NEW CREEK- A dog attack at a home at Dam Site 14 Friday left a woman injured and a beloved family pet dead, according to the Grant County Sheriff's Office.
By Barbara High
Tribune Staff Writer
NEW CREEK- A dog attack at a home at Dam Site 14 Friday left a woman injured and a beloved family pet dead, according to the Grant County Sheriff’s Office.
Deputies were called out to the Preserve at Dam Site 14 on Friday, June 23, around 10 a.m. after a call came in to Mineral County’s 911 non-emergency number.
Patrica Fiedler, 74, was alone at her home that morning in The Preserve, which is a 1,000-acre nature community with about 40 homes on it. The area is posted that no hunting is allowed.
Patricia told the News Tribune she had only her faithful companion Chopper Von Harley with her that day. Chopper was an 11-year-old registered Dachshund who, to Patricia, was family. “I always teased my children that it was their baby brother that was going to get this or that,” she said.
As Patricia was in front of her home by her kitchen, she said she was completely unaware that there was another dog there.
“I heard it growling,” she said, explaining that she turned to see a dog that appeared to be a hunting dog with a tracker around its neck. She said it was at that time that it came for her Chopper.
According to Patricia, she swooped up Chopper in her arms to protect him. Patricia said that immediately the dog was on her trying to get Chopper out of her arms. Crying, Patricia described in detail what happened next. She tried to turn around to protect her little companion, but the hunting dog was at one point climbing up her back trying to bite at him.
“I tried so hard to protect him, but the other dog ripped him from my arms,” she said.
Patricia said the dog immediately began to violently shake Chopper. At this time Patricia reached down and tried to pull her little dog back in her arms.
“I got Chopper back at least three times, and every time that dog would come up on me,” she said.
Patricia said at 74 years old and being a small woman, she could not hold on to Chopper. She was completely overpowered by the hunting dog. “I didn’t have a chance,” she said, explaining that she used every command she knew to try to get the dog to back away.
“I yelled stop, sit, release, but nothing worked,” she said.
Patricia said she cried as she watched her Chopper being shaken like a rag doll.
“I knew Chopper was dead as he dragged him across the patio. He just stood there over him like Chopper was a trophy,” she said. Patricia said she could not get the dog away from Chopper at that time, so she ran into her home and called for help.
Patricia called the Mineral County 911 non-emergency number. According to her, she wanted to reach Mineral County instead of Grant because they were closer and she thought they could respond faster. After telling her story to the 911 operator, she was informed that this was Grant County and that they would transfer her. According to Patricia, she then was transferred and at that point had to tell her story all over again.
According to Grant County Sheriff’s Officer Deputy Thorne, Patricia refused EMS twice during the call, and she was instructed to stay inside her home and that law enforcement was responding. Patricia said it felt like forever before law enforcement arrived.
She also called a neighbor who has long been associated with The Preserve for help. He was the first to come to her aid. The neighbor was able to get Chopper’s body and place it in the garage. At that time Patricia said the other dog had completely calmed down and was just sitting over by the garage, but was unable to get into the garage where Chopper’s body laid. He just kept laying by the garage, but was calm at that point.
Patricia said at one point she noticed blood on her door and around the area and at first assumed it was from Chopper. She didn’t realize till that moment that she had sustained injuries and was bleeding.
“I was in shock and devastated,” she said.
Deputy Thorne arrived on scene, along with Natural Resource Police and a Grant County employee who assists with animal-related calls.
According to Deputy Thorne, at that time the dog was in no way aggressive toward them and they were able to apprehend the dog with little effort.
Thorne stated that during the course of his investigation he spoke with Mrs. Fiedler and observed injuries to her hand, and assisted her with some first aid.
Thorne said Mrs. Fiedler said that when she was attempting to separate the dogs, she had been bitten. Patricia says she got the injuries when the dog was attempting to bite her dog while she was holding him.
Officers were able to identify the owner of the dog and he was requested to respond to the area. A short time later, Thorne said the owner was met at the entrance to the gated community and he provided a document which showed that the dog was up to date with a rabies vaccination. The owner was informed that the dog had to be double quarantined for 10 days, which is standard procedure.
According to Deputy Thorne, he learned that the owner had released the dog along with several other dogs on Route 50 in Mount Storm for the purpose of training the dogs to hunt bear. The owner said he had gathered up his dogs, but noticed that one did not return. The owner said GPS showed the dog was in The Preserve, but that it was a gated community and he did not have permission to go there and retrieve the dog.
The dog at that time was released back to the owner, and he was given Mrs. Fiedler’s information and was told to contact her.
Patricia said the fact that the dog was just released to the owner was very upsetting. “He took no responsibility,” she said.
Deputy Thorne said they followed up with the owner and visited his residence and found that the dog was confined inside of a cage inside of a 10X10 kennel away from other humans and animals. Thorne said that no charges were being filed at this time against the owner.
For the Fiedlers, however, that is unacceptable.
According to DNR an owner is not responsible and can’t be charged with trespassing if a hunting dog goes without being prompted onto private property, because dogs are unable to tell property lines and obviously can’t read no trespassing signs. The law does state, however, that a dog owner is not exempt from charges if the hunting dog harms, injures, or kills livestock and/or domestic animals. At that point they are responsible and can be charged legally or civilly.
You are not allowed to remove a hunting dog’s collar that is on your property, but the owner is not allowed to enter your property to retrieve it without permission either, according to DNR. If a hunting dog is found on your property, you can call the owner or DNR if the owner is not known. If, however, the animal is hurting your livestock or your livelihood, you can put the dog down.
Patricia was eventually taken to WVU Potomac Valley Hospital, where her husband Rich said she was treated and it was verified she suffered bites to her hands consistent with an animal attack. He said she also suffered scratches and bruising to her back and chest that show the dog was on her while attempting to snatch her dog from her arms.
For Rich, this is deeply troubling. “How can you guarantee that it won’t happen again or that it won’t kill another animal?” he asked. “I want to make sure the laws are being followed and that other citizens are being protected.” Rich says he doesn’t want this to ever happen again.
He also said this is not the first time he has had hunting dogs on his property. “They train these animals to hunt and often to kill, then you release them and can’t control where they go for sure,” he said.
Rich said this dog obviously does not like other dogs, as it simply wanted his dog dead for no reason. “How are you going to justify turning it loose again to hunt; it means nobody’s pets are safe on their own property. They need to be held accountable for these dogs,” he said.
Rich also took it a step further to say what if it’s a child outside holding their dog, could you imagine the consequences of that?
He felt he might have had a chance against the dog, but his wife being so small never stood a chance at all.
According to Patricia, the owner did call and only asked if she had sustained injuries that required medical attention. She also stated that they made no offers to pay for medical or any other damages.
“They took no responsibility for their actions, knowing the results of their actions of just releasing their dogs without being able to control them,” Fiedler said. “It was reckless and careless and it cost us our beloved Chopper, and risked my wife's life.”
Rich said he wants answers. “The sheriff’s office is not the final word on this,” he said. “I will take this further and do what I have to do to get the law followed.”
He says as a community we need to look at our laws and figure out how to keep this from happening again; how to make it so that hunters are held more accountable for their dogs.