It was a rare occurrence at the Center for Animal Health and Welfare in Williams Township, but one an Easton couple won't soon forget.
Lynn Hartranft-Fortebuono had gone to the shelter with her boyfriend, Randy Grube, last Thursday to see about adopting a beagle named Penny. She was ready to pay the $250 fee for the 7-year-old, who had come from a rescue in Virginia.
Then, in a flash, Penny was being mauled by a PIT BULL MIX named Oreo.
"I'm not exaggerating," Grube said in a telephone interview. "The dog literally chewed the dog apart. The dog's throat was hanging out, the jaw was just hanging out. There was blood everywhere."
"It was like a murder scene," Hartranft-Fortebuono said in a separate call, "and I am not lying when I say that this pit bull was shaking the dog in its mouth and the blood was flying like in slow motion."
Penny was rushed for treatment and ended up in surgery at the 24-hour Quakertown Veterinary Clinic, according to the couple. As of Saturday, she was stable, said Kelly Bauer, executive director at the Center for Animal Health and Welfare.
Bauer was not in the office Monday for an update, and clinic spokeswoman Adele Averill said she could provide an animal's condition only to the owner.
"We have never had an incident like this at all," Bauer said.
Due to the severity of the attack and the potential for a recurrence, Oreo was euthanized soon after the attack at the recommendation of the center's behavioral committee comprising board members, management and staff, said Bauer.
The incident unfolded as Oreo was being walked by an experienced volunteer toward the walking trails beside the 1165 Island Park Road shelter and Penny was near the parking lot, also under the control of an experienced volunteer, Bauer said.
Oreo broke free, and his walker fell over, as the attack began.
For Grube, the scariest part is that it occurred in an area frequented by families with children who come to visit the animals and perhaps find a pet. He feels Oreo should have been walked elsewhere on the property, and been wearing a muzzle.
"If that was somebody's child, a baby, walking on the grass or something, that dog would have ripped that person apart," he said.
Grube said he called Pennsylvania State Police at Belfast to report the incident. State police said they directed him to contact Northampton County's dog warden, Kathy Andrews, who deferred comment to the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture. Bonnie McCann, spokeswoman for the department, confirmed an incident report was filed and that it remained under investigation.
Bauer said Oreo, who had lived at the shelter for eight months, had no bite history while in the center's care or at his previous home.
"It was not as though we took a dog that had multiple bites and were allowing him to roam free," Bauer said. "This was a dog who unfortunately became aggressive with another dog."
The incident was traumatic for visitors and center staff and volunteers alike, said Bauer.
Bauer stressed that Oreo was not a pure pit bull, and that pit bull was not even his dominant breed. Her concern is that pit bulls have a bad-enough reputation already.
"I will tell you that unfortunately pit bulls, they do get a bad reputation," she said. "They are oftentimes the dogs that are surrendered the most to us for many different reasons. But again I think it's about reputation and it's an unfair reputation and I think it's unfair to label them in any way."
Pit bulls, as a breed, are very loyal, a trait that can be exploited for evil in dog-fighting circles, Bauer said. Their build also makes an attack more severe.
"Unfortunately they have very strong jaws," she said. "They have very strong teeth. So if they do bite, it definitely does more damage than if a smaller dog bites.
"However it doesn't make them any more dangerous or aggressive especially if they don't have a history of violence, which this dog did not."
The costs of the incident are being borne by the Center for Animal Health and Welfare, which is supported primarily by contributions, in addition to spay/neuter fees and other services.