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Local greyhound group: Dog park attack "isolated incident"

MISHAWAKA, Ind. – Local greyhound owners are speaking out after last week’s attack by a group of greyhounds on three small dogs at the Prickett Marina dog park.

On Tuesday afternoon three retired racing greyhounds attacked three small dogs at the park.  One of the smaller dogs, a Yorkie named Tatum, later died.

"The greyhound people I've spoken to, their heart has just bled for Tatum,” described Maggie Neenan-Michel of All Star Greyhounds, a local rescue group.  “Even though it wasn't our dogs or didn't come from our group, we all kind of take a little bit of responsibility for the breed."

For years Neenan-Michel and other members of her group have taken in retired racing greyhounds, she owns three herself, and helped coordinate adoptions in Michiana.  The dogs are brought from Florida to Ft. Wayne where they are then sent to foster families.  She explained that about 25-years ago, the majority of racing greyhounds were euthanized once their days on the track ended.  Now, All Star is one of many groups across the country that trains retired racers to live a normal life.

"Teaching them (to walk on) floors, vinyl floors, wood floors, tile; they're all new,” Neenan-Michel said, describing the process of training retired racers.  “Stairs, they don't know."

Neenan-Michel said she and other members of her group were shocked and heartbroken to hear about Tuesday’s attack, which she said is a very rare incident involving dogs that are usually very gentle.  Greyhounds have a natural instinct to chase, an instinct reinforced in the training of racing dogs.  Neenan-Michel explained that All Star is careful to place dogs more inclined to chase small animals in environments where they, and other animals, will be safe.

“They have been trained to run, trained to chase, not to kill," she explained.  “They've been woken up and taken out and trained to chase something so it's a little more engrained in them, but I think any kind of large dog may or may not chase."

All Star Greyhounds recommends retired racing dog owners avoid dog parks and that their dogs should be muzzled when around large groups of dogs.  However, Neenan-Michel is adamant that the former racers are no more dangerous than any other type of dog and that people shouldn’t make assumptions based off of Tuesday’s attack.

"Too many people with adoption groups have worked far too hard across this country to get these dogs off the track and to get them in a better situation to have them get labeled dangerous," she explained.

Like many others, including Tatum’s owners, Neenan-Michel believes the incident last Tuesday was caused not by retired racing greyhounds but by the Prickett Marina Dog Park not being divided and keeping large and small dogs separated.

“I was really shocked when I found out they were all in the same play area,” she explained.  “It was a senseless thing that didn’t need to happen had the right precautions been taken,”

The Lexus Project, a national group that offers legal defense to retired racing greyhounds has become involved in the case.  According to them, the greyhounds involved in the attack have been taken out of Indiana to avoid being euthanized.

“Our hearts go out to the Yorkie’s family and we join in and support her efforts to separate the small dogs from the larger dogs at the dog park,” stated Robin Mittasch, President of the Lexus Project.  “At the same time, it should be noted similarly all dogs should be muzzled while at the dog park to avoid ‘pack mentality’.”

ABC 57 has been told the City of Mishawaka is looking into dividing the Prickett Marina dog park between large and small dogs.

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