Owner at loss after dog killed at Austin Dog Park

Published 1:12 pm Monday, July 15, 2013

A pet owner was left with a veterinarian bill and no dog to show for it after her bichon was attacked and killed by a black lab at the Austin Dog Park on Saturday, July 6. It’s the second small dog killed by a larger dog at the park in the last year.

Mary Mangskau, of Austin, said two cocker spaniels harassed her 8-year-old female bichon, Taz, before a lab grabbed Taz by the neck, punctured its skin and shook it. Mangskau and her husband took Taz to the vet that night. While the dog later appeared to be making a recovery after a Sunday-morning checkup, Mangskau said, Taz’s condition turned for the worse on Sunday night, and the bichon died while Mangskau and her husband tried to take it to the animal hospital that night.

Mangskau said nobody tried to help her while her bichon was being attacked; however, she added the owner of the lab later apologized and offered to help her in any way he could. As of Monday afternoon, Mangskau said she had not heard from the lab’s owner again. Mangskau said her vet bill exceeded $200.

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Mangskau attended the dog park committee’s meeting last Monday, where members spoke about the issue and also mentioned one of the cocker spaniels had shown aggression at the park in the past.

“This cocker has done this before, and nobody reported it,” Mangskau said. “It’s been aggressive other times.”

Though there is a separate play area for small dogs at the park, Mangskau said her dog always played with the bigger dogs. But to dog trainer Tekla Viker, who teaches dog behavior classes at Leashes and Leads near Rochester, the only way to prevent such attacks may be to take more precaution and separate small and large dogs.

“The best thing is to just keep the small dogs separated from the big dogs while playing,” Viker said, and added larger dogs can even see small dogs as prey in such situations.

However, she said, owners need to know how their dogs play and react to other dogs, and that some dogs shouldn’t be at the dog park at all.

According to the Austin Dog Park rules, the city of Austin and Parks and Recreation are not liable for what happens there. Still, dogs that display aggression toward humans or other dogs at the park are not tolerated and won’t be allowed back. The rules also state all dog owners are legally responsible for their dogs and any injuries they cause.

In this case, no warnings for owning “potentially dangerous dogs” have been issued, according to Austin Police Chief Brian Krueger.

Last year, on July 16, the Austin City Council voted 5-2 to deem a pit bull as a “dangerous dog” and have it euthanized after it killed a Chihuahua at the dog park.

Though Mangskau no longer has her pet and had to pay a vet bill, she said she likely wouldn’t file a civil case against the owners of the other dogs. She simply hopes others will report aggressive behavior when they see it at the park.