Vancouver, WA One dog hurt, one dead after off-leash attack

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Postby cheekymunkee » July 1st, 2008, 6:59 pm

One dog hurt, one dead after off-leash attack

Saturday, June 28, 2008
By JUSTIN CARINCI, Columbian Staff Writer

No one knows where Carl came from. The Rottweiler just showed up in an off-leash dog park less than a year ago.

Kathryn Ralston of Vancouver waited around for Carl’s owner to return. “She stayed there for hours,” said Megan-Kate Colwell, an animal trainer who has worked with Ralston and her dogs.

Eventually, Ralston realized an owner wasn’t coming. She took Carl in to join her own dogs, two Rottweilers and a schipperke.

“It was never her intention of having four dogs,” Colwell said.

On Tuesday, Carl was euthanized at the Humane Society for Southwest Washington after taking part in a gruesome attack at the Ross Complex off-leash dog park.

In a sworn statement to Clark County Animal Control, Ray Beliel of West Hazel Dell said his beagle, Hank, was attacked Tuesday morning by at least two of the three Rottweilers that Ralston brought to the park. According to Animal Control Officer Patrick Higbie’s report, Beliel said “two of the Rottweilers grabbed his dog by the neck and rump, playing tug-of-war with him.”

Hank the beagle is still in bad shape, said Kay Beliel, Ray’s wife. He suffered puncture wounds and had muscle and blood vessels torn off the bone from his back.

“They tore all the skin off from the middle of his back to his butt,” Beliel said. “They drug him through the dirt and bark dust.”

Ray Beliel threw himself over Hank to protect the dog, said Kay, who wasn’t at the park at the time. Ray ended up getting bitten too, requiring seven stitches in his index finger.

Ralston stopped the attack and drove away with her dogs, witnesses told Animal Control.

They also reported her license plate number. She took Carl to the Humane Society that same morning and had him put down.

Hank’s medical problems continue. The Beliels have spent $1,200 on veterinary bills and are paying $300 per day for ongoing treatments.

Ray didn’t want to be interviewed, but Kay Beliel said the attack caused more than physical wounds. Ray has been a dedicated volunteer at the dog park, Kay said.

He spends seven or eight hours a day mowing the 8-acre park, Kay said. It takes him four days each time.

It used to, anyway. “He’s not going back to the park,” Kay said.

Ralston has been remorseful about her role in the attack, those who have spoken with her have said. She couldn’t be reached for comment.

“Most of the time I’m talking to her, she is sobbing, and not just because of Carl,” Colwell said. “Absolutely sobbing for the circumstances, the beagle owner, and now she’s worried that Rottweilers are going to be shown in a poor light.”

The breed of dog isn’t the problem, Colwell said. “She made a mistake by taking all the dogs at the same time.”

Dogs in a pack can respond more to each other than to their owners, making them harder to control. “All (Ralston’s) dogs are wonderful, and I would trust them with other animals,” Colwell said. “But putting them in that situation ended in very unfortunate circumstances.”

The attack is the worst case that animal control officer Higbie has seen reported from the park. “It’s definitely the most serious I’ve worked on. Generally, most dogfights and aggressive behavior are just snarling and snapping.”

Ralston’s remaining Rottweilers have been quarantined. They’ll remain quarantined until at least next Friday, Higbie said.

Carl’s remains were sent to Olympia to be tested for rabies. “We don’t usually worry about rabies around here,” Higbie said, noting that he doesn’t recall any recent canine cases. “But when a dog attacks another dog and bites a human, that’s a symptom of it.”

The Dog Owners Group for Park Access in Washington is a volunteer group that maintains off-leash parks in Clark County. The group has formed a safety committee to respond to — and hopefully prevent — the kind of attack that happened Tuesday.

The group responds to complaints and concerns, and works to get training and education for offending dog owners.

As it turns out, most park users need some education, Colwell said. She offers these tips:

*  Don’t bring more than two dogs per person.
*  Make sure the dog knows its name and always stops and looks when you call it.
*  Train your dog on the golden command — “come” — and make sure it responds to it despite any distraction.
*  Never use the park for exercise. Take the dog for regular walks, including before entering the park. “Most issues happen as soon as new dogs come in, because their energy is everywhere,” Colwell says.
*  When you get inside the off-leash area, remove the leash immediately. Other dogs see a leashed dog as weak and will prey upon it.

JUSTIN CARINCI covers law enforcement. He can be reached at 360-735-4517 or
justin.carinci@.... ... attack.cfm

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