I don’t, really. But Robert Marx shot that pit bull at my dog park, on my stomping grounds and people are still talking about it ten days later. I’ve had two people enthuse how I should build a novel around it. This would involve people shooting vicious dogs, and the revenge killings that follow. It would be a blood-bath, I’m told.
Regarding this incident, the press is one sided and inaccurate. Robert Marx isn’t talking and Kaitlynn Hornsby isn’t telling the truth. She refers to Bruski as a “big baby” and paints him as a friendly dog who was initially attacked by Marx’s border collie mix. (Rumor has it that Hornsby has been asked to leave other dog parks and not come back.)
The most balanced reporting was in USA today, which stuck with police reports and did not quote Ms. Hornsby. Other news outlets contain such faux gems as:
Huffington Post: Kaitlynn Hornsby and Silas Parker say their pit bull was being playful with Marx’s dog on Tuesday when the other dog bit it. They say their pit bull bit back and Marx killed it within seconds.
Columbus Dispatch: “He didn’t even give me a chance to break up the fight,” said Hornsby.
Only one of the news outlets I checked have cited any of the witnesses.
This morning, a man I have known for years only as “Moe’s Dad,” was sharing what he saw when I arrived at the dog park today. He is one of two witnesses I’ve spoken with since the shooting.
The first witness I spoke with was sitting with Bob and his wife, Lois, when a melee between a large number of dogs broke out. He stated that Bob was sitting many yards away from the fight and you could here his dog screaming. Bob is 74 and has diabetes. He has limited movement and it took him some time to arrive at the fight. By then it had winnowed down to the two dogs, Bruski and Rowdy.
Both of my witnesses state that neither owner was nearby when the fight broke out. So I want to know, how does Ms. Hornsby know which dog started it? (Another news outlet states witnesses reported seeing Bruski attack Rowdy.)
Moe’s dad said he noticed Bruski behaving aggressively when he arrived at the park that afternoon, and that he told Ms. Hornsby that she needed to control her dog better. Then he took Moe to the back of the park to get away from any possible altercation between the dogs. When the fight broke out, he went to the fray. I forgot to ask him why. Possibly Moe ran towards the fight, as dogs tend to do. He did say he was trying to keep Moe out of it.
He arrived among the circle of onlookers after Marx tazed the dog. He stated both dogs were limp and perfectly still. He saw Marx lean over and “puff up the other dog like a loaf of bread,” Marx then moved around to the side of the dog, pressed his gun up on Bruski’s shoulder, 2 inches to the side of the spine and fired. He stated Bruski did not respond while Marx was handling him. He demonstrated the angle of Marx’s shot, which was about 30 degrees. He stated he was standing on the other side of the dog from Marx and was afraid at the time that the bullet would go through the dog and hit him. He said Bob never looked up to see what was on the other side of the dog when he fired. He also stated that it took several seconds after the shot was fired before Bruski responded by getting up and walking a short distance, then falling down.
Neither witness I talked to was able see whether anyone made any effort to separate the dogs before Marx tazed the dog. It can be concluded by the distance Marx had to cover to get to the fight that there was time for intervention before he arrived. Moe’s dad covered acres of ground to get to the fight and arrived before Marx shot Bruski.
Moe’s dad said Bruski’s jaws were still around Rowdy’s neck after he was tazed, and Marx made no attempt to separate the dogs once they were both laying limp on the ground. We both suspect (but do not know) that the dogs could have been safely and easily separated at that point.
I’m just sick about this.
Neither owner was in the right. Hornsby should have had better control of her dog and Marx should have stopped once the dogs were limp. Regardless of how you feel about pit bull attacks, Marx is guilty of shooting a firearm in city limits. It is against state law to use a firearm to defend personal property. Everyone who completes a concealed carry course is told this. They are also told that pets are classified as property.
As I said, I don’t have a dog in this fight. I’m not about to defend either owner. But there are things we can take away from this.
1. All dog parks are potentially dangerous places.
2. Keep your dog under close supervision when strange dogs are around.
3. Know the difference between “rough play” vs. aggression and predator behavior, and if your dog tends towards aggression, don’t take it to the dog park.
4. Dog fights are more likely to happen when a crowd of dogs forms. I see crowds of dogs forming because their owners are congregating in large groups, and dogs tend to stay near their owners when others are around. So don’t congregate in large groups.
5. If you see a large group forming, take your dog to another part of the park.
6. If you see a dog behaving in an aggressive manner, take your dog to another part of the park or leave.
7. Dog parks are not a good place for small children. Even if the dogs are just playing, it’s easy for them to knock even adults over.
8. If your dog starts behaving aggressively, put it on a leash and get it under control. Take it to another part of the park or leave.
9. The safest way to intervene in a dog fight is to grab the aggressor (both dogs, if possible) by the hind legs, then lift the hind legs up while pulling to the side. A vet tells me she successfully used this maneuver on a pit bull.
10. Do not bring treats or food into a dog park. Some dogs are food aggressive. Your dog may be fine, but you don’t know about the others.
Dog parks are an invaluable resource for those of us who do not have a fenced yard, have inadequate space for exercise, or want to provide socialization for their pets. To keep access to these places, it’s important to remain alert, be responsible and think defensively.