Fate of bulldog linked to second attack hangs in balance

Published Aug 6, 2013 at 10:57 am (Updated Aug 6, 2013 at 10:57 am)

The fate of an American bulldog named Zeus hangs in the balance after it was linked to a second attack within a roughly six-month period this past weekend.

The owners of Sutton, the dachshund attacked by the bulldog, were still in a state of shock as they picked up their dog from the Pittsburgh Veterinary Specialty and Emergency Center Aug. 5.

“Little Sutty and I were just walking up the street visiting the other little dogs,” said Denise McCay, whose son Alex owns the 1-year-old wiener dog. “He was just sniffing around, and the next thing I know I see this huge – and I mean huge – dog running with a big, long chain hanging behind him.”

The incident occurred on the corner of Hawthorne Street and Belmont Avenue the evening of Aug. 2. McCay, who was still shaken up by the incident, said she was dog-sitting Sutton while her son, a graduate student at Penn State, visited friends in Chicago.

“The dog just came right at him with full force,” Denise McCay said. “He knocked him over and picked him up in his mouth and shook him like a rag doll.

“It happened so quickly. My dog was screaming bloody murder, and I was screaming.”

Sutton suffered an abdomen puncture, lacerated liver and damage to muscle. His injuries required surgery and resulted in about $5,000 worth of veterinarian bills.

This wasn’t the first time Zeus has bitten a neighborhood dog. In February, he was involved in an altercation with a greyhound named Gracie in Canonsburg Park that ended with the latter fleeing the area and setting off a search that lasted about 11 days.

Sean Kenavey, the owner of Zeus, said both incidents were unfortunate mistakes that painted his dog as a killer.

“My dog has been misrepresented,” Kenavey said of the 2-year-old bulldog. “He’s beautiful with people, but he plays rough. I’ve never had a problem except for those two instances. But people are making him out to be a terror.”

After the first incident involving the greyhound, Kenavey was cited by animal control officers, resulting in his spending about $1,000 on veterinary bills and another $5,000 to erect a fence around his property.

Kenavey said in the first instance, the two dogs weren’t in much of an altercation. The greyhound simply slipped its harness and was compelled by instinct to flee. The fence would have prevented the second incident from happening, but Kenavey said workers replacing a latch removed the gate without him knowing and allowed the dog to slip out.

Kenavey said a five-minute news spot that a Pittsburgh television station aired in March unfairly painted his dog as a bloodthirsty beast. He realizes a second vicious incident is probably enough to have his dog taken from him.

“People here are so afraid of him now, it’s not even worth it,” Kenavey said about attempting to keep Zeus. “Trust me, it’s been rough. People think I have no compassion with what’s going on, but I do.”

Kenavey said at this point he is just trying to prevent Zeus from being euthanized. He contacted the nonprofit American Bulldog Society about taking and rehabilitating the dog, which weighs at least 100 pounds.

The issue was discussed at Monday night’s Canonsburg Borough Council meeting, where residents packed into Sarris Public Library to voice their concern about the attacks.

“Someone was very, very irresponsible and he continues to be very, very irresponsible,” said Sherri Sulkowski, Gracie’s owner.

Joe McCay, Alex McCay’s father, wondered what measures the borough is taking to address the attacks.

“We’re no safer today than we were Friday afternoon,” said McCay.

Other neighbors said they are afraid to walk in the neighborhood because of Zeus and other dogs who aren’t properly restrained.

“It’s terrible that you can’t walk in your own neighborhood,” said a resident.

Kenavey said Aug. 5 that he hoped to have a statement read agreeing to give up the dog and sign a pledge that Zeus would never be allowed into the area again, but he did not attend the meeting.

But local animal control officer Kym Secreet said she doubted it would be that easy. She filed charges under the state confinement law Monday and said, given Zeus’ history, it is likely the state will designate Zeus as a nuisance under Pennsylvania’s dangerous dog law.

Canines singled out by the law require expensive enclosures, restraints and insurance that usually make it too costly for owners to keep their pets. Those costs would be passed on to the new owners of Zeus, regardless of who that may be.

“It does take away from quality of life for the dog,” Secreet said. “Think about what the animal loves to do. You can’t throw ball with the dog because it has to have a muzzle. You can’t ever have the animal out without a leash. It has to be penned up at all times.

“And that will follow the dog around for the rest of its life, regardless of the owner.”

Canonsburg police chief R.T. Bell said the Pennsylvania Dog Law Enforcement Office is investigating the attack and the police department is looking into whether police can file any charges against Zeus’s owner.

He said Secreet asked Kenavey if he would permit her to quarantine the dog, but he refused.

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