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Lodi residents seek dogs’ owner after mauling

Jeff Bertsch wants new rules at dog parks after incident

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Posted: Tuesday, November 12, 2013 12:00 am

Jeff Bertsch remembers reaching into the vicious jaws of one dog, then another, then another. With hands bitten and dripping blood, he tried to pry open each mouth clenched tight around each of his three small dogs.

It was the only way his pets could get free.

Bertsch first freed his miniature Doberman pinschers Fiona and Farrah, and then Sophie, a miniature Italian greyhound who suffered the worst of the assault. Just hours after the attack, Bertsch’s other miniature Italian greyhound Sebastian, who was unharmed but present at the mauling, suffered a stroke that Bertsch said was brought on by the trauma and died.

Several days later, as Bertsch and his three remaining dogs heal from the Nov. 1 mauling at the Vinewood Dog Park in Lodi, Bertsch continues to search for the owner of the Alaskan huskies involved in the attack.

This month’s attack comes at a time when city officials are discussing making alterations to Lodi’s dog ordinance. Those talks were sparked by an incident in April, when a pit bull mix mauled a petite dachshund to death at Lodi Lake.

In an Oct. 10 story in the Lodi News-Sentinel titled “Some Lodi dog owners avoiding parks,” several dog owners said they avoid the city’s parks because of irresponsible owners and sometimes aggressive dogs.

Now, in light of the attack on his dogs, Bertsch is asking the city to make dog parks safer, possibly by building a fence to separate big dogs and small dogs.

“That may be an idea the city might want to consider,” Bertsch said

Jeff Hood, director of Lodi’s Parks, Recreation and Cultural Services department, said the city doesn’t have the $20,000 it would cost to build such a fence at each park.

He did, however, say the city will likely implement other rules, including limiting the number of dogs one person can bring into the park from five to either two or three.

“To me, (five dogs) is not a manageable number,” Hood said. “We’ll probably go in that direction.”

Hood added that city officials have also discussed other rules, including expanding the acreage at some parks, keeping dogs within a voice-controlled distance of the owner and banning dogs that are aggressive toward other animals or people.

Bertsch hopes that new rules will force owners to be more responsible for their dogs. He said when he and his wife, LaDawn, approached the park entrance, the owner of the huskies was on the other end of the park.

The huskies stood near the gate as Bertsch and his wife carried their dogs into the park.

“They looked like really beautiful dogs,” Bertsch said. “But as soon as we got in the gate and set our dogs down, (the huskies) went into wolf pack mode and started mauling my dogs.”

With all the force he could muster, Bertsch punched and pried open the Huskies’ mouths, grabbing his dogs and handing them one by one to LaDawn.

“If (Jeff) wasn’t there, I know my dogs would have died,” LaDawn said.

Fiona, Farrah and Sophie each received staples to close bite wounds, while Jeff was treated for bite wounds to his hands and face at Lodi Memorial Hospital.

As for Sebastian, a veterinarian told the Bertsches that the trauma from watching the mauling likely caused his heart rate to skyrocket, which brought on the stroke.

According to Animal Control Supervisor Jennifer Bender of the Lodi Police Department, it’s rare for the city to receive an aggressive dog report involving huskies.

“Huskies are pretty people-friendly and animal-friendly,” she said. “We haven’t had a report of huskies doing anything like that (in the past).”

With more than $1,000 in vet bills, the Bertsches are trying to find the owner of the huskies.

They are asking the owner to call them at 209-810-4514.

Contact reporter Kristopher Anderson at krisa@lodinews.com.

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  • Ed Walters posted at 6:48 pm on Wed, Nov 13, 2013.

    the old dog Posts: 351

    I have never been to the dog park, I go ( not telling ) where I know most of the people with dogs and the dogs for the most part know each other. Just in case I always carry a very sharp knife, where I go you can never tell if a coyote will attack, best to be prepaired. My Labs are very frendly to people, how ever if pushed can fend for themselves. When they go for a walk near my house I alway run into people with two or three small dogs on those dopy 20' expandable leashes that always get tangled up, I use a 6' lead, much better control of the dog. Hard to keep control of a dog that is 20' away from you.

