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NEW: Lots of barking at Palm Beach County dog parks… how about bites?


Bill Garfinkel spends much of his time at Pooch Pines Dog Park in West Palm Beach with Waffle, his 8 1/2-year-old brown and white Shih Tzu.

“He loves it,” said Garfinkel, 72, of Lake Worth, as Waffle cuddles next to his owner. “It gives us something to do each day. If there are any problems, I just take him out of here.”

There was a serious problem at the park on Saturday when Spot, a gray pit bull, attacked and killed a small Yorkshire Terrier named Jill and bit a man who tried to help inside the park at Okeeheelee Park.

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“I could hear all the screaming,” said Floyd Collins, sitting inside the dog park this week. “It was like a war.”

The dog is at the Palm Beach County Animal Care and Control in West Palm Beach and is is expected to be euthanized in the next few days, according to the shelter’s Capt. David Walesky.

“We don’t adopt out animals that have killed other animals or had bitten people,” Walesky said. “He will be euthanized unless a dramatic change of events occur.”

Owners must understand dog’s personality

The incident raised the question: How safe is a dog park for your dog?

“To our knowledge, we still haven’t had a dog killed inside a dog park,” said Walesky, emphasizing that Saturday’s attack happened at the park’s parking lot.

Dianne Sauve, Animal Care and Control’s director, said she’s never heard of one happening.

“Altercations do occur at dog parks but the vast majority of people who go to dog parks understand their dog’s behavior and personality,” she said. “If someone has a dog and they know absolutely their dog will go after small dogs, they never go to dog parks.”

Wally Majors, director of recreation and parks administration in Boynton Beach, said there have been no reported issues at the Cortina Village Dog Park or at any of the other four parks in Boynton Beach in which leashed dogs are allowed.

In the Palm Beach Gardens area, Lilac Dog Park on Lilac Street and Anchorage Park in North Palm Beach reported no attacks.

Jupiter has two dog parks and is building a third on Indiantown Road. In January, the city passed a new leash law to ease the potential for conflicts with dogs off leash, which has increased over the years according to the city’s code compliance department.

Pit bull shook Yorkie ‘like a rag doll’

As for Saturday’s attack, Vincent Johnson, the Lake Worth man bitten by Spot, said in the case report he saw a young woman walking her dog near the handicapped parking spaces. As her dog was relieving itself, Johnson said he saw the pit bull running loose and he started to attack the brown and black Yorkie, eventually killing it.

Johnson said he grabbed the 8-year-old Yorkie and tried punching the pit bull, but couldn’t. He said he was bitten on his finger.

Jennifer Levy, the Yorkie’s owner, said in the case report that the pit bull was shaking her dog like a rag doll and wouldn’t let go.

The pit bull was brought to the park by Fernando Gonzalez and Estephany Marquez, according to the case report. Gonzalez, who Sauve said did not have Spot on a leash, told Animal Care and Control he found the dog on Saturday at Pooch Pines and that he took the dog to Peggy Adams Animal Rescue League to surrender it.

Gonzalez said he was told the dog had to be current on vaccinations, so he left and returned to Pooch Pines.

Sauve said Gonzalez’s story isn’t accurate.

“We have video from Peggy Adams of where he was there with his girlfriend and he has the dog with him,” she said. “They were not there to surrender the dog, they were there to get food from the food bank. He has been a customer of the food bank for quite a while with that dog.”

The Palm Beach Post contacted Gonzalez, who

did not return a phone call.

Sterilization and leash requirements

Meanwhile, Sauve said for people to keep their dogs safe, the first thing they need to do is pay attention to the county’s sterilization requirements, which says every cat by 4 months must be sterilized and for dogs by 6 months.

People can opt not to have their dog sterilized, but must buy a $75 unsterilized county license. People are also not able to breed the dog unless they buy a breeder’s permit.

“Dogs that are sterilized are much less likely to want to engage in any type of altercation with another dog,” Sauve said. “Sterilization goes a long way in preventing problems.”

She also said observe leash ordinances in the county.

“Your dog can be off a leash while in the confined part of the park, but once your dog exits, it has to be on a leash,” she said. “I’ve noticed people tend to take the leash off before they go into the fenced areas or they’ll leave the dog loose while walking to a car and that’s problematic,” she said.

Sauve also has an issue with people who don’t like pit bulls.

“People immediately jump to the conclusion, ‘Why are these dogs even allowed among humanity?” she said. “That is always very disturbing to me, These square-headed dogs are the most popular in the United States and the vast majority of the are wonderful, family dogs who simply want to leave in peace. It’s rare that something like this happens.”

Don’t tell that to Garfinkel.

“It always seems to be the pit bulls,” he said.

Palm Beach Post Staff Reporters Bill DiPaolo, Sarah Peters, and Alexandra Seltzer contributed to this report.



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