Escaped pit bull mixes up threat to dog walkers on Nickel Plate Trail
The Nickel Plate Trail not only provides new recreational opportunities for Fishers joggers, cyclists, and pedestrians, but also challenges growing and gruntling.
Dog walkers are among the heavy users of the trail, but recently several have complained that they had to carry mace and weapons because a pair of loose bull mixes threatened them multiple times, as well than their pets, on the trail a few blocks south of 116th Street.
Fishermen’s Police Sgt. Tom Weger said he received seven complaints from residents in the Cheeney Creek area about the two dogs chasing other dogs on the trail and at least one incident in which a dog was bitten on the tail.
Weger said the dogs were hostile to other dogs, not people, but dog walkers said they feared being bitten if they had to separate the fighting dogs.
Animal Control Officer Fishers issued warnings and three citations for failure to restrain and the animal and dogs were declared dangerous. One of the dogs was quarantined after biting a pet on the trail. The owners eventually turned them over to the Humane Society of Hamilton County.
The incidents led to acrimonious back and forth on the Next Door app that highlighted perhaps unexpected danger on the already popular trail, with dog walkers issuing dire alerts.
“There are two pit bulls loose on the Nickel Plate Trail – a black and a brown one that started jumping on my dog,” one dog walker said.
Marcy Kellar, who lives four houses away from the pit bulls in the Heritage Meadows neighborhood, captured about 20 incidents on her rear security cameras that face the trail.
Dogs can be seen running and heard barking at dog walkers as they yell at them to get away.
“The pit bulls got kicked and punched and punched to get them to stop,” Kellar said.
She said the attacks went on for weeks without animal control intervention because most pet owners didn’t report them. “I think everyone thought it was isolated, so they didn’t report it,” she said.
But they have sparked fierce debate on social media in the meantime.
People described being terrified when the dogs ran towards them. “I was screaming for help but no one was there,” one message read. Another dog walker said he was chased for half a mile by the two pit mixes.
The discussion then turned to defenses against intruders.
“My neighbor bought a baton just so he could keep walking on the trail,” one said.
“The thing is we wear when we walk and I won’t sacrifice my life or my dog’s life,” said another.
“I also encourage others to walk with protection. Whether it’s a legal weapon/mace/pepper spray,” said a third.
The pit bull owners, who did not respond to a request for an interview, said on the Next Door app that the dogs stayed in their yard until the Nickel Plate Trail was built.
“Our dogs have never run this trail before, no excuses,” the owner said in a post.
“They built a trail in their backyard. Bringing them back that natural pack instinct,” she said in another.
The owners put up a fence in the backyard, but the dogs still escaped when their children entered through the yard.
Weger said the flurry of complaints is the only dog-related issue police have received on the trail so far — or trouble of any kind.
Kellar said dog issues were an unexpected source of friction.
“I thought the most dangerous thing would be cyclists dominating the trail, or maybe some crime issues,” she said. “I never thought about dogs.”
Councilman David Giffel, who represents the area, said he received an email about the dogs and called the police for information.
But he refused to blame the newness of the Nickel Plate Trail or the unfamiliarity of the owners who live there.
“It could happen anywhere, it could happen in my neighborhood,” he said of the attacks. “People need to take personal responsibility for their pets. I feel bad for the dogs.
Hamilton Humane spokeswoman Megan Davis said the dogs were both under the age of five and would be assessed to see if they were adoptable. If they are not, the Humane Society, which is a safe refuge, will try to find them a refuge.