Unrestrained pit bull attacks dog in downtown Mount Shasta

Skye Kinkade
Rhonda Bryant clutches a photo of her dog, Nikki, during the Mount Shasta City Council meeting Monday evening. Nikki had to be put to sleep after being attacked by an unleashed dog Tuesday of last week.

Shedding light on the importance of keeping dogs on a leash, practicing safety with animals and having knowledge in what to do during a dangerous situation, an unrestrained pit bull caused a commotion in downtown Mount Shasta last week when it fatally attacked another dog.

Mount Shasta resident Rhonda Bryant said she was “shocked and horrified” when her 15 year old cocker poodle, Nikki, was mauled on Mt. Shasta Boulevard on the afternoon of June 8.

Nikki was seriously injured during the attack and had to be put to sleep the following day.

“I had to say goodbye to my little dog, who was everything to me,” Bryant said. “It was so traumatic to see him getting attacked like this.”

The pit bull is owned by a transient from the Los Angeles area, according to Mount Shasta animal control officer Gordon Howard, who “scooped up” the dog after Mount Shasta City Fire Chief Matt Melo sprayed him twice with mace. Howard then took custody of the “highly aggressive” animal, which is now in quarantine at Siskiyou Humane Society.

“It’s a sad situation, I’m going to try not to cry again,” said shelter manager Kim Latos. “It’s horrible for both dogs... owners need to exercise caution with aggressive dogs, and all dogs need to be properly restrained.”

Bryant explained that she was walking Nikki (who was on a leash) past the Stage Door when she saw the pit bull. The owner was covering the dog’s eyes with his hand and assured her that everything was fine, she said.

“I told him I didn’t think so, and started to cross the street... The next thing I knew, the pit bull lunged and got my Nikki... there was nothing I could do.”

Bryant said that several people, as well as the dog’s owner, tried to get the animal off Nikki, to no avail.

“At one point, they got him to stop, but then he attacked again,” Bryant sobbed.

That’s when Howard arrived, she said. “He was the only one who was able to really get the situation under control... I wish he could have been there sooner, but somebody called him and he was there as soon as he could.”

The pit bull’s owner was the only person injured in the attack. He suffered bites to his hands, Howard said.

Though Nikki survived Tuesday night, Bryant said she had to make the difficult decision whether or not to put such an elderly dog through the difficulties of surgery to reattach one of his legs and repair several broken bones and lacerations.

“In the end, I decided the best thing for Nikki would be to let him go,” she said.

The city will be filing a case against the owner, but Bryant has not filed a civil case in the matter.

“The city has a 10 day window to take the petition to hearing. A judge would then  need to determine whether or not the dog should be euthanized,” said Howard.

If the owner abandons the dog, the Humane Society would then evaluate him to see if he’s a candidate for adoption. However, that is unlikely, Howard said, as he was involved in at least one other  violent incident in Los Angeles.

Gordon emphasized that a Mount Shasta city ordinance requires that all dogs, no matter their size, breed or disposition, be on a leash for good reason.

“You can say that your dog is the friendliest little guy in the world, but what if another dog comes up, barking and lunging, and your dog isn’t controlled? Either one could be injured or killed.”

While the pit bull is in quarantine, Latos said he is being treated just as any other dog would be, though it has been difficult to control him in such close proximity to other animals.

“We’re doing our best to accommodate him, but we have to take serious precautions,” Latos said.

Bryant said she hopes the incident, though tragic, will call attention to the absolute necessity of having an animal control officer in town.

“This reaffirms the importance of having someone as wonderful and knowledgeable as Gordon Howard in Mount Shasta,” she said.

Howard’s position is one that may be cut to half time in the 2010/2011 budget.

Though it has been suggested that other officers would be able to do the same as Howard in such a situation, Bryant said this isn’t so.

“He knew just what to do,” she said. “He did a wonderful job.”

Howard is also knowledgeable about animal law and how to go about prosecuting owners of dangerous animals, said Latos.

“We have been saying that Gordon is irreplaceable for a long time,” she said.