Dog Park Bite

Two dogs play together Wednesday afternoon at the Ballenger Creek dog park.

Moose, a 1-year-old chocolate Labrador, was at the Ballenger Creek Dog Park when he spotted a ball.

Another dog had been following him since he arrived at the park with his owner Ariel Cevallos. Moose was playing with that dog.

But now, his attention was on the ball.

Then, out of nowhere, another dog came and broadsided Moose.

“And that’s when it kind of all escalated from there,” Cevallos said.

A scuffle broke out with the dog biting at Moose. The other dog’s owner jumped up, calling to her dog. Other dogs ran over to watch the fight.

Cevallos tried to get at Moose, but the other dog had him pinned. Moose wore a harness, but he was on his back, and Cevallos said she could not reach it to grab him.

Eventually, another dog owner waded in and grabbed Moose. The chocolate Labrador had a superficial injury to his chest. None of the humans who broke up the altercation were bitten.

Cevallos did not get the information of the other owner, and she said she did not know to report the incident. Moose went to a veterinarian and will likely have to have follow-up visits.

Moose’s injury is the result of one of at least four biting incidents at the Ballenger Creek Dog Park in the last month.

Two of the incidents were reported to the Frederick County Health Department and Frederick County Animal Control, which put out alerts looking for the owners of the dogs in each incident.

Frederick County Parks and Recreation will have a dedicated park ranger at Ballenger Creek Park, which houses the dog park, on Saturdays and Sundays, said Matt McKee, park superintendent.

It is not unusual to see bites at the dog park, McKee said, although he noted that the park is starting to see more. Saturdays and Sundays are the busiest days for the dog park, he said.

There are rules against aggressive dogs at the park, he said. If the park ranger sees one, or the department is notified in time, an aggressive dog and its owner might be banned from the park.

But the parks department is often not notified right away, which limits what can be do, McKee said.

And during a scuffle, people do not always think about contacting the parks department or getting the owner’s information. That happened in Cavellos’s case, as well as in the case of Mike Pagliaro, of Frederick, who had to receive rabies shots after being bitten a few weeks ago at the Ballenger Creek Dog Park.

Pagliaro had to get 11 shots after he was bitten while trying to get two dogs off of his Bichon Frise, Daisy. Pagliaro is doing well, he said. He did not have any side effects from the rabies shots.

Daisy is still recovering from her 30 wounds, he said.

She is still afraid of other dogs, said Jennifer Boykin, Pagliaro’s wife.

Despite the recent bites at the dog park, veterinarian Dr. Morse Davis said that people can still go to the dog park. But before going, owners should make sure their dog’s temperament has been assessed. Trainers can do this, he said.

Make sure the dog is socialized. When going to a dog park for the first time, go slow and talk to other owners. Make sure their dogs have also been socialized.

Dogs can have a group mentality, so when they see a fight break out, they might gather around like middle school children. Dogs also resource guard, like with toys or treats.

Davis recommended that people keep their dogs on their leashes at the beginning, so that owners can grab their dogs if they need.

If a scuffle does break out, the best thing to do is to throw something at the dogs or yell at them, maybe pull the leash. They can also carry citronella spray, which is a harmless citrus smelling spray. Dogs do not like the smell so it can make them stop, he said.

So are dog parks safe?

“Are playgrounds safe to bring their kids?” Davis said.

It depends, he said, and people can take precautions. Or, if they prefer, a good alternative might be a doggy play date where both owners know how their dogs play with each other.

Follow Heather Mongilio on Twitter: @HMongilio

Heather Mongilio is the health and Fort Detrick reporter for the Frederick News-Post. She can be reached at

(22) comments


I feel badly for the owners whose dogs were bitten but, really, to the owner of Daisy who said "she doesn't like other dogs;" I'm sorry but this was your fault. If your dog does not get along well with other dogs, then put the dog on a leash and WALK her! Putting a dog (of any size) who doesn't like other dogs into an off-leash park with other dogs is SUPER irresponsible--dogs that are afraid of or dislike other dogs tend to act in a defensive manner that puts other animals on edge and can cause more scuffles, etc.

If you know that your dog does not do well around other dogs---DO NOT BRING THEM INTO A DOG PARK!

Also--I have two dogs, a Pit and a Lab mix. The Lab LOVES everyone and wants to play and socialize. The Pit loves most dogs (doesn't do well with pointy eared dogs: German Shepherds, Akitas, Shebas, etc) but we know what her challenges are and address them. Most of the time, I walk her on leash and my husband takes our other dog into the off leash park. If we bring the pit into the off-leash park, we muzzle her.---these are really the only responsible options for those who actually care about the way this affects their dog and others in the dog park.

A flip side on this, I was recently at ANOTHER dog park in Frederick with both dogs (mentioned above) and we were the only ones there so we let the Pit off leash unmuzzled.

Another owner with a large, intact, male pitbull began to approach the gate of the dog park. I saw this and observed that my pit looked a bit on-edge. I called to the owner, "Hey there! My girl here doesn't do great with big males. Mind if I leash her and walk out before ya'll come in?" (A reasonable, polite request. No?)

This guy was maybe 10 ft from me and I was yelling full volume (i.e. not a great chance he couldn't hear me)--he stared right at me and let his dog into the park as he said, "UGH WHAT?!?"

