BLUFFTON, BEAUFORT COUNTY SC - 2 MONTHS AFTER A GREYHOUND "RINGO" WAS ATTACKED AND KILLED BY A LOOSE PIT BULL THE PIT REMAINS AT BEAUFORT CO ANIMAL SHELTER - WHO WILL DECIDE THE REPEAT OFFENDER'S FATE?
Nearly two months after a greyhound was attacked by a PIT BULL in Bluffton Park and later died from its injuries, the pit bull remains at the Beaufort County Animal Shelter as officials attempt to sort out who should decide its fate.
Because of the uncertainty, the greyhound’s owner is worried the pit bull, which has a history of aggressive behavior, will eventually be released.
On May 20, John Horishny was walking his greyhound, Ringo, along Able Street on their usual route around Lake Isabelle when they noticed the black pit bull across the street. Horishny said he attempted to avoid the pit bull by walking on the opposite side of the street, but the woman walking with it dropped the leash, and the dog attacked Ringo, severely injuring him.
Horishny said he tried to pull Ringo from the pit bull, while the woman used verbal commands to try to get it to let go. Horishny finally got the pit bull off by grabbing its collar, and Ringo ran from the scene.
After handing the pit bull back over to the woman, Horishny found Ringo on his front porch covered in blood with extensive leg wounds and injuries to other parts of his body.
Horishny took his dog to a local veterinarian, who operated on Ringo for about five hours before sending him home.
The next day, Ringo began having seizures and was rushed back to the veterinarian’s office before dying the morning of May 22.
Bluffton police removed the pit bull from the neighborhood that day after a judge signed a pickup order and it has remained at the Beaufort County Animal Shelter since then. The woman walking the dog, one of its owners, was cited with having an animal running at large and was given a court date.
On Tuesday, Bluffton Municipal Judge Clifford Bush III found the woman guilty of having an animal running at large and fined her.
Bush did not rule on whether the pit bull should be released, held or euthanized, said Horishny, adding he testified at the hearing and was anticipating that a decision would be made.
Bush said Thursday he merely ruled on whether the woman was guilty of having an animal running at large and he believes the dog’s fate would lie in the hands of Beaufort County through magistrate court.
“What should happen to the dog was outside of my jurisdiction,” Bush said. “Our statute doesn’t deal with whether a dog should be put to sleep.”
Bush said his understanding is that Beaufort County Animal Services would have to petition in magistrate court for the dog to be euthanized and its owner would be allowed to argue against it.
But county legal staff contends the municipal court should determine what happens to the dog, pending a recommendation by the Bluffton Police Department, because the attack happened in town limits, county spokeswoman Joy Nelson said Thursday.
“The only part Beaufort County has in this is that we are providing custodial service for the animal,” Nelson said, adding the county plans to continue holding the dog until the municipal court makes a decision.
The lack of clarity concerns Horishny, who took to social media after the attack to warn Bluffton Park residents of the pit bull’s previous aggressive behavior. It attacked a jogger in the neighborhood in August, according to a police report, and Horishny’s attorney, Tim Wogan, said it was involved in another documented attack in 2012.
According to the police report of the Ringo incident, one of Horishny’s neighbors told police the dog had attacked residents and their pets in the past.
“The day after Ringo was attacked, (the woman) was walking it next to a playground in our neighborhood,” Horishny said.
“My goal is I do not want to see that dog released and introduced back into our neighborhood for my and my neighbors’ safety as well as their children’s and pets’. Those people aren’t good dog owners, and if Ringo ever had the proclivity to attack someone, he would have one shot, not three.”
Wogan said he doesn’t expect the county to release the pit bull, but if it did happen, he would seek a judge’s order through the county Court of Common Pleas to prevent it.
“This is going to have to be handled by the court system, and while there appears to be a dispute here, either the town or county is going to have to step up to the plate on this,” Wogan said.
“I think it would be a shame that the guy who is a victim and lost his dog has to bear the financial burden of this and could possibly see a dangerous animal released back into the community because neither the county nor the town were willing to take ownership of this.”
In the aftermath of the attack, Horishny received vocal support from neighbors and community members who even offered to help pay some of Ringo’s medical bills.
On Tuesday, he was surprised when a small group of supporters showed up in court. Volunteers from the Charleston chapter of the Greyhound Pets of America organization attended the hearing, volunteer Karen Shea of Hilton Head Island said.
Shea’s group has members from Bluffton, Hilton Head, Beaufort, Savannah and Pooler who work to provide homes for adoptable greyhounds in those communities.
Shea said volunteers pitched in to pay for a memorial paver in honor of Ringo that would be displayed at a future dog park that nonprofit Friends of Bluffton Dog Parks is planning to build. The $140 balance was given to Horishny to offset some of Ringo’s medical costs, Shea said.
Bluffton couple Paul and Robin Schmidt, who have two greyhounds, offered to sponsor an adoption and cover the fee for a greyhound from the group for Horishny, should he decide to get another one, Shea said. She added that Horishny was presented Tuesday with condolence letters from second-graders at one of the volunteers’ schools in Charleston.
Horishny, who got Ringo — his second greyhound — from an Atlanta group, said he does plan to adopt a third, but not any time soon. He said he was overwhelmed by the level of support.
“It’s been huge and unexpected,” he said. “The community really banded together, and the support has just been phenomenal and very much appreciated. I just don’t know how I would even start to thank everyone individually. Seeing all of this goodness in light of a terrible situation has just been so wonderful.”