  • Del Simoni posted at 9:42 pm on Tue, Nov 12, 2013.

    delliebs Posts: 1

    I am saddened to hear this news... Time and time again, owners don't pay attention to their pet's bad behavior.

    Over 10 years ago,I handled a case as an insurance adjuster involving a dog bite, the letter of the law back then entitled the owner of the victimized dog to "replacement" of the dog, not compensation to all the bills accumulated, nor pain, distress and emotional suffering due to the dog bite. Because of the law, it was treated similarly to the "total loss" of a vehicle. I hope the law since then has changed, as speaking from the perspective of a dog mommy, I would die if anything happened to my dogs, and I hope the owners of the Alaskan Huskies comes forward to do the right thing...

    Clearly this circumstance is different as Bertsch was also mauled, and deserves compensation for his pain, suffering and disfigurement. Wishing you all the luck, hopefully someone will come forward, and if not the huskies' owner, then someone who knows them...

    Good luck!

  • Kathy Harreld posted at 4:00 pm on Tue, Nov 12, 2013.

    Kathy952 Posts: 1

    This world is a dangerous place, and it's no exception for dogs. I wouldn't take my dog to the dog park for 2 reasons. One is that you can never assume animals are going to behave properly--whether they are pit bulls or huskies. The other is there are lots of dog owners out there who are irresponsible. It is definitely not worth the risk to my beloved dog to take any chances.

  • Joanne Bobin posted at 3:57 pm on Tue, Nov 12, 2013.

    Joanne Bobin Posts: 4301

    Ms. Souza: I agree with your statement about leashed dogs IN the park. I have found that more problems arise when a dog is restrained - or is on the other side of the fence - kind of like people who feel more emboldened to begin a conflict with another driver while they are within the protection of their auto than they would if they were standing face to face.

    Owners need to watch their dogs while at the park.

  • Ted Lauchland posted at 2:08 pm on Tue, Nov 12, 2013.

    Ted Lauchland Posts: 229

    Leash laws and large fenced back yards where you deal with your own pets damages are the only real domestic solutions to normal animal behavior when faced with a variety of trained and untrained animals coming together. Country living is no different. My free roaming cats either learn to survive or become a victim of free roaming coyotes.

    Just to refer to a previous article about the freedom of canal banks. The land is owned by an individual that the canal sits on. The canal exists by way of an easement that is not considered public property. I owned one such property and struggled with dogs that would occasionally run free of their owners and destroy ditch banks that irrigated the vineyards at that time. My current neighbors run through my drip irrigated vineyards with the same responsibilities as to not destroy the assets on the property. This is aside from the fact that trespassers are unwelcome in the first place for a multitude of reasons.

    Free roaming is free roaming and resorts to animalistic behaviors when not countered with a leash or otherwise. As a pet owner please be responsible for your pet's behavior as well as your own.

  • Josh Morgan posted at 12:59 pm on Tue, Nov 12, 2013.

    Josh Morgan Posts: 529

    If you take your dog to Sycamore Lane Kennels the male dogs are not allowed in "play groups" if they are not neutered regardless of breed. They also are required to pass a "personality" test before they are allowed in groups. I think Joanne may be on to something requiring the dogs to be spayed/neutered.

  • Joanne Bobin posted at 11:28 am on Tue, Nov 12, 2013.

    Joanne Bobin Posts: 4301

    Although the big dog/small dog idea is a good one (like the "Barkley Park" on Feather River Drive in Stockton), as a frequenter of the Vinewood dog park, many owners with more than one dog often have a small dog and a medium to large dog.

    Mine are a Golden (definitely large) and a Bassett mix that weighs about 40 pounds, but is very low to the ground. She was attacked not too long ago by a boxer that pinned her to the ground and was going for her throat. Fortunately, the owner pulled her dog off before any skin was broken, but my poor dog definitely had the heck scared out of her.

