Friday Apr 04 2008
Attack pit bull still at large
By: Gus Thomson, Journal Staff Writer
Horse recovering, dog owner sought by authorities
A day after a pit bull attacked a horse on an Auburn State Recreation Area trail, Jerry Jackson was packing a canister of pepper spray for protection as he set out from the rim of the American River canyon for a morning run. While state Parks and Recreation Department officials who patrol the recreation area adjacent to Auburn are saying the park and its labyrinth of trails are safe “ and that Thursday's incident was a rarity “ Jackson said he takes no chances, particularly when he encounters dogs that are off leash. Dogs are always a problem, said Jackson, an Auburn resident and one-time breeder of Irish setters. The people with them say they won't hurt you but dogs are so unpredictable. Others weren't letting news of Thursday's attack by the pit bull terrier on a trail about 4 miles east of Auburn keep them from enjoying a mild spring morning of running. I haven't had any problems or really felt threatened, said Foresthill's Chris Rowe, as he set out on a 2-mile run in the canyon in preparation for Saturday's American River 50 ultramarathon. On Thursday, Lincoln equestrian Odette Parker and her 5-year-old gelding had started a ride with a friend when a pit bull attacked the horse on the trail. Parker described how the dog “ with its owner watching in silence and apparently in fear “ circled the horse, feinted, and then moved in three times to attack and bite. Parker said she was terrified as she watched from her saddle during the dog's second attack. It clamped down on the horse's mouth and nose in what Parker said was likely an attempt to cut off its breathing and kill it. But her 916-pound Morgan-Arabian was able to lift the dog up and fling it into a tree. With Parker off the horse, it bolted down the trail with the pit bull “ estimated to weigh about 100 pounds “ in pursuit. Parker's horse “ named Dancing Dandi “ eventually was able to lose the dog after they both ran onto Foresthill Road and the pit bull was almost hit by a motorist. The horse was eventually caught near the Foresthill Bridge after running along the road for about three miles. The dog was picked up by the apparent owner after he had driven away from the scene, refusing to give Parker a ride or assistance. Parker said she expected the man to return after finding his dog but he never came back after picking up the pit bull farther down the road. He left in a silver SUV and Parker, expecting him back, didn't get a license plate number. Neither the attacking pit bull or the man had been located by late Friday by authorities. I didn't think he would take off, Parker said. Parks Ranger Scott Liske said his department is investigating the attack and asking for help from the public in locating both the man and the dog. The attack occurred at about noon Thursday. Anyone with information can contact the Auburn State Recreation Area office at (530) 885-4527. Parker and Debbie Torres, a Lincoln rider who was also on the trail, described the man as in his mid-to-late 20s, balding, with a short fringe of black hair near the ears, stocky and about 5 feet 5 inches tall. He wore jeans and a white T-shirt. Parker said her horse returned to the veterinarian Friday after swelling was noticed in a hind limb. It now has two legs wrapped as well as stitches in its face for puncture wounds and puncture wounds near its tail. Parker said she was questioned by Parks and Recreation and Placer County Sheriff's Department officers about the attack. I'm hoping to get some closure, Parker said. In my view the dog needs to be euthanized. Liske said that he was glad to see rider and horse were OK. He also said that the canyon and the areas surrounding it that are part of the Auburn State Recreation Area are safe areas to visit. We have hundreds and hundreds of people riding horses, he said. This is very rare. Liske added that pepper spray is allowed but that another suggestion offered to Parker “ to carry a firearm “ is something that is not legal to do in the park except under certain circumstances during hunting season. Liske also outlined the recreation area's leash laws, noting there are no current efforts to ban dogs from state parks “ something that was in force through the mid-1970s. Dogs are required to be on a leash and that leash can't be dragging behind it, Liske said. You have to be in control of the dog. Having a dog running off-leash is a citable misdemeanor with a maximum fine of $260. The pit bull could be euthanized as a result of the attack but that decision would be made following an evaluation by a county Animal Control Division official, he said. The Journal's Gus Thomson can be reached at email@example.com.