Update: Authorities trap another dog that may be part of feral pack harassing James Island
Denny Dunn considers himself a formidable man.
To offer tips
People whose cats are attacked by dogs on James Island or who spot the dogs are urged to contact authorities. Call animal control specialists at the Charleston Police Department at 577-7434 or at the Charleston County Sheriff’s Office at 202-1700.
So when a pack of dogs stalked his miniature palomino outside his James Island home, the 56-year-old Army veteran was surprised that his flurry of grunts and flails didn’t scare off the canines.
Dunn mainly worried that the dogs would get into the pen containing Honey, a popular petting animal for local youths who like posing with the little horse in Facebook photos.
When some of the dogs started after him, Dunn retreated into his house and armed himself with a Remington 1100. The sight of the shotgun, he said, finally sent the pooches scampering.
“I’m a big country boy from Virginia. I’m not too afraid of anything,” said Dunn, who lives on Oxbow Drive. “But they challenged me, so I got my gun. I was going to pop them off before they got my miniature horse.”
It was aggression toward people that James Island residents feared last week when they publicly raised concerns about feral dogs roaming communities north and south of Fort Johnson Road. The dogs already are blamed for more than a half-dozen cat deaths.
The Charleston County Sheriff’s Office, which is coordinating efforts to corral the critters, rounded up one dog, which moseyed into a trap off Stiles Drive a week ago. The male was considered a shepherd mixed with several other breeds. Charleston Animal Society CEO Joe Elmore said experts can do wonders in modifying dogs’ behavior, but this one was beyond help. It was euthanized after five days at the shelter.
“He was definitely feral,” Elmore said. “He was a biter. He was very aggressive toward people.”
Maj. Jim Brady said a second dog was captured Thursday after it became trapped in the ditch line along Ben Road. The dog appears to be a feral dog and may be part of the pack of dogs roaming in the James Island area, Brady said.
The dogs’ transiency — lying low in different areas by day and prowling neighborhoods after nightfall — has made eradication a tall task for one of the four animal-control deputies countywide.
Sheriff’s Maj. Jim Brady said it’s unknown how many cat attacks can be attributed to the same band of beasts, and he encouraged residents to report sightings.
“We take all calls for stray animals seriously,” Brady said, “but the nature of these animals makes them difficult to track down.”
Residents contacted by The Post and Courier said the dogs have been spotted in packs of seven to as many as 20, which was the case during Dunn’s ordeal last week. A small number of them are aggressive toward humans, they said.
Witnesses have described them as medium-size, black or light brown, and a mix of terriers and pit bulls.
Lauren Lipsey, spokeswoman for Pet Helpers, said the Folly Road shelter has housed a large number of strays captured on James Island, where feral dogs have long been an issue.
But their war on cats is a new twist.
Mirroring the shelter’s customary advice for people who adopt cats, Lipsey encouraged residents to keep their felines indoors and out of the way of predators and automobiles. Many cats just can’t defend themselves against mean dogs, she said.
“Being outside might be stimulating for them,” Lipsey said, “but it’s the owners’ responsibility to provide that environment inside the home to avoid the risk of them being harmed.”
Residents who don’t own cats also have stepped forward to express safety concerns.
Bright Ariail, who lives on Stone Post Road, routinely walks through her neighborhood each morning with her two black Labrador mixes.
She encountered a dog pack twice in early July. She counted at least 12, but they could have numbered about 20, she said.
They jolted toward her and her dogs, the largest of which weighs 70 pounds.
“They came flying at me,” Ariail said. “I yelled at them and waved my metal walking stick.
“They scared me out of my wits, and I’m tough as nails.”
Brady said the Sheriff’s Office has received no complaints of the dogs biting people and no calls about cat carnage since late last week.
One of the most recent incidents occurred Thursday on Joe Rivers Road, near the intersection of Fort Johnson and Harbor View roads.
Robert Brusenberry, 28, said a neighbor called him to report that his 11-year-old cat was pinned to the ground by a gang of seven dogs. Brusenberry took the wounded critter to a West Ashley veterinarian, but he opted against an $1,800 surgery.
The cat died.
“I grew up in this neighborhood, and I’ve never seen that many dogs,” he said. “If I knew this was happening, I wouldn’t have let my cat out that night.”
Reach Andrew Knapp at 937-5414 or twitter.com/offlede.