By Ben Westcott, Chronicle Staff Writer
Joan Burrall of South Glens Falls told The Chronicle that an attacking pit bull knocked her to the ground and killed one of her two beloved dachshunds Sept. 13 as she walked them near her home at Third Street and Maple Avenue. She said she’s distraught not just at the death of her dog but that authorities haven’t acted against the pit bull and its owners she and others cite as responsible.
Ms. Burrall, 68, said she was walking her two seven-year-old miniature dachshunds, Hansel and Gretel, at around 11:15 p.m. just 15 feet from her property. She says suddenly a “very large dog” ran out from her neighbor’s backyard.
She identified it as a white and brown female pit bull that she said knocked her down and then grabbed Hansel, let him go, then “brutally attacked” Gretel, grabbing and shaking the dog by the neck as it cried in pain.
Ms. Burrall said she screamed and hit the pit bull, trying to get her to let go.
Betsy Sanders says she was with her boyfriend Gerald Celeste Jr., who lives across the street. She said she heard the commotion and ran outside.
“Pure hell,” she called it.
She said Ms. Burrall was on the ground and “this pit bull was just ripping her poor little dachshund apart right there in the road.”
Ms. Sanders said she joined Ms. Burrall’s efforts to thwart the attack.
“I was scared to death, but I had to do something,” she said. “But the dog just wouldn’t stop. She ripped and tore that poor little thing. I’ll be honest with you, if I had a gun I would have shot the son of a b****.”
Meanwhile, Mr. Celeste called 911. He said while on the phone with police, he had to shut his door to prevent the attacking pitbull from entering his home.
“This thing is scary looking,” he said. “She is bulky. Her shoulders are very wide, and, oh my gosh, she’s huge.”
The attacking dog then ran off, the witnesses said.
In the aftermath of the attack, Ms. Sanders said she helped Ms. Burrall and the injured Gretel to Ms. Burrall’s porch.
Ms. Burrall — a retired registered nurse — said she put pressure on Gretel’s wounds while around 10 neighbors came to check on the situation.
Ms. Sanders said, “You wouldn’t believe the blood. Joan was covered in it. I had blood all over myself too, but I couldn’t leave her. I didn’t know what else to do.”
Mr. Celeste said it took paramedics and cops “a long time” to get to the scene and there were no sirens.
“By the time the cops got here, it was just too damn late,” he said.
Ms. Sanders says that when she was trying to help, she saw police parked two houses up the road.
Then, Ms. Sanders said to her surprise, she soon saw a man walking the pitbull on the street.
“There’s that darn dog with this guy,” Ms. Sanders said she recalled.
She said she ran down to the police, told them what happened, and said “yes, that is that dog.”
Mr. Celeste has a theory for why the man took the pitbull out at that time. “He must have cleaned her up and took her for a walk to find out what she attacked,” he said.
Ms. Sanders says that when she reached the scene of the police, the man, and the dog, she said the man asked her “Did you take pictures?”
“I said, ‘Excuse me, my eyes took pictures. She was face to face with me. I was watching her tear her dog apart. I don’t need pictures’,” Ms. Sanders said.
“And because the guy said that, the police did nothing and said it was my word against their word. The guy literally walked away with that dog. I just was amazed. They never even interviewed Joan,” Ms. Sanders said.
“I went back up to Joan and she’s sitting there crying, and her dog was just hanging on. It was so sad,” she added.
Ms. Burrall said a woman she didn’t even know drove her 45 minutes to the closest ER vet in Latham.
Ms. Burrall said a vet there said Gretel had lost so much blood that her gums were white, and that she probably wouldn’t survive surgery, so Ms. Burrall made the difficult decision.
“She was having difficulty breathing and was suffering, so I agreed to put her down because she wasn’t going to make it,” she said. “I gave her a sedative and put her to sleep with me crying and just telling her how much I loved her.”
Ms. Burrall said that she loved Gretel so much that she had previously spent $25,000 out of her savings for two back surgeries for the dog.
“She recovered beautifully,” Ms. Burrall said. “I don’t have any kids, I’m not married, so [the dogs] are my kids. Especially this little female. She was absolutely the love of my life.”
Ms. Burrall said she was told that the dog suspected to be the killer lived in an apartment on 2nd Street with owners that hadn’t lived there very long.
The next day, she says she and a friend walked there and says they saw the suspect dog in a crate on the porch.
