Owner of dog killed at Mpls. park recalls terror of pit bull mix's attack

  • Article by: PAUL WALSH , Star Tribune
  • Updated: April 23, 2014 - 7:07 AM

Once found, the pit-bull mix could be destroyed and its owner face legal consequences.

Resident Julene Lind said “it was no fight” two evenings ago in a south Minneapolis park, when a pit bull mix overpowered a little boy’s hold on its leash, went into full sprint and put an airborne death clamp on one of her three much smaller dogs.

Upon the attack’s swift conclusion, Lind’s beloved Ziggy, a 7-pound Papillon given to her as a puppy eight years ago to commemorate surviving breast cancer treatment, lay in a bloody clump.

“It didn’t take very long for it to kill our dog,” Lind said Tuesday. “We yanked Ziggy up in the air in an attempt to save her, and the pit went airborne and snatched her.”

Lind’s husband, Steve Rosch, was also bitten and “did everything he could. The dog would not release. Then it walked back over to its family, his job well done.”

As the kill on Easter evening was executed in Martin Luther King Park, between 40th and 42nd streets along Nicollet Avenue, the larger dog’s owner and four small children with her were just a few feet away.

“They watched their dog rip our dog up,” Lind said, worried for how this scene might affect the children.

Lind said the dog’s owner “never did anything” during the entire incident, and “I was in a frenzy. I was using profanity. The only thing she told me to do was to stop swearing.”

Rosch scooped up Ziggy and ran toward their home nearby, located above the Nicollet Ace Hardware, which they own. She said he was hoping against hope that Ziggy could be saved.

Lind called 911 and told the other woman to stay put until police arrived, but she left with a baby strapped to her chest and the other children and the larger dog in tow.

Husband bitten, bloodied

The scrum also left Rosch with four puncture wounds on his left forearm and Ziggy’s blood splattered on his shirt. “He was running the alleys, and I stayed with the other two dogs,” said Lind, who had all her pets on leashes. “It was very chaotic.”

She said her husband will not be treated for possible rabies infection, noting, “It was a family dog. The odds that this dog had rabies are slim to none.”

Park Police Chief Jason Ohotto said action against the dog by Minneapolis Animal Care and Control could be as serious as having the animal destroyed. The woman could be charged with a petty misdemeanor for violating the leash ordinance or something more serious, depending on what investigators learn about the woman’s response -- or lack thereof -- during the attack.

Dawn Sommers, spokeswoman for the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board added, “Bottom line is dogs in parks need to be on a leash and in control of the owner,” she said, emphasizing “control” as “a key thing.”

City officials have made a plea for the public to help them find the woman and her dog, described as a pit bull-boxer mix. They say she walked east and onto a footbridge along 40th Street that goes over Interstate 35W, the same path she and the children took to the park.

Lind sensed there could be trouble on the warm spring evening, saying she’s had close calls with dogs before in that park.

“A little boy was holding the dog on a leash,” she said, recalling the moment she spotted the bigger dog and the boy weighing less than the animal. “But he couldn’t hold the dog, and the leash just flew out of his hands.”

The attack prompted Lind to go to an online neighborhood forum and warn others about bringing their dogs to MLK Park, writing, “We feel this park is much too dangerous to walk small dogs please be wary. We thought we were extra careful but could not stop the attack nor could the boxer pit family as they stood and watched their dog kill ours. … Only the very small boy said he was sorry.”

Police say the dog they are looking for is brown, with light tan coloring on its chest and neck. Lind estimated that the dog weighed 70 pounds. Lind said the woman is black, about 40 years old, 5 feet 6 to 5 feet 8 inches tall, medium build and with her hair in a ponytail. A police bulletin put the woman’s height as 5 feet 1 inches to 5 feet 4 inches. Chief Ohotto said the bulletin’s height estimate was taken at the scene and likely would not be as accurate as the one provided Tuesday by Lind.

Anyone with information about this case is asked to call Minneapolis Animal Control at 612-370-1434. Lind said she is offering a $300 reward for information leading to the woman and the dog.

“Animal Care and Control [personnel], park police and city police are all out looking for this woman and her dog,” Sommers said.

Range of declarations

State and local laws say that domestic animals that have bitten or “demonstrated aggression” must be investigated to determine whether that animal is a threat to the public and should be declared “dangerous” by Animal Control.

Such declarations are determined based on the severity of the incident, including serious bites and unprovoked aggressive behavior.

There are three categories of declarations: potentially dangerous, dangerous and destruct order.

According to the city, instances annually of dogs biting people in since 2009 have ranged from 371 to 413, with 59 to 87 of them having inflicted serious injury.

The city did not have available Tuesday data on dogs biting other dogs. Ohotto said those incidents “are not that common and are not frequently reported to police.” More often, he added, officials are alerted to dogs biting humans, with the pet owners “cooperative and contrite,” unlike what apparently unfolded Sunday.

“The absolute worst part of this is that this adult didn’t intervene when this dog was attacking,” the chief said. “She didn’t try to call her dog off or try to pull her dog away. … She left knowing her dog had injured another person and killed another dog.”

Animal law attorney Katy Bloomquist said that if the dog had a history of aggression, it should have been muzzled or controlled by an adult, not a child.

It’s likely Julene Lind and her husband could be compensated for the value of their dog but little else, Bloomquist said.

“It’s very small, and those types of damages don’t even begin to cover the level of loss,” for losing a pet that way, she said. The bite, she said, would likely be covered by homeowners insurance.

Martin Luther King Park was at the center of an extensive debate a few years back over whether to build an off-leash dog park there. Civil rights activists blocked its construction in 2011, after black residents said allowing dogs to run free there would denigrate the legacy of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., whose nonviolent demonstrations during the Civil Rights Era were attacked by police in the South who at times used snarling dogs.

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    Monday April 21, 2014

    Family says their Papillon, a Spaniel breed that typically weighs less than 10 pounds, was ambushed by a Boxer-Pitbull mix

  • Steve Rösch was bitten as a pitbull-boxer mix attacked and killed a small Papillon Sunday at Martin Luther King Park in south Minneapolis.

  • Julene Lind described on Tuesday how her dog Ziggy, left, was attacked and killed by a larger dog Sunday at Martin Luther King Park in south Minneapolis. Lind’s husband also was bitten.

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