    The dog that attacked had her owner standing right there, but some off-beat interaction between the two dogs set her dog off. Also, she had just adopted her dog and only had her for a week, but was bringing the dog to the park without knowing its behavior at all.

    I've also noticed many male dogs that have not been neutered. Along with the rabies vaccination rule, perhaps evidence of spaying or neutering should be required. Male dogs that are unneutered can be aggressive, especially if a female coming into heat or in heat is around.

    As for the two huskies, I have seen them at the park and they are generally friendly, but they have mixed it up with other dogs (usually their size) a couple of times.

  • Joanne Bobin posted at 11:15 am on Tue, Nov 12, 2013.

    Joanne Bobin Posts: 4301

    I could be wrong, but I believe the ordinance is 5 animals per residence, not just dogs.

    I have 2 dogs and 3 cats (indoor only) and I'm probably stretching the rules because I also have 2 parakeets. Hope I don't get busted by the animal cops from this post!

  • Jay Samone posted at 10:52 am on Tue, Nov 12, 2013.

    Jay Samone Posts: 359

    The limit is 5 animals per residence.

  • Jay Samone posted at 10:52 am on Tue, Nov 12, 2013.

    Jay Samone Posts: 359

    First off - Does the City really believe that limiting the number of dogs one can bring into a park, keeping a dog within voice distance, or expanding acreage will prevent attacks? THEY'RE DOGS. They become a "pack" once they've established their pecking order, and it won't matter how many dogs a person brought into the park. The larger the number of dogs already at the park, the larger the pack becomes. If there's a large number of big dogs there, anything that's small becomes prey. The City should look at animal behavior and then start making policies.

    Secondly - that particular dog park is known for it's issues with dog attacks and it's the owners who are to blame. I stopped bringing my dog there because these owners show up to "hang out" with the other owners and NO ONE watches their dogs.

    Lastly - Jennifer Bender - you should read up on your breeds. Huskies are NOT animal friendly when it comes to small dogs, cats, and squirrels (and other wildlife). They have a high prey drive and if not trained to do otherwise - they will come after any small animal and especially those that run away.

    It has come to the point where the City needs to step up and find the resources to designate small dog areas. As far as the Lake issue - they can't ban dogs altogether, now separate the small dog area into two sections, but there definitely needs to be heavy enforcement of the leash law there to prevent further issues.

  • Liz Souza posted at 10:36 am on Tue, Nov 12, 2013.

    lzylzrd22 Posts: 1

    This is heartbreaking to read, as I know these sweet little dogs from my own visits to the Vinewood dog park. I am baffled that the owner of the huskies was nowhere to be found during and after the attack...wth?! Did he/she/they just run out of the park and leave their dogs behind? Or in the chaos after the attach when the Bertsch's were rushing out did the husky owners wait for them to leave THEN grab their dogs? The cowardly behavior from the husky owner(s) infuriates me. Take some responsibility for your dogs! Also, a leashed dog in the dog park will only invite more anxiety from other dogs, so that is not a solution regardless of the breed and size of the dog(s). I think it is a WONDERFUL idea to have a separate section for medium to little dogs, and bigger dogs. Galt's dog park has a set up like that and it's really nice. My sincere condolences go to the Bertsch's for their loss of Sebastian, and I hope the other dogs and Jeff heal quickly.

  • Robert Molle posted at 9:00 am on Tue, Nov 12, 2013.

    Robert Molle Posts: 42

    If people could read they would not have their dogs in the park right next to my house that has three clearly written signs that read no dogs allowed. Also you would not have to worry about medium dogs just pick a cut off Say 25lbs and Over/Under.

  • wendy coe posted at 6:08 am on Tue, Nov 12, 2013.

    wendy coe Posts: 33

    5 dogs? Doesn't the City of Lodi have an ordinance on how many dogs you can have at one residence? Maybe the dog parks could be separated? Vinewood could be for large dogs then the other dog free park could be for small dogs. No fence needed just someone that can read and know which park is for the dog's size. But then again you have the medium dogs. Where would they go? Are there 3 parks available? If not just keep the dogs on leash under owner control.



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