VCU student unable to file charges after attack at Richmond dog park

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RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) – A warning for pet owners in Richmond: If your dog is attacked by another animal at a local dog park, you may not be able to press charges. On November 5, a small dog was attacked at Barker Field Dog Park. The owner was stuck with vet bills totaling more than $4,000.

In a report filed by Richmond Animal Care and Control, the responding officer pointed out that because the attack happened at the dog park, RACC cannot file charges against the attacking dog’s owner.

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According to dog park rules, visitors enter at their own risk.

On a GoFundMe page created to help with the financial burden of the emergency operation, a friend detailed the incident:

A longtime friend of mine, Ryan Morelli, has a miniature pinscher named Gemma, who was attacked by another dog Saturday Nov 5th at Barker Field Dog Park in Richmond, VA.

Gemma and Ryan frequent the dog park, and I joined them on Saturday excited to play with Gemma, one of the sweetest dogs I’ve ever met.  Ryan and I were standing near Gemma while she was playing with two other dogs, whose owners were also with us. Out of nowhere another dog of medium size, sprinted at Gemma and bit into her body with his mouth and shook her aggressively back and forth like she was a chew toy. I’ve never seen a dog act so violent in person. Ryan and I are still in shock something like this happened. 

After getting Gemma away from the attacking dog we saw the gaping holes in her side. We immediately rushed Gemma to the emergency vet on Cary St. where she had to undergo a 4 hour long surgery to save her from life-threatening injuries. The attack had caused severe penetrating abdominal trauma, a herniated spleen, a broken rib, minor fracturing near the spine, underlying muscle laceration, and two additional puncture wounds. Local muscle tissue, two drains, and surgical mesh wiring were used in the surgery. She also had to stay overnight after the surgery. All of this, along with the prescribed medications, is a heavy expense for Ryan, a working college student at VCU.

The owner of the attacking dog was not nearby during the incident and has chosen not to contribute anything towards the medical bill. Ryan has been taking care of injured Gemma, working to help pay for her surgery, and still attending classes at VCU. On behalf of one of the most caring dog owners I’ve ever known, I am asking for your help to fund Gemma’s emergency surgery caused by such an unfortunate event.

While Ryan is incredibly thankful her baby Gemma is alive and in the process of recovery, it was still an unexpected horrifying experience that no dog owner should ever have to go through.

Barker Field has the following rules posted on its web site:

1.  Users of Barker Field do so at their own risk.  The City of Richmond, and the Friends of Barker Field shall not be liable for injury to persons, dogs or property sustained while using the park.  Dog handlers are responsible for any injury by the dog(s) under their control.  (Sec. 26.382)

  1. No children under 12 shall enter the dog park. All children, age 12 to 17, shall be accompanied by an adult.  (PD-117 Banning Order; Sec. 26-382, Sec. 26 – 383)
  2. No un-neutered male dogs, or female dogs in heat, shall enter the dog park. (Sec. 10-173)
  3. Owner/handler shall supervise dogs: remain inside the fence; and discourage mounting and other bullying behavior. They shall be prepared to remove their dog from a fight.  (Sec. 26-382)
  4. Owner/handler shall pick-up their dogs waste and dispose of it in the containers provided (Sec. 10-86)
  5. No Dog deemed dangerous or vicious by a Court of Law or Friends of Barker Field shall enter the dog park. No person banned from Richmond’s parks shall enter the dog park.  (Sec. 10-171, Sec. 26-383)
  6. All dogs shall wear a collar with current rabies tag & license from Richmond or other locality. (Sec. 10-286, Sec. 10-28, Sec. 10-147)
  7. Dogs shall be leashed wile in the parking lot and adjacent areas. (Sec. 10-175)
  8. Park users shall refrain from using foul language or engaging in threatening or otherwise disruptive behavior. (Sec. 26-381)
  9. Food and glass bottles are prohibited. Alcohol is prohibited (Sec. 26-387, Sec. 66-3)
  10. Dog handlers are responsible for any damage to the park by animals in their charge. Users shall discourage dogs from damaging trees and from digging.  Users shall refill holes made by their animals.  (Sc. 26-382)
  11. Barker Field is open from sunrise to sunset. (Sec. 26-397)

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