Mary Ruegge spent Christmas with her finger badly broken, and her springer spaniel shaken following a dog attack at Gilbert’s Cosmo Park. Ruegge said it all happened suddenly on Dec. 21, after she had spent “at least 150” other peaceful visits at the popular dog park.
Her springer spaniel and her shepherd mix were playing, when Ruegge said a pit bull noticed from across the park that the springer was the more docile of the two. It raced straight toward Ruegge and her dogs, and attacked the smaller dog.
“I grabbed his collar, and I grabbed the pit bull’s collar, and my finger got stuck in my dog’s collar,” she said. “I heard a pop.
“The thing that irritates me,” she said, “is the owner of this dog had gotten into a couple skirmishes before this happened. (Later), as I tried not to pass out ... I sat on a bench with my head between my knees ... it got into three more fights.”
At one point, the pit bull had another dog in its mouth, she said, and other dog owners were yelling for its owner to leave the park.
Ruegge, a math teacher at Mesa’s Dobson High School, did not call the police but was taken to the hospital. On Friday, she had surgery to place screws in the middle finger on her left hand.
Town officials are reviewing whether to create an area at the park for timid pets in response to some dog owners’ concerns that their pets feel unsafe around bigger dogs.
But some officials say that won’t help in situations where “irresponsible” dog owners bring dangerous animals that don’t belong in the park.
Town Manager George Pettit encouraged dog owners to help each other and call authorities for help if they spot a dangerous dog or owner with no control. They also can ask the owner of a dog to leave, Pettit said.
Though dogs are allowed off their leashes at dog parks, their owners must still abide by all laws, including keeping dogs under control, Pettit said. And owners are responsible for bites or attacks at the park.
How to help
To report an incident, attack or violation, dial 911, or call Maricopa County Animal Care and Control, at (602) 506-7387.