Update: Stabbed dog had broken away from handler

by Sarah Fay Campbell

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Update: This story has been updated with new information from eyewitnesses and the history of the pit bull, Clara. The original story can be read below the updated version. 

A pit bull that was repeatedly stabbed during an adoption event at the Newnan PetSmart Sunday afternoon had gotten loose from her leash moments before she bit a Westie Terrier.

The terrier’s owner attempted to get the pit bull, named Clara, off his dog, and then stabbed her several times with a pocket knife. The dog, a foster who was there for the adoption event, was later euthanized because of the extent of her injuries.

The Westie sustained minor injuries. Both animals were treated at the Banfield Pet Hospital inside PetSmart. There was some kind of issue with blood clotting, and the Westie was later transported to the emergency vet office in Union City where it stayed overnight for observation, according to Sandy Hiser with the Newnan-Coweta Humane Society.. The dog was released Monday morning. The NCHS is covering the medical bills for the Westie, according to Hiser.

Clara’s wounds were worse than originally thought, Hiser said. “They were so extensive that if she did pull through, it would have impacted her quality of life,” Hiser said. The dog was stabbed between four and six times, according to various reports.

So the decision was made to euthanize her. “It was a heart-rending decision. And the people who made it were the people that loved her and knew her the best,” Hiser said.

There had been some social media reports that NCHS made the decision to euthanize because of the cost of treatment and because they didn’t think Clara would be adoptable after the incident.

That was not the case at all, Hiser said. They could have certainly raised money to cover the treatment. But euthanasia was the best thing for Clara.

NCHS has always been a major advocate for pit bulls, Hiser said. “Nobody wants to kill her because she’s a pit bull,” Hiser said. “No one is a bigger advocate for pit bulls than NCHS."

The Newnan Police Department responded to the incident and questioned those involved. Hiser said that a police officer told her that the man “had a right to defend his dog.”

Newnan Animal Warden Cyndi Hoffman will be taking over the case, Hiser said.

During the stabbing incident, according to several sources, the man yelled, over and over, “f***ing pit bulls!"

Mike Wohler and his fiancé, Teresa Reeves, were at the adoption event, looking for a male pit bull, when they heard a commotion.

“We were literally there for maybe two minutes when we heard screaming from the front of the store,” said Reeves. “When they (the dogs) first got into the scuffle, the man started screaming and that is what we heard."

Erin Burr was at PetSmart when the incident occurred. According to Burr, Clara had been taken outside to go to the bathroom. After Clara and her handler came back in Burr said the man said “If you bring that f***ing pit bull near me I’m going to stab it.”

Burr said that the smaller dog growled at Clara.

Sometime during the incident, Clara shook loose from her collar.

Wohler said someone there told him that, at some time, the two dogs had passed each other.

In a post on the Newnan Times-Herald’s Facebook page, Kathy Stottlar said she was standing within six feet of the incident. “The pit bull came charging past me and my family and straight towards this small dog who was on a leash. His owner was checking him in or out at the vet hospital. The pit was not on a lash. Don’t know if he broke his leash or whoever had him lost his grip or what. It was terrifying.”

Stottlar wrote that the man was yelling for someone to get the pit off his pet, and was kicking Clara several times. “He yelled ‘get the dog off or I will stab him.’ He said it several times,” Stottlar wrote.

When they heard the commotion, Reeves ran toward the front of the store, with Wohler behind.

Reeves said Clara had a hold of some loose skin and hair on the Westie's neck. The two dogs were standing there, not struggling.

“They guy was just screaming ‘f***ing pit bull, why are you even allowed to have these dogs?’” Reeves said, and he was pushing and kicking and “making things worse.”

“By the time Mike got up there, he had already pulled out the knife and stabbed her once or twice. I had my arms around the dog,” Reeves said, trying to stop the man from stabbing her.

Wohler came around to the other side and had his hands in Clara’s mouth, trying to get her to let go.

“Clara wasn’t clamped down on the dog. Mike was able to put his hands in her mouth,” Reeves said. “It wasn’t an attack; they were just standing there. It could have easily been broken up,” she said. But instead, the man took out his knife.

“He wasn’t stabbing like he was trying to save his dog. He was stabbing trying to kill this dog,” Reeves said. There was tremendous force to the blows, she said.

The man’s son was screaming for his father to stop, Reeves said.

