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Pet Expo dogfight leads to vet bill for service dog

Photo by Rachelle Klemme Patty Jones said her border collie mix and service dog, Cheyenne, was doing better after being attacked at the Pet Expo on June 11.

Patty Jones had brought her dog, Cheyenne, to the Wadena County Humane Society Pet Expo, expecting an uneventful Saturday at the fairgrounds. Instead, Cheyenne was attacked by another dog and Jones was stuck with the vet bill.

"I don't even think we were there 20 minutes," Jones said. "Just hope this never happens again."

According to Pamela Withage, a vendor at the expo who made the 911 call, Cheyenne was laying flat in the shade before the attack. When Lola, a pit bull, walked by the border collie mix lying in the shade, she "immediately attacked." Instead of just biting and walking away, Lola held on in a viselike grip.

Carolyn Hartman, volunteer shelter manager for the Humane Society, had a different account. She said the Cheyenne harassed Lola before Lola bit her.

"Unfortunately, her breed, they have a clamping bite," Hartman said. "And she pinned the dog down and bit it behind the ear on the neck through the skin, and she was comfortable then. She didn't have a dog harassing her any longer."

She said that Cheyenne was harassing Lola by sniffing and crawling under and around her.

"I was afraid that pit bull was not going to let go of that dog," Withage said. She said the people around began to beat the dog on its muzzle and jam it with sticks in order for it to release its grip. They ended up prying the dog's mouth open.

"Meanwhile there were several kids standing around, also traumatized. I was traumatized," Withage said. "The whole time, the lady [whose] dog was attacked was just minimized."

Michael Wegscheid helped Jones take Cheyenne to Pine Shelter Veterinary Hospital in Perham, where the dog received stitches.

"They said puncture wounds," Jones said. After seeing it, "I nicely asked the vet where the bathroom was, and I lost it."

Cheyenne was scheduled to get the stitches removed by their regular veterinarian during the week.

Hartman said the bite was not serious. "This is two slits through the skin on the neck behind the ear. There is nothing involved with nerves," she said.

Cheyenne and Lola, who was up for adoption at the Humane Society, were both on leashes as required by expo rules when the incident occurred.

Both dogs had previously been vaccinated against rabies at the Staples Veterinary Clinic - Lola in February 2011 and Cheyenne in September 2010.

Jones provided a doctor-signed document allowing her to have Cheyenne as a service dog for her seizure disorder.

"Her dog is not a service dog. It is a pet. And these things were explained to her by members of the [Humane Society] board who do know the procedures for service dogs," Hartman said.

According to a copy of the police report, Officer Jeffrey Weitemier received the 911 call from Withage at about 1 p.m. When he arrived, Withage said the two dogs had already been separated.

In the report, Hartman told Weitemier she would watch the pit bull Lola for 10 days and put the dog down, and that she went on to say that the dogs were sniffing each other and the pit bull did not like it, so she grabbed onto the other dog on the nape of her neck. She stated that she needed to use a stick and pry the mouth open on the pit bull to get it to let go. She also hit the dog, and that was when the dog let go. She looked at the other dog briefly and said it did not sustain much of an injury, but said it did have two small puncture wounds on the top of its neck.

Hartman said that the police report was inaccurate, and TV news reports were inaccurate, and that she never told the officer she would put Lola down.

"Nor was I told that I was supposed to take a rabies certificate to the police office. I was told that he would be talking to his boss on Monday and we would receive directions if they wanted us to do anything differently, and I never heard any more. So we assumed everything was in place with a proper quarantine," she said.

Hartman said that a ten-day quarantine is an established procedure after a bite. If a quarantine is not followed, a dog automatically has to be destroyed regardless of rabies vaccination history.

She said that no further decision has been made on what will happen to Lola.

As of Thursday morning, Lola was still listed as an adoptable dog on the Petfinder site for the Wadena County Humane Society. She is described as a brindle-colored medium adult female pit bull terrier mix.

The police report also said that about 4:30 p.m. that same day, Weitemier went to the animal shelter where Rusty Delcourt said he had received two calls from the other dog owner, with the second call being disturbing with a male voice yelling obscenities in the background.

Withage, who owns the Camp Canine boarding facility, said she has nothing against pit bulls in general and loves dogs of all breeds. "I don't like to see loss of life of a dog, but I think this dog maybe needs to be put down," she said.

She added that she hoped for an apology from the Humane Society for exposing the public to a dangerous dog, and said that Jones should not have to pay for the vet bill.

Wegscheid also said the pit bull should never have been out at the expo.

The story has been picked up by a variety of the news outlets including the Associated Press, and Hartman said the Humane Society has received many calls from the media.

She said there was misinformation about the Wadena County Humane Society, and that it is a private nonprofit and not part of the Wadena County board.

Jones said her dog was recovering.

"They said she may still have some damage, but she's coming along pretty good," she said. "She was walking around like she was kind of dopey the first day."

Jones said she was glad that no children were hurt, and that the incident didn't get any worse.

"I thought she was a goner," she said. "I don't want this to happen to any other puppy again."