PetSmart trainer blames ignorance for pit bull attack
Wednesday, 08 May 2013 14:42

 Rules to be implemented at dog park

by Ben Boehl

    Many in the St. Helena community are still upset over injuries to a yellow Labrador retriever after a fight with two pit bulls on April 27. 
    The incident caused St. Helena Neighborhood Association president George Wischhusen to close down the dog park until the official grand opening.

    When Zedra Hartley, a dog trainer at PetSmart, heard about the incident at the park, she immediately blamed the three dog owners and not the dogs.
    “There are rules that have to be followed. You can’t have treats or toys,” Hardley said.
    “In this case, it sounds like there was a fight over a ball. All pet owners have to take responsibility.”
    Hartley said the three owners were not irresponsible but that they were ignorant about the rules.    
    The St. Helena dog park is the first one in eastern Baltimore County. Hartley said since many of the dogs and their owners are going to the park for the first time, they need to learn the rules of a dog park.
    “Some people make so many mistakes, but they need to know what to watch for,” Hartley said.    
    “You can never turn your back or let your dog get away from you.”
    Hartley said that after the incident, the owners of the two pit bulls contacted her and now have their dogs in training with her.
    Stacey — who asked not to have her last name used —  is one of the pit bull owners. She said she does not plan to go back to the park until she and her dog have proper training.
    “I had never seen Kathy [Adams, the owner of the retriever] and her dog before that day, but I feel so horrible about it,” she said.
    Stacey was upset that Adams did not believe that  her pit bull was never aggressive.
    “I had never seen any signs of aggression in my dog,” Stacey said.
    Hartley explained  that a pit bull can be friendly but when a toy or ball becomes available all dogs can become territorial, which is why, she said, toys should not be allowed in a dog park.
    The other dog owner, indentified only as Pam, said that she is not blaming anyone and that all three dog owners are at fault for not knowing the rules. She also questions Baltimore County for not posting a set of rules to let first-time visitors to the park know how to prevent an incident like this from happening.
    “There is nothing posted. They need to have these rules posted. There should be no dog toys and your dog should be vaccinated,” Pam said.
    Ellen Kobler, a spokesperson for Baltimore County, said that a set of rules was not posted because the dog park was not yet officially open.
    However; there was not a lock on the gate.
    “We were hoping to allow people to use it informally until the community group was up and running,” Kobler said.
    According to Kobler, a committee from the St. Helena community is expected to create a set of rules, which is expected to be similar to those at other dog parks.
    “The committee is going to establish these guidelines and regulations before the park is officially open,” Kobler said.
    Among the primary rules at other dog parks are having key pad entry and banning all dog toys. Kobler believes both of those rules could be implemented at the St. Helena park.
    St. Helena Neighborhood Association president George Wischhusen said he is in favor of the key pads, but would like to see toys allowed in the park.
    “The dogs have to have some kind of toys with them,” Wischhusen said.
    He does not believe that pit bulls need to be banned, but said they are a more aggressive breed of dog and need proper training.
    PetSmart’s Hartley argued that all dogs need to be trained and any breed can be aggressive, but pit bull attacks make more headlines because pit bulls are especially strong dogs and can do more damage than other dogs.
    According to Wischhusen, the park has also been a victim of vandals, as the front gates have been vandalized. Despite the vandalism and the attack, Wischhusen still believes that the dog park is good for the area.
    “People love the Dundalk dog park,” Wischhusen noted. “It’s a place where people can go and relax.”