Ms. Burrall says a woman living at the apartment told her that she and her ex share custody of the dog and claimed that the dog was “in” all night on the evening of the attack.
Ms. Burrall said the woman called her ex, who stated the pit bull was an American Kennel Club registered dog that cost him $9,000 and never runs loose.
But Ms. Burrall says that as she and her friend left, a neighbor came and showed them a video showing the pit bull running loose in the yard on the night of the attack.
Ms. Burrall said the man provided the video to the South Glens Falls Police.
Ms. Burrall said the neighbor told her that the dog runs loose many nights, and the man has two German Shepherds that he’s now afraid to walk in the evening.
Ms. Burrall said she walked to the property the next day and saw no sign of the dog or the crate — and that this time the woman told her she would have her arrested for harassment.
Then Ms. Burrall said another neighbor told her the dog runs loose frequently.
Ms. Burrall filled out deposition papers on the incident that the South Glens Falls Police picked up, but she said, “Nobody’s found the dog. They said they can’t do anything because they can’t find the dog. I contacted the lawyer [she consulted]. He told me the same thing, that he could not do anything until the dog was found.”
Ms. Burrall insists, “[The police] know who the owners are. They know where he works, they know where he lives. And I was told a warrant would be put out for him for his arrest but nothing was ever filed. And the police said, ‘Well, we don’t just arrest somebody for nothing.’ But I don’t think it’s nothing.”
Ms. Burrall said she’s gotten to the point where she’s afraid to go outside of her house. “I’ve already seen a doctor for critical hypertension, and I’m going to go for counseling because I’m having a hard time dealing with everything.”
She said she suffered some abrasions and bruises on her face, hands and knees from hitting the pavement when she was knocked over by the pit bull.
Ms. Burrall said while her surviving dog Hansel didn’t suffer physical injuries, he’s been distressed since the attack.
“Mentally he’s not doing well,” she said. “He won’t eat, he doesn’t want to walk, he’s sulking. These two are siblings, and they have never been apart, except when she had her back surgery. He’s never been without her, and he just isn’t himself. He’s having a hard time. He’s obviously missing his sibling terribly, as do I.”
Ms. Burrall said that nobody she knows has seen the suspect dog since it was on the porch the day after the attack.
“If the dog was not the dog, then why did they take it and hide it?” she asks. “Why is the dog suddenly missing? They’re obviously hiding her.”
She says the owner “has just totally gotten away with the whole thing. I’m stuck with the bills, which I could care less about. I just want some justice for my little baby, and I also want to protect the people in this neighborhood.
“There’s many small children in this area, and for people to let their pit bull run loose is so wrong. And then to tell me it’s not their dog, but all of a sudden their dog shows up missing and nobody can find it, therefore no charges can be pressed?
“It just goes to show that if you have a killer dog and you want to let it run loose, then just hide it after and you’ll be off scot-free.”
South Glens Falls Police Chief David Gifford told The Chronicle the investigation into the incident is still ongoing, but would not share any details.
Moreau Dog Control Officer Josh Vincek, who has been in contact with Ms. Burrall in the aftermath of the attack, told The Chronicle, “They’re going to issue a warrant. I know they’re going to drop a warrant on somebody.”
He said what happens to the dog is ultimately up to the judge, adding, “They can order dog training, this, that and the other thing, but that’s all that’s going to happen to this dog. The dog’s not going to get euthanized.”
Why wouldn’t the attacking dog be euthanized in this case?
“I think it’s very hard, because a human being wasn’t bit,” Mr. Vincek said. “In my experience I’ve never seen a dog get euthanized over a dog fight in which a dog died.”
Mr. Vincek noted that up to this point the attack is an isolated incident. “There has not been any other dogs running over that area,” he said. “There has not been any other dog attacks.”
The neighbor Ms. Sanders wants law enforcement to do more.
“What more do the police need?” she said. “I testified that I saw it, Joan identified it, and that neighbor has it right on his phone. And all of a sudden the dog has disappeared. But nothing has been done to help poor Joan.”
“It’s just not right,” Ms. Sanders continued. “She went through pure hell. Literally, that pit bull was ripping [Gretel] apart. And the police still have not done a darn thing.”
Ms. Burrall said her beloved Gretel should have had another good 10 years to live. “My heart is absolutely broken,” she said. “It’s going to take me a long time to get over this. The whole trauma is emotionally devastating.”
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