Dog attacks get owners riled in Pratt

Courtney Blankenship
Pratt Tribune
Traveling RN Pennie Mapes Garcia left her special dogs with family in Pratt while helping out with coronavirus care in another state, but within a 6-week-period, her dogs were the victim of vicious dog attacks in the city limits of Pratt, one of which left her Yorkie dead. Her puggle Rory is recovering from life-threatening bites inflicted by a problem dog from a neighboring yard. City officials and policies have not been helpful in resolving the situation.

Two incidents involving dog attacks on other dogs within a 6-week period of time have again brought issues of animal control and owner responsibility to the forefront in Pratt as concerns are raised over animal safety.

The first of the two attacks resulted in the death of a Yorkie dog on June 9, 2020, and the second attack occurred less than 6 weeks later on July 17, resulting in injuries to a Puggle dog of the same owner.

Both the Yorkie and the Puggle belong to Pennie Mapes Garcia, a traveling Cardiovascular Intensive Care Unit RN, who is currently working on assignment in Arizona and could not have the dogs with her. The two dogs were left in Pratt with her mother-in-law, Lupe Garcia. 

Both dogs were attacked on Garcia’s property; The yorkie, ‘Stevie,’ while on Lupe Garcia’s porch, and the puggle, ‘Rory,’ while on a leash in her yard. 

“Lupe saw the dog leaving her property and couldn’t find Stevie,” Pennie Garcia said. “Then, she found him dead. All within minutes.”

Pennie Garcia said that police reports were made for each incident and animal control was also called both times but did not come for the first incident. The owner of the dog received a citation to appear in court.

“They [animal control] were called numerous times prior to the incident,” Garcia said. “No contact was made with my mother-in-law. No calls, no follow ups.”

After reporting the incidents, Garcia said she felt there was a ‘lack of respect for the pet and the owner’ as well as a lack of clear communication and protocols being enforced.

“I had no support from the officials,” Garcia said. “Communication was very vague.”

Garcia said she just wants attention brought to the issue and is concerned about the lack of protection for animals.

“Domestic animals and their safety appear to be disregarded,” Garcia said. “Owners appear to have no rights when other animals attack.”

After speaking with other community members, Garcia said she found people with similar stories to her own regarding animal attacks.

“Some of their pets have been killed and they’ve been told the same thing---It’s a cat, not a person,” Garcia said. “But what happens when it becomes a child? Once [an] animal kills, there’s a chance or tendency that it will happen again.”

The Puggle dog, ‘Rory,’ did not die but Garcia said she is still having more veterinary bills for sutures, antibiotics, and pain medications due to the large laceration and puncture on Rory’s back and bruising to her neck from being shaken and bitten.

“I cannot be certain of the attacker of Rory but the vet said it was a large breed of dog,” Garcia said. “The puncture marks and laceration indicated this.”

Though the court date was set for July 9, 2020, Garcia said she still does not know the official outcome due to not having access to all of the information.

“Justice for animals in Pratt is actually an injustice,” Garcia said.

Along with the veterinary bills for Rory’s injuries, Garcia said she also paid for the cremation of her yorkie dog, ‘Stevie’, after he was killed in June, and for her plane ticket to come to Pratt for the court date.

“I’ve discovered a huge community following due to related issues with animals being killed by other animals. As owners, it appears we have no support to get this rectified and help prevent this from reoccurring,” Garcia said. “I, and others, have been told, ‘it was just a dog, not a person,’ by officials. That’s horrifying that this continues to happen without recourse.”

Overall, Garcia said that ordinances that protect pets from harm need to be upheld and pet owners have the responsibility of protecting their animals.

According to leash law ordinance 6.04.140 Running at Large, “it is unlawful for any person to willfully allow any animal or fowl under his or her control to be or to run at large within the city.”

As stated in the ordinance: “An animal shall not be deemed to be running at large if: A. The animal is firmly attached to a leash or chain, or otherwise under the physical control of its owner or keeper; or B. The animal is within a structure or within a fence enclosure with the permission of the owner or keeper of the structure or fence enclosure; or C. The animal has an operating electronic collar and is under the charge, care of control, of its owner or keeper who is operating an electronic pet containment system or electronic training system for the animal.”

