Two dogs attacked a pair of miniature horses in Thurmont late last month, leaving the horses injured and with a long recovery ahead, according to the horses’ owner and animal control officers.
Pam Garber, who lives directly across the street from where her horses are stabled, said she was just going to bed when she heard her neighbor’s dogs barking at about 1:20 a.m. Sept. 29. Knowing her new neighbors owned two dogs, Garber didn’t think much of the noise at first, but when she heard what sounded like a child screaming she realized her horses were squealing in pain.
“There was blood all over the walls of the barn but we found them out in the pasture,” Garber said.
Garber’s 16-year-old son tried to fight the dogs off the horses to no avail.
“I realized we needed help,” she said. “I am screaming at the top of my lungs, ‘Help, help! We need help!”
Neighbors came outside to see what the noise was, and some called police, Gardber said. Garber ran to the home in which the dogs live and banged on the door to get their attention, she said.
Garber said she found the gate that usually keeps the dogs in the yard wide open when she arrived at the couple’s house, and she suspects it was left open by accident.
The owners of the dogs could not be reached for comment as of Monday and will not be named because no criminal charges have been filed as a result of an investigation by the Frederick County Animal Control Division, which closed late last week.
The animals were eventually separated, but both horses suffered significant injuries, including deep bites and gouges to one of the animals’ hindquarters and puncture wounds to the other animal’s head, Garber said.
The dog owners received two $50 fines — one for each dog. Garber said she was outraged by the punishment.
“Animal control is not doing anything, they’re not taking the dogs, they didn’t quarantine them at the time that this happened, they refused to even come out [that night] and then when they did come out Sunday morning [the officer] said they’ll get a $50 fine for not containing the dogs on their property, and that’s it,” Garber said.
Sgt. Dave Luckenbaugh, an animal control supervisor, said the penalties were in line with the county’s ordinances and state laws.
The fines were the maximum penalty for a first offense under the law prohibiting owners for allowing their dogs to run at large, Luckenbaugh said. Animal control officers did not find any previous dog bite incidents involving the dogs’ owners.
While the fines may be minor, animal control officers also deemed both dogs, one of which was an American bulldog and the other a pitbull mix, to be potentially dangerous as a result of their investigation, Luckenbaugh said.
“Now that the dogs are potentially dangerous, if they violate the county ordinance or if they violate the state law for dangerous or potentially dangerous dogs, it will be a misdemeanor criminal offense,” Luckenbaugh said, explaining that a fine of up to $1,000 can be leveled against those found guilty of violating the county’s ordinance, while owners convicted of violating the state law face a fine of up to $2,500.
Owners of potentially dangerous dogs are also required to keep their animals confined in proper enclosures if they are ever left unattended, Luckenbaugh said. Proper enclosures for dangerous or potentially dangerous dogs could be inside a residence, but if the dogs are kept outside they need to stay in a secured outdoor structure or pen that meets the specific and strict guidelines under the county’s ordinance, including a lock and secures sides, a roof and flooring, according to the ordinance.
“In addition, when [the dogs are] off the property, they have to be on a leash or chain under the immediate control of an adult,” Luckenbaugh said.
Garber said the fines and penalties imposed so far aren’t enough.
“I would love the dogs to be killed, but the least amount that should be done is they should be muzzled, because, if they get out, we live right down the street from Eyler Park. I mean, we have children that live in all the houses around us, this could have been one of them,” Garber said, adding that she would also like the dog’s owners to help pay for the veterinarian and medical bills she has incurred as a result of the attack.
An emergency vet had to be called to the pasture to treat the horses immediately after the attack, which cost $700 alone, and additional fees have built up for subsequent medical services and treatment since, Garber said.
Luckenbaugh said the animal control division was limited to enforcing the county’s ordinance and state laws concerning animals, saying that animal control officers do not give legal advice, but will appear in court if they are subpoenaed to provide copies of case files and appear in court if a civil case is filed as a result of a case they investigated.
Garber said she was considering filing a lawsuit against the dog owners, but no case was filed as of Monday, according to an online search of county court records.