A young male pit bull attacked several horses pastured at a northern Harford County farm Wednesday, injuring one so severely that it was put down. Another horse might not survive its injuries and a third has nearly 50 stitches on its face, officials said.
Harford County animal control officials ordered the dog destroyed yesterday.
"Based on information from witnesses and past history, this dog was considered potentially dangerous and had to be destroyed for the safety of this neighborhood," said Pamela Arney, Harford's animal control officer.
The dog was often seen running loose in the Forest Hill area near the Grier Nursery Road farm. Twice, since March, Jonathan Russo, the dog's owner and the farm's neighbor, had been fined $60 for not securing the animal. Russo, who could not be reached for comment yesterday, received another $95 fine on Thursday.
Phil Klein, a Darlington resident, witnessed the attacks on the horses and struck the dog with a metal pipe.
He had been helping his 12-year-old daughter, a riding student, lead her horse to pasture about 6:30 p.m. when the dog ran toward them and lunged at the horse. As the horse ran away, with the dog in pursuit, Klein and his daughter, Danielle, raced to the barn, where she remained. He grabbed a pipe and returned to the pasture.
"It was like a scene out of Animal Kingdom," Klein said. "The dog ran into a herd of horses and started attacking. One horse kicked him hard but couldn't stop him."
The dog grabbed a 6-year-old Welsh pony by the nose and hung on, despite the horse's efforts to shake it off. It took 45 stitches to close the pony's bite wounds. The dog then chased a 2-year-old Chincoteague pony and tore at its left hind leg so deeply that its survival remains in question. A 350-pound yearling sustained a fatal injury when the dog grabbed its foreleg and pulled it down. The deep bites exposed joints and tendons on the Welsh pony cross and its leg was broken.
Dell Bearsch, who was baby-sitting her three young grandchildren at the family farmhouse, saw the scene unfolding and immediately called police.
"It was like a lion attacking gazelles," she said. "Thank God that the children were not out there."
They had been taking riding lessons, with their mother - Bearsch's daughter, Debbie Wilson - in the same pasture a half-hour before. Bearsch recalled seeing the dog roaming the neighborhood and going after her barn cats recently, she said. On one occasion, the dog knocked an elderly woman down, she said.
After the attacks on the horses, the dog lunged at Klein, who struck it on the head and contained it until police arrived.
"I know its owner has rights, but along with that comes responsibility," Klein said. "This dog was unpredictable and vicious."
Wilson, the horses' owner, credited Klein with saving the remaining animals. She has mounting veterinary bills, already in excess of $1,500 and has lost a horse worth about $7,000, she said. As of yesterday, Wilson said that Russo had not contacted her.