of any dog is automatically liable for any harm inflicted on a person who is bitten while in a public or private place, but not necessarily for injury to another dog, Phillips wrote in an e-mail. However, in the case of pit bulls — often bred for aggressiveness — he said fault for all damages would most likely fall on the owner.

Newcomb and her son, once regulars at the dog park, said they are unsure whether they will return again any time soon, but they hope others will learn from their experience.

“People need to be more responsible with their pets,” Toscano said. “The rules of the park are there for a reason, and it’s important to follow them to keep everyone safe. The dog park can be a great thing, but what happened with us is proof that things like this can happen.”

• Contact Kendall Wright at 892-6187 or kendall@pattersonirrigator.com.
Stay safe with your pooch

Liam Crowe, CEO and master dog behavioral therapist for SPCA International, offers the following tips when taking your dog to a dog park.

Know your dog. Not all dogs enjoy meeting new dogs. Don’t let your dog get overwhelmed by meeting too many new dogs at once. Instead, test your pet with another dog in a controlled environment first.

Closely supervise your dog. Don’t get distracted by talking to other owners. Instead, keep a close eye on your dog at all times and monitor its body language with other dogs to help avoid trouble before it begins.

Learn body language. Educate yourself about dog body language and communication signals so you can distinguish among fear, play and anger.

Never physically intervene in a fight. Instead, use a water bottle to squirt the dogs in the face or try to distract them by throwing something near them. Never put yourself in the middle.

Know when to leave. Remove your dog from the park if it is threatened or bullied and seems fearful; begins to display aggressive behavior by becoming overexcited or threatening toward other dogs; pants heavily or seems too tired. Keep your dog’s welfare a top priority.

Learn more. Read more tips at http://www.spcai.org/learn/animal-care-advice/item/123-dog-park-safety-tips.html.

Comments-icon Post a Comment
November 25, 2009
We just moved here 2 weeks ago and were walking our yorkie and chihuahua yesterday. 2 doors away from our house a pitbull broke a board to the backyard of his owners home and darted towards us. I grabbed my kids, yorkie and it came right towards my chihuahua so I let her go and she ran and hid behind a trash can and fence in a neighbors yard. It kept circling around us while i was calling 911. THe police NEVER responded even though all you could hear were my kids screams. The owners NEVER came out of their house to get their dog that was freaking us out and animal control still isn't here 24hrs later. I called this AM and they told me 911 told them it was a dog loose. I told them to LISTEN to the call again to hear my children screaming. I dont know these ppl or this dog and I am really unhappy paying Mello-roos for police services when no one shows up! I dont care about these dogs one bit. I think they should all be euthanized!
November 19, 2009
It's unfortunate this happened. But I also belive that there are so many uneducated dog owner out there. I have two pitbulls and have never had this sort of problems. One died of old age, she never bit anyone or was aggresive. Now I have another female. I've had her since she was 6 weeks old. And I think that YES it's in their nature to possibly be aggresive. But it's the manner in which you raise and train them. My Mocha has no problems with other breeds large or small. She enjoy the dog park and keeps to herself. Ignorant owners should be liable for the actions of their dogs.
November 19, 2009
after reading the story on this how do you contradict yourself in the story i dont understand how a good writer could listen to this story and write it maybe they should listen to what they say before they write it there is always something happening at that dog park we play softball at the fields next to it and always something why now write this i read this paper all the time and there is bad reporting
November 18, 2009
Any animal that can cause this kind of damage cannot be out in public. This is a dog made popular by thug culture. It will go the way of the Doberman and Rotweiler, remember when they were all the rage. Unfortunately the animals are not to blame it is the owners who are unaccountable and could care less about training and socializing the animal to be submissive around other humans and dogs. This is a typical outcome of cultural diversity in our society.
November 16, 2009
I stopped reading at the part about a 100-lb "pit bull". Let's just get rid of every breed name and call every single dog on the planet a pit. That way, newspapers can say "PIT BULL ATTACKS!!!" every time there's an incident with a dog.

They get to sell stories, and it wouldn't be much less accurate than it is now.
Bill Z
November 14, 2009

This is why there are so many new dogparks using electronic swipe cards at the entrances to dogparks. That makes it impossible for perps to flee the scene without identifying themself.

But they still haven't figured this out yet in California for some reason. It sounds like animal control is part of the problem here too.

WRZ ....

ccdogpark at YahooDotCom ...



November 13, 2009
Sorry that happened to you Ron, you were always one of the good guys down there. I know my lab liked running around with Tiny. We stopped going down there a few months ago due to the irresponsible owners, and that grey and white pit bull that was always starting fights, despite their owners telling everyone that their dog was nice. We also got tired of the people who's dogs have no tags which usually means their dogs haven't had their shots. They also tned to have un-neutered or spayed dogs, and they never seem to clean up after their dogs even though theres free bags available to them. I guess they cant read the big sign at the entrance telling them to clean up after their animal and that their dog must be neutered to enter the park. Oh and the best is when the parents of the kids playing soccer hide out over there smoking weed while their kids play ball. Ive never seen an animal control officer at the park, which is a shame because the fines for having unlicensed and un altered animals are pretty steep. I would bet that this pit bull was not fixed. How come there was no description of the pit bull that attacked Tiny in the story? That might make it easier to find if people knew what to look for. Hope your dog gets better and you find the owners of the pit bull.
November 13, 2009
JM3, I'm going to have to agree with APBTA_INC on the question of whether the dog was really a pit bull.

