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Dog attacks, is euthanized

August 06, 2003|by ANDREW SCHOTZ

andrews@herald-mail.com

A woman whose pit bull attacked a neighbor's dog Saturday chose euthanasia for her pet rather than a life of stricter confinement.

Hagerstown Police and the Washington County Humane Society responded to 745 Spruce St. after Tony, a 2-year-old American pit bull terrier, scaled a 6-foot fence and attacked GeriLynn Kelbaugh's dog, according to a police report.

Kelbaugh said her 14-year-old daughter, Sarah, became hysterical when she saw Tony in the yard. Tony clamped his jaw onto the head of Snoopy, a mixed breed, one of the Kelbaughs' two dogs.

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GeriLynn Kelbaugh, who has a broken leg, said she hobbled as fast as she could, grabbed a bat and repeatedly clobbered Tony.

He didn't let up.

"The bat just bounced off his head," Kelbaugh said.

Tony's owner, Nicole Marshall, was away for the weekend in Ocean City, Md., with her fianc, Matthew Baughman. But Marshall's sister and mother ran over to help pry Tony away from Snoopy.

Kelbaugh said she gave up at one point and covered her face, not wanting to see Snoopy ravaged. She described Snoopy as a small "hound dog mix," maybe part Jack Russell terrier and part beagle.

Then, Snoopy was free. Kelbaugh grabbed him. She, the children in the yard and the Kelbaughs' other dog, Bear, hurried into the family's van and shut the doors.

Animal Control Officer Steven Rogers arrived after police did and declared Tony "dangerous."

Nicole Marshall had two choices. One was to keep Tony alive - on a leash and in a muzzle when she walked him and confined in a roofed kennel at other times.

The other was to have Tony put to death.

Marshall said she agonized over the choice, but she wanted to end the anguish swirling around her dog. When she came home from her beach trip, she had Tony euthanized.

GeriLynn Kelbaugh said her family was miserable around Tony. The day after the attack, they clutched butcher knives for protection when they chaperoned the dogs outside, she said.

At least two times earlier, GeriLynn Kelbaugh had called the police because Tony was in her yard.

Hagerstown Police Chief Arthur Smith said officers responded on May 14, 2002. The police report says only "bitten by dog" but it appears to indicate a dog bit another animal, Smith said.

Kelbaugh said that was the first time Tony attacked Snoopy.

On May 11, Hagerstown Police returned. Smith said the report indicates a pit bull climbed a fence and chased people into a house. The report also says there was "an ongoing problem."

On Monday, Rogers declined to release any details about Saturday's incident, saying, "It's too sensitive."

Disclosing details could harm "people's reputations," Rogers said.

Carol Galvin, the Washington County Humane Society's acting director, later gave a summary of the attack.

On July 27, The Herald-Mail profiled Marshall and Baughman as opponents of a proposed Hagerstown ordinance forcing pit bull owners to register their dogs and get a minimum of $50,000 in liability insurance. New pit bulls would be banned. City officials still are working on the details.

Both Tony and Baughman's dog, Trinity, a 3-year-old Staffordshire terrier, were in a photo that accompanied the story. Baughman and Marshall smiled from above.

During the photo shoot, Tony lunged at Herald-Mail photographer Ric Dugan's face, sending him tumbling backwards. Baughman pulled Tony away just in time.

Marshall and Baughman apologized several times, saying they had never seen Tony behave that way.

On Tuesday, the day after Tony was euthanized and buried, Marshall said he was unfairly portrayed as malicious and vicious.

"My dog didn't maul a kid to death," she said.

Tony was territorial and aggressive toward strangers, but had a fine disposition with people he knew, she said. She and Baughman trusted Tony around their 7-month-old son, although an adult always supervised.

Tony once killed a cat that was on his property, but "he's a dog. He's an animal. What do you want?" Marshall said. Tony never attacked a person, she said.

Marshall said she cared for Tony responsibly, but on Saturday he slipped out of his collar and bolted.

She said she feels bad that the Kelbaughs' dog was attacked and wants to apologize and pay the medical bills. But she said she thinks the relationship between the neighbors may have deteriorated too much for that to happen.

"I am sorry," she said.

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