Keep in mind that if you visit a dog park, you and your dog should be prepared for anything.
Alex Calderon’s chiweenie, Pinto, weighing in at 16.5 pounds, was reportedly attacked by a German shepherd on Aug. 23 at White Sands Dog Park in Faribault.
“She’s been there many times and all the dogs came to greet her as she entered,” Calderon said. “All of a sudden as I was chatting with someone, a dog grabbed my dog by the hind leg, locked its jaw and shook it back and forth like a toy. My friend and I jumped in and he dropped my dog but it was too late.”
Following the attack, Calderon said she expected the German shepherd’s owner to approach her with an apology at the very least.
But he didn’t.
He loaded his dogs into his van and left without a word, ignoring Calderon’s sister as she tried to get him to stop. Calderon managed to get his license plate number, which she turned into police, who helped her identify him.
Police also passed Calderon’s number onto the German shepherd’s owner, but he hasn’t contacted her or returned her calls.
Several layers of Pinto’s flesh were torn away and had to be repaired. So far, she’s paid $1,500 in vet bills and more are coming after Pinto got an infection, which is not uncommon following an animal bite.
“I’m considering filing a suit in small claims court to at least cover Pinto’s medical expenses,” Calderon said. “There are more treatments to come and I’m basically out of money. I used my savings to pay for everything so far. If this ever happened again, I would confront the owner immediately.”
Veterinarian Marvin Trandem of the Faribault Veterinary Clinic, who has been a vet in the Faribault area since 1974, said dog fighting is the most frequent health issue at White Sands Dog Park by far.
“Through the summertime, we probably see about one a month,” Trandem said. “Some are just mild glances, just a bite, but some are very serious. Not all people get along and neither do all dogs.”
Northfield veterinarian Elias Dahmeh said the frequency and severity of dog-on-dog attacks at local dog parks varies.
“Last year in one week, we got five of them, then nothing for two months, although they could have gone to another local vet,” Dahmeh said. “I’ve seen some very bad injuries and some minor. It’s especially bad when big dogs attack small dogs. But any dog can be aggressive, regardless of size or breed. You can’t trust an animal 100 percent.”
In Calderon’s case, Faribault Police Chief Andy Bohlen said they’re trying to determine if the dog should be declared potentially dangerous depending on the animal’s history.
“If the dog is declared dangerous, the owner has an opportunity to appeal the decision,” Bohlen said. “If after the appeal it is still declared dangerous, there are a number of requirements that must be met, including a liability waiver, insurance, must be on a leash or in a fenced yard, in addition to others.”
Calderon said although the dog park is public, you still have to take responsibility for your dog.
“Had this dog attacked a child or person, it would have been an entirely different story,” she said.
Faribault Animal Control Officer Paula Wadekamper said they receive an average of three or four calls per year to White Sands Dog Park for aggressive dogs.
Northfield Police Chief Monte Nelson said according to records dating back to 2012, there have been no reports of dog fights at Northfield Dog Park and he could not recall any such calls.
“My guess is that you wouldn’t find any complaints regarding aggressive dogs at the Dundas Dog Park if you submitted a record request,” said Dundas City Administrator John McCarthy.
Neither Faribault or Northfield has city ordinances that specifically address dog parks, but both cities do have separate ordinances pertaining to animals and parks, regulating whether they’re on a leash, licensed, vaccinated or are a nuisance.
According to USA Today, America’s 100 largest cities saw a 34 percent increase in the construction of dog parks from 2005 to 2010. They are the fastest-growing segment of city parks, according to a study by The Trust for Public Land, a nonprofit that creates parks.
But the issue, according to Modern Dog Magazine, is that owners of unsocialized dogs bring them to the park, thinking to train them there. What may happen as a result is an unprovoked attack.