I work with them all the time. My shelter takes in over 30,000 animals a year, 80 to 90% of which are pit bull mixes. They average about 40 pounds, and I've never seen one larger than 65 pounds.

There are many other breeds that are commonly mistaken for pit bulls, including American bulldogs, Presa Canarios, Dogo Argentinos, even boxers!

If the dog in question cannot be found, they are simply going on the word of the victimized dog's owner. In which case, they should have just left it as a generic dog, and not raised the fear level that is already out there regarding these dogs, just for media ratings.
November 12, 2009
What a sad tragedy for the victims of this unfortunate and preventable event! The parents of the children with the pit bull should have been providing adult supervision during the park visit. Any animal (human included) has the potential for behaving in an aggressive manner. Unfortunately, one of the most popular dog breeds in recent years,especially among many in the lawless sector of our society, has been the pit bull. In fact, an infant child was recently mauled to death by an unattended pit bull dog in Delhi.

California law needs to be followed with the adult owners of the attack dog held accountable for their lack of supervision. A dog breed like the pit bull, commonly know for displaying aggressive tendancies when trained by their human handlers to fight and kill other animals and people, is not the right pet to raise with children. Labs make a much more suitable family pet.

The canine drug detection dogs used in the schools around children can only be breeds with non-aggressive personality traits for a reason; they pose a minimal safety risk. People should only be allowed to have pets if they are willing to be responsible pet owners, making sure that their animal's medical and training needs are met.
November 12, 2009
November 12, 2009
While I feel bad for Tiny, Ron and Rachel for the attack, I feel that the dog park is getting a bad rap. I have been a regular at the dog park for the better part of 2 years. My dog actually has a problem being aggressive to one of Ron's dogs, so being the responsible dog owner that I feel I am, I leash my pet when Ron arrives.

I have been at the park at times when there have been more than 20 dogs running loose. As owners, we try to talk to newcomers about their dog(s) to see how old it is, if they've ever been to a park before and how they feel their dog relates to other dogs. I know that isn't going to stop a dog from getting over-excited and aggressive, but we get the feel from the owner how they or their dog would react. I also tell them about my dogs.

My heart goes out to Ron and Rachel. Ron was one of the first people we met at the park (my dog actually peed on him!) and I know his love for his dogs exceeds that of most owners. I will miss them.
November 12, 2009
My vet years ago told me dog parks are the worst place you can go due to the high chance of a dog picking up illnesses and diseases.

This article obviously brings up another major reason dog parks are bad news and should not be allowed.

Who would think a bunch of unrelated dogs running loose in a confined space would get along?
November 12, 2009

Before you shame the media, why don't you read the WHOLE story? Like, maybe the part in the middle?
November 12, 2009
My daughter was attacked by a Doberman Pincher in April of this year, rather then stopping to offer some assistance, the owner took off running. When I called the sheriff department to report the incident, they would not respond to the call or assist me in any way....they simply referred me to animal services. We ended up locating the owners address by asking around and driving through neighborhoods. On the other hand, it took animal services one full day to respond. In the mean time I took my daughter to emergency to have her bites cleaned out. The City of Patterson needs to draw up a plan to address animal bites. At the very least the sheriffs department should be assisting the victims of bites to obtain id information from the owners. Granted, they were in an animal park, but the parents of these young kids should be held responsible for their vitims (human and animal alike) for allowing their children to take a pitbull of any other dog that they cannot control. To the victims, good luck finding the owners of the dog. I would check the neighborhoods surrounding the park...if I were you.
November 12, 2009
Anything over 70lb is NOT a Pit Bull. Shame on the media for persisting with the hype and the part they are playing in causing the deaths of so many innocent dogs the world over.

This situation, like all the rest, boils down not to breed but to inadequate training, socialization and restraint. End of. There is nothing wrong with Pit Bulls (or any other breed for that matter) that not falling into the wrong hands doesn't fix completely.

Personally, I don't take my dogs to dog parks or the beach where so many dogs are off-leash. It's a recipe for disaster.
November 12, 2009
My God, how terrible. How stupid of someone to allow two children to take a 100 lb. dog for a walk! Common sense dictates that if you cannot control the dog, you shouldn't be taking it for a walk. I went to the dog park months ago and was told by a worker that it was closed indefinitely, so I have not returned. Now that it is open I don't know if I dare. It's a sad day when you can't even go to a dog park without fearing for your life. I pray that Mrs. Newcomb, her son and Tiny all recover completely, both physically and emotionally. As for blame, I will be on the lookout for this dog and owner. It's not the breed - I have played with many, many pits with not problems whatsoever.

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