MOUNT PLEASANT — When the pit bull mix jumped on his labradoodle, Charles Van de Carr feared the worst.
He and his wife had been walking their two dogs Sunday afternoon in their Hibben neighborhood when the dog jumped on 6-year-old, curly-haired Sinjun.
The 80-pound pit bull mix clasped its jaws around Sinjun’s neck but didn’t bite down. It outweighed the smaller female by 20 pounds.
Van de Carr, 68, tugged at the pit bull but couldn’t free it. He found no collar to grasp, so he unfolded his pocket knife and jabbed its 3-inch blade into the pit bull three or four times.
The wounded pit bull was still on Sinjun when a man emerged from the house across the street and yanked it away. Blood soaked the dogs.
“I stabbed it once, and it didn’t react,” Van de Carr said. “I couldn’t do anything else. I had no choice.”
To the man who had been caring for the 10-year-old pit bull named Luka, the stabbing amounted to an overreaction.
Richard Cahill, 63, said his daughter’s dog had bolted through a porch door that had been blown open. Luka’s leap onto Sinjun probably was her way of showing dominance in front of Van de Carr’s male dog, Sinjun’s twin brother.
Luka, he said, had never before lashed out.
“People see a pit bull and assume the worst,” Cahill said. “I’m sure he was scared, but if he didn’t have a knife in his pocket, both dogs wouldn’t have been injured.”
Luka survived a four-hour surgery, but she racked up veterinarian bills. Sinjun suffered scratches.
The story garnered worldwide attention as Luka’s caretakers took to the Internet Monday to solicit donations to pay the $3,500 tab and the nearly $1,300 in fines that Cahill faces. By early Tuesday evening, the campaign at GoFundMe.com/LukaLove had raised $4,500.
Joe Elmore, CEO of the Charleston Animal Society, said pedestrians should consider dog repellant, an air horn or a small fire extinguisher as less lethal measures to fend off dogs. But Elmore said he understood Van de Carr’s reaction.
“People feel like their pets are members of their families,” he said. “When something like that happens, you’re going to do whatever it takes to defend them.”
The Mount Pleasant Police Department found Cahill at fault Tuesday. Officers wrote him a $170 ticket for an at-large animal, and another $1,092 citation for a vicious dog.
He will get a chance to argue in court that the dog wasn’t aggressive. If the judge rules against him, he said, Luka will have to live in another town.
His daughter, Caitlin, pointed to the fundraising web page she created as an indicator that public opinion was on their side.
Nearly 140 people had contributed $5 to $200 apiece. Some chalked up the stabbing to the “sick people in this world.”
Van de Carr said the webpage’s description of the incident was unfair.
Caitlin Cahill, who stays at her father’s home on Bermuda Towne Row, wrote about how her “sweet” pup was likely reacting to a more aggressive dog. She cited a police report stating that Luka suffered four stab wounds and a 7-inch gash.
The report also stated that the blade of Van de Carr’s Spyderco folding knife missed Luka’s organs and arteries.
Cahill said she was considering legal action against Van de Carr, a retired attorney whom she described as the perpetrator of a brutal assault.
At their homes about a quarter-mile apart Tuesday, both families showed how their dogs display affection.
Inside the Cahills’ house, Luka rested on a mat, her fur shaved around stitched-up wounds. Three other pit bull mixes moseyed about.
In the Van de Carrs’ backyard, animal control officers informed Van de Carr about their investigation’s findings and canoodled with Sinjun, who then chased a cat.
A bandage covered Van de Carr’s thumb, which was cut during the struggle. His wife pointed to two small puncture wounds on her hand that she had suffered in the fight to untangle the dogs. Both needed tetanus shots.
“It’s very sad that their dog got hurt, but I’m happy our dog didn’t get her throat torn open,” Jen Van de Carr said. “We wish we had a different option.”
Reach Andrew Knapp at 937-5414 or twitter.com/offlede.