“I was very upset,” Garcia said. “Stevie [the yorkie] is one of our family members. We’ve had him since he was 6 weeks old.”

Garcia said she was devastated that her dog was attacked the way he was and felt ‘absolutely livid’ that she had to go through it all again less than six weeks later with her other dog.

“For it to be basically brushed under a rug and [told] like, ’it’s a dog.’ No, it’s not just a dog. You know, he was with us for 14 years. My kids were raised with this dog,” Garcia said. “He was our family member.”

Garcia said she hopes that by sharing her story she can help keep other peoples’ pets safe and prevent future incidents from happening.

“For me to have to go through this twice in 6 weeks, I can’t deal with this,” Garcia said. “This is just unbelievable.”

Pratt resident, Kathie Case, said she was bitten by a dog last summer while on a walk near Champa and Maple Street. 

Case said she had seen the dog many times while on a chain in its yard, and it would bark and pull on the chain aggressively when she would walk by.

“I was in the street,” Case said. “I was in the street walking when he ran out of his yard, ran into the street, I’m trying to shoo him away, and he bit me.”

The bite on her ankle pierced the skin and resulted in a small scar but did not require stitches or a hospital visit. Case decided to file a police report about three days later but said she never felt that the case was really investigated.

“Once I filed the police report, I never heard anything back from the police. Never,” Case said. “They never called me. They never talked to me. I never called them back either.”

Case said the part that bothered her the most was when she went to the public health department to find out if a rabies shot was needed, she was told that if the owner of the dog did not answer phone calls or respond, then Case would need to get a rabies shot and pay for it herself.

“I was like really kind of taken aback, you know,” Case said. “I’m just walking down the street and her dog bit me---she doesn’t have up to date rabies information on her dog, and I have to pay for a rabies shot? Luckily he didn’t have rabies, and he was fine, but it’s like, you know, you’re the innocent bystander and yet, it all comes on you.”

Case said that she loves dogs and understands that they sometimes manage to get out of the yard by accident or without the knowledge of their owners, but responsibility must be taken.

“I know that it happens, but you know, people’s dogs who are aggressive---[they] should really be taking care of their animals,” Case said. “Because what would they do if it attacked a small child or somebody’s great grandmother or something?”

Under definition 5 of Article V. Dangerous Animals, Section 6.04.300, a ‘dangerous animal’ is defined as “any animal having a known disposition or propensity to attack, bite, or injure any person or animal without provocation. Where the official records of the animal control officer, city clerk, police department, or clerk of the municipal court indicate that an animal has bitten or attacked any person or animal, it shall be prima facie evidence that the animal is a dangerous animal.”

Kris Dover, Pratt Animal Control Officer, said if an animal is running loose but has not attacked a person or animal, a written warning is given. If the animal attacks, however, a citation is given.

“If the dog is loose, I give a written warning but if it bites somebody, then we just pick the dog up and they get cited to go to court,” Dover said. “We take the dog away on the spot.”

Dover said there are usually around 5 to 8 reports of dogs running loose or being aggressive each month.

With the leash law ordinance in place, Dover said that pets should be on leashes at the park or anywhere around town. 

“Some of them can keep control of them [dogs] if they’re not on a leash but we try to be careful with that,” Dover said. “If [they’re] not causing a problem, I don’t worry about it a whole lot but you know, we’ve still got to tell them no matter what.”

In terms of who has access to information about the case, Dover said they try to work with owners and provide all the information they can.

Pratt Police Chief, Nate Humble, said that usually a warning will suffice and the owner will take care of the problem because they do not always realize the dog is loose. 

“We cannot take the dog away from somebody,” Humble said. “We can quarantine a dog or have one put up if it’s a vicious animal but as far as actually taking it permanently away, that would have to be ordered by the court.”

Whether an animal bites a human or another animal, Humble said both cases would fall under the ‘vicious animal ordinance’ in place. 

“A large majority of the animal calls will fall on animal control---it’s part of the police department but if there’s criminal action that needs to be taken care of, there’s a crime that’s been committed, such as a vicious animal or an animal at large where the owner needs to have a citation, an officer will have to do that, not animal control,” Humble said. “Animal control has no arresting powers or anything of that nature in Pratt.”