Tuesday, September 15, 2015 at 3:44 pm (Updated: September 15, 6:52 pm)
A small dog is recovering after being bitten and injured in an attack by a Canine Angels service dog last Saturday at a show sponsored by The Brunswick Beacon. The Jack Russell/Chihuahua mixed breed dog was taken for treatment by a local veterinarian shortly after the attack Saturday morning at the Beacon’s Outdoor Living Show at Shallotte Middle School.
Kindle Hewett, husband of Beacon advertising executive Anne Hewett, was walking their dog JoJo on a leash outside at the Sept. 12 show when DIVA, A PIT BULL that is one of the Canine Angels service dogs, attacked the smaller dog, causing several severe bite wounds that required stitches by a local veterinarian. Kindle Hewett also suffered a bite wound while trying to rescue JoJo.
Canine Angels founder and president Rick Kaplan said the incident was “absolutely” the first time something like that had happened involving his dogs.
“I’m responsible because I took my eyes off the situation for a second,” he said.
Kaplan said he had his dogs set up on the grass under a canopy when Hewett came along with his dog on an extender leash. Kaplan said he did not know what happened, who “barked or growled,” to trigger the attack. He added there is no excuse for what happened, but he thought the “little scuffle” was exacerbated by JoJo’s extended leash, which he said Diva and two of his other dogs got tangled in.
He said JoJo “took a couple of puncture wounds. I rushed to the vet and paid for everything,” he said.
After the incident, Kaplan and his dogs left the show.
In his five years involvement with Canine Angels, Kaplan said one of the things he stresses is “we choose dogs that don’t have aggression.” He said, "Diva has no history of aggression. She sleeps with my grandson and accepts all dogs that come in,” he said, adding he has had Diva for the past three years. For now, he said, he is removing Diva from service.
Lt. Tommy Tolley, director of Brunswick County Sheriff’s Animal Protective Services, said one of his on-call officers responded to Saturday’s incident. Because Kaplan and his dogs live in North Myrtle Beach, S.C., the incident was reported to the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control, which has jurisdiction over putting Diva in quarantine, Tolley said. Kaplan said Monday that had not yet occurred.
Tolley said it had also been verified Diva was up-to-date on her rabies vaccination.
Kaplan said he was happy JoJo wasn’t permanently injured.
Kindle Hewett said his family has received great response from the sheriff’s office, Horry County, S.C., animal control and “really the whole community” after the attack.
Kaplan said Canine Angels is a 501(c)(3) organization registered in South Carolina and federally. He said his organization has rescued and worked with hundreds of dogs to train and make them of use to veterans.
After Saturday’s incident, Kaplan said his annual appearance at this year’s Sunset at Sunset celebration, scheduled for Oct. 3, was cancelled.
Sunset at Sunset organizer Karen Joseph confirmed Monday the Canine Angels appearance was cancelled after her committee learned about Saturday’s incident and discussed it.
“We just feel that neither Sunset at Sunset nor the town of Sunset Beach can take on such a liability,” Joseph said.
“It’s unfortunate all the way around, but when you’re dealing with animals you can’t control everything. We have to put the safety of everyone first.”
She added Kaplan may have to put his dogs on leashes from now on in order to participate in such events in the future.
Kaplan said he’s pretty sure “we’re out of business” now that word has gotten out about the incident. He previously proposed creating a “fence situation” to keep his dogs in an enclosed area at the upcoming festival.
“Once bad news gets out, you’re done,” said Kaplan, adding he “gave up my whole life to do this” — rescuing homeless dogs and transforming them into service dogs.