The male pit ran towards our Lab and, in a fit of sisterly protection, my pit attempted to run towards the male pit--as I was in the middle of leashing/harnessing her when she tried to run, she ended up pulling the leash/harness setup super tight around her own neck and I ended up essentially choking her so hard that she was strangled--I'd let go of my end at this point so I could untangle her--she fell over onto her side and started loudly gasping for air (a terrifying sound I'd only heard a dog make once before in my life and it was when our older dog was dying of internal bleeding)---I immediately started bawling my eyes out and saying, "I'm sorry, girl. Are you okay? I'm sorry, girl..." as I got her untangled and hugged her.

I finally got her out of the web of leash and the stupid male pitbull tried to run over to us--which again made my dog get defensive (I think this time she thought he was coming at me) but she was still hoarse from the strangle and instead of her usual defense growl, out came this sad little doggy cough. My husband had been trying to talk calmly to the other owner but, at this point, I lost my temper and said, "DUDE! I ASKED YOU TO HOLD YOUR DOG FOR A SECOND--YOU FREAKING IGNORED ME AND I NEARLY STRANGLED MY DOG. NOW YOUR DOG IS UP IN MY DOG'S FACE AND IT IS CLEARLY NOT GOING WELL---ARE YOU REALLY JUST GOING TO SIT THERE?"

This guy had the nerve to start saying, "I didn't know...."

My husband lost his temper at this point and kind of read the guy the riot act as I got my pit out of there----moral of the story is this:



Because dog park.


Dogs will be dogs, what do you expect? Inherent risk when they get together kind of like people driving cars. If you don’t like it then don’t go to the dog park, simple.


This just makes me glad I live in the country where I can walk my dogs ( on a leash) on my own property! Even here we get people who leave their dogs loose, and they wander. We had a cat killed in our garage by a free roaming dog.. This is not just a "dog park " issue, it's an irresponsible pet owner issue. And I agree people are too focused on their phones to pay attention to their dogs.. or kids at times


Thank you! You are so right! It's like parents who don't pay attention to their kids and wonder why they get into trouble. Use your brain, people!


We noticed trouble there when we used to take our dog because the owners of smaller dogs were not using the designated small dog area and instead go into the larger dog area thinking this is alright to do. This causes friction and issues with the dogs. The owners don't care and are not paying attention.


The small dog area is there for people that have small dogs that don’t like the big dogs but there is no rule about small dogs not being welcomed into the main area. Our two miniature schnauzers liked the main area because the big dogs are more fun. They run and chase and that’s what ours like to do. So small dogs in the main area is alright to do if that’s what they like. We never had any problems until people started bringing aggressive dogs, and they caused problems with all the dogs, large, medium, and small. We don’t go there anymore. There have been 2or 3 dog bite incidents recently, all by pit breeds. And the owners just disappear during the ensuing confusion, causing the victim to get a long series of anti-rabies shots.


I agree that if there is a small dog area, small dogs should be there. Otherwise they just look like prey to larger dogs


You shouldn’t be a dog owner if you have a dog that sees dogs of any size as prey. Domesticated dogs are not predators. Even pit breeds don’t kill animals to eat, they kill because they have been bred to kill for Centuries. Anything, even humans.


Some small dogs known for their self esteem (cough:terriers) don't view themselves as prey and larger dogs sense that.


some people just shouldn't won dogs. and that's not confined to the dog parks, either. my dogs have had multiple scuffles with unleashed dogs as i walk them (leashed) around the neighborhood. DO NOT LET YOUR DOG ROAM AROUND WITHOUT A LEASH OR A FENCE! i don't care how well behaved you think your pooch is, it's illegal for a reason. personally i don't take my dogs to dog parks because i know they aren't socialized very well and don't want to risk something happening. too many people just don't even think about stuff like that, though


Dog parks are law suits waiting to happen.


Dog parks are awesome but I stopped going there. Too many dog owners don't pay attention to their dogs. They have their eyes glued on their phones or are too busy socializing with other dog owners. This is why there are bites and/or injuries at the dog park. Until that changes, I'm not going back.


Interesting that you don't hear about these types of incidents at the City dog park. I think the City requires advance registration and a permit.


Good article, though it would be better if it includes who should be called, along with phone numbers, in case of future incidents. Also, I would recommend against bringing balls and other toys to a dog park. Seems to me that is asking for trouble.

The Grape of Wrath

The whole idea of a stinking dog park is as stupid as it gets. Especially one with a rule against aggressive dogs. Has any dog owner explained the rules to their dog? Naturally when a ball gets loose in a pit filled with dogs they are all going to chase it, and the alpha dogs are going to growl and snarl and bite the sub dogs. The alpha dog owners cheer and the sub dog owners cry and whine. Dog owners act like the most obnoxious and self-centered jerks in the world, but they are really just extensions of their stinking mutts. Close the stupid park. The only rule we need is dogs owners may not let their stinking dogs drop a pile on public property or on somebody else's property.


You’re big bark has no bite......


You don't know much about dogs, youre explaining a cat in this triad...


Also, dog owners are generally good people, far better then people like you.


Hmm. Strong on pack theory but bereft of adjectives


"But the parks department is often not notified right away, which limits what can be do, McKee said." Really? He said that?


Change "do" to "done."

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