Wohler said that, when he got to the scuffle, there was already blood. He assumed that the blood was coming from the Westie. But it was coming from the stab wounds on Clara.

“My first instinct was – we’ve got to get these dogs apart,” Wohler said.

As he was trying to pull Clara’s jaws apart, someone from PetSmart sprayed them all with a citronella spray, and Clara released the Westie’s ear.

“He got one more stab into her after she let go,” Wohler said. “I didn’t, at this point, realize he was stabbing her. I thought that he was hitting her.”

He said that Clara sat back and was wagging her tail, with her tongue hanging out, and some of the other dog’s hair on her tongue. People were petting her and he saw the blood start flowing. And then her breathing became labored and they could hear gurgling as she breathed. She was wrapped up and taken to the veterinary office.

Wohler said he doesn't think the man should get away with what he did. “He straight murdered this dog in front of 30, 40 people,” he said. “He didn’t like pit bulls. This just gave him the excuse he needed.”

Clara had been in foster care a long time. One of her advocates set up a Facebook for Clara, “Clicks for Clara,” in January of 2013. The page shows happy pictures of Clara throughout the time, hoping for a forever home, including one visit to Northgate High School. According to the page, she lived over half her life in a boarding kennel in Peachtree City.

Clara had problems being “dog tolerant,” according to the Facebook page. In a post on Dec. 12, 2013, the moderator states that she “started this FB page after she was banned from adoption events, in an attempt to get her visibility … she needs some training to be more dog tolerant and a feline free home.”

On Aug. 6, someone posted on the page about the PetSmart adoptions. “Have you taken her there? Odd no one will adopt her … maybe try there,” the woman said.

“Clara does not show well at PetSmart, I tried that for several months,” the moderator posts. “Although she gets a lot of attention, she is too excited by the activity and most people there already have multiple other pets. Clara initially needs a human only family, once she has that she will need some training to become more dog tolerant.”

* * * 

The story posted earlier on Monday is below

* * * 

A foster dog was euthanized, and another dog spent the night at the emergency vet hospital following an incident Sunday at the Newnan PetSmart.

There are conflicting reports of exactly what happened, but the foster dog, a pit bull named Clara, who was at the PetSmart for a Newnan-Coweta Humane Society adoption event, attacked a smaller, terrier-type dog that was at the store with its owner.

The owner then reacted by taking out a pocket knife and stabbing Clara multiple times.

Both pets were treated at the Banfield hospital located inside PetSmart. There was some kind of blood clotting issue with the smaller dog that could not be treated at Banfield and the smaller dog had to be taken to the emergency vet hospital in Union City where she was kept overnight for observation, said Sandy Hiser, volunteer with the Newnan-Coweta Humane Society. NCHS covered the vet bill for both dogs, according to Hiser.

Erin Barr was at PetSmart when the incident occurred. According to Barr, Clara had been taken outside to go to the bathroom. On the way back in, Burr said the man said “If you bring that f***ing pit bull near me I’m going to stab it.”

Barr said that the smaller dog growled at Clara, and Clara grabbed her at the base of the ear.

The man then pulled out a pocket knife and stabbed Clara repetedly, saying “f***ing pit bull” multiple times, according various reports.

Barr said that someone had sprayed the two dogs with a spray that is intended to clam them down, during the incident, and that Clara let go sometime during the stabbing. 

Police were called and the Newnan Police Department responded to the incident. Hiser, who arrived after the stabbing occurred, said she talked to the police and the man who did the stabbing was interviewed by the police in a private room. Hiser said the officer she spoke to said the man “had a right to defend his dog."

Newnan Animal Warden Cyndi Hoffman will be taking over the case, Hiser said.

Clara’s wounds were worse than originally thought, Hiser said. “They were so extensive that if she did pull through, it would have impacted her quality of life,” Hiser said. The dog was stabbed between four and six times, according to various reports.

“It was a heart-rending decision. And the people who made it were the people that loved her and knew her the best,” Hiser said.

There had been some social media reports that NCHS made the decision to euthanize because of the cost of treatment and because they didn’t think Clara would be adoptable after the incident.

That was not the case at all, Hiser said. They could have certainly raised money to cover the treatment. But euthanasia was the best thing for Clara.

NCHS has always been a major advocate for pit bulls, Hiser said. “Nobody wants to kill her because she’s a pit bull,” Hiser said. “No one is a bigger advocate for pit bulls than NCHS."

This story will be updated as more information becomes available. 



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