Coon Rapids pit bull owner fights 'potentially dangerous' label - KMSP-TV

Pit bull owner fights 'potentially dangerous' label after dog park bite

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COON RAPIDS, Minn. (KMSP) -

Many dog owners love bringing their four-legged friends to an off-leash area for some socialization and exercise, but for two dog owners in Coon Rapids, an outing with the pups literally ended in punches.

Whenever here's a dog bite, police must decide whether or not to designate the animal involved as "potentially dangerous." The threshold is whether the attack was provoked or not, but Perry Ottney insists his pet is safe.

"We saw a great video of Audie online and contacted the rescue organization," Ottney said. "We've been in love with her ever since."

A life-long dog owner, Ottney adopted his pit bull three years ago to help overcome the breed's stereotype -- but last month, his dog became aggressive when confronted by another pit bull in a dog park.

"It was just two dogs that were over stimulated and my dog bit another dog," Ottney explained.

That dog, named Muffin, suffered severe bites to the face, but the situation quickly escalated after Muffin's owner repeatedly punched Audie to break things up.

Muffin's owner, who was legally carrying a concealed handgun, did not want to speak on camera, but he said he was shoved for breaking up the fight. In response, he told Ottney, "You're lucky I didn't shoot your dog."

"I was in shock," Ottney said. "Why someone would bring a gun to a dog park is beyond me."

Police were eventually called, but some say the frequency of conflicts in dog parks may have more to do with the surroundings than the dogs themselves.

"It's almost that you have an inherent danger when you walk into the dog park of bad things happening, and there's a growing amount of dog attacks, dog bites and litigation that is occurring out of dog parks," animal law attorney Katy Bloomquist said.

Opponents of dog parks say they place unnecessary stress on the animals as they struggle to quickly find a place in the new pack.

"When I know it's a high-volume time, we don't come because it is stressful," Andrea Cuthbert, owner of Hugo, admitted. "He does get a little picked on, so we don't come."

As for Ottney, he takes responsibility for what happened; however, he says his dog is being unfairly labeled. At the administrative hearing appealing the dog's legal status as "potentially dangerous," he presented a compelling case that included letters from his veterinarian and a pit bull rescue group saying the dog had never displayed signs of aggression.

"The dog owner is obviously a very responsible dog owner," Coon Rapids Police Chief Brad Wise said. "Took a number of steps on their own to ensure they're doing the right things as dog owners -- and yeah, it painted a different picture of their animal than the picture I had in my mind."

Having a dog legally designated as potentially dangerous does have consequences. Not only would the dog be required to wear a muzzle in public, it could also be difficult to obtain homeowner's insurance and puts the animal one step closer to being put down in the event another incident should occur.

Ottney's dog was on a leash when it bit the other dog, and experts warn that keeping a dog on a leash in an off-leash area is a bad idea since it can make the animal much more nervous. Ottney, meanwhile, never plans on returning to a dog park again.

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