In what a witness described as a "horrific" scene, two pit bulls got loose from their owners' yard, then attacked and mortally injured a neighbor's dog.
The incident happened near First Avenue and Wyers Street on the morning of May 1.
The dog that was killed, "Abby," was a small boxer. She weighed about 50 pounds and was 8 years old. The dog's owners, Bengt Coffin and Leigh Hancock, live at 166 Wyers. Neither was at home when their dog was attacked.
"Apparently, the dogs came down the alley, and our dog started barking at them," said Hancock. "We have a fenced yard. The dogs tore the fence down between the garden and the yard, and mauled Abby. It was a very scary thing."
The dog was taken to Alpine Veterinary Clinic with extensive wounds to her side and chest. She died within a few hours.
"I was first on the scene," said Lynn Mason, who owns a lot at Second and Wyers. "I heard vicious barking and I saw the pit bulls standing over the dog. She was a mess, bleeding and breathing heavily. What's really scary is it happened in seconds. It was really a horrific, traumatic event."
Mason said she got into her truck because she was afraid to walk up on the dogs.
"They're like killing machines," Mason explained. "They are tough dogs, and they didn't have a mark on them. They just flattened Abby. She didn't stand a chance. If they had turned around and decided I was the next target, I wouldn't have made it. I was surprised how tall they were for pit bulls. I had trouble sleeping that night."
Mason said she drove to the Bingen-White Salmon Police Department office at the Park Center, but no one was there at the time.
Mason asked for help from Steve Stampfli, who works at the Underwood Conservation District office at the Park Center. Stampfli put on some heavy gloves and accompanied Mason to the scene, where he grabbed a large metal pipe and walked in to check on the injured dog.
Mason said by that time, the pit bulls were running around the perimeter of the fenced yard, trying to find a way out.
"The yard where the dog was killed has a pretty substantial fence. The pit bulls pushed on it so they could leap over," Mason pointed out.
Mason said the owner, Carl Martin, who lives at 181 Wyers, came down the street calling his dogs after the attack. He was apparently unaware of what had transpired.
"He had the dogs in a shed, and they beat their way out of the shed. He's been cited for loose animals before," Hancock said.
Martin, who has reportedly decided to get rid of the dogs, could not be reached for comment.
"That's what he told my husband," Hancock said. "If he finds the dogs, he plans to have them put down."
As of late in the week, the dogs apparently remained at large.
"I don't think they ever went home," said Hancock. She added there had been a report that the dogs were seen on Oak Street on May 4.
Hancock said her main concern now was to alert others to the possibility the dogs could attack again -- perhaps even a child.
"We just don't want this to happen to anyone else. It's very scary to think about," she said.
"These dogs killed an animal in its own yard. Going onto someone's property and attacking their pet, it's really disturbing," added Mason.
According to the city of White Salmon's animal control regulations, threatening dogs must be kept under control.
"Every animal which constitutes a physical threat to persons or other animals shall be confined by the owner within a secure enclosure, and shall be securely caged or muzzled whenever off the premises of the owner," read a passage from the city's ordinances.
Elsewhere in the city's legal code, the ordinance appears to allow for impoundment of dogs in cases such as the May 1 incident: "Animals in violation of any provision of this chapter ... may be apprehended by the animal control authority. A citation may be issued in lieu of impoundment. The penalty for a first violation within a 12-month period shall be a minimum of $10. The penalty for a second violation within a 12-month period shall be a minimum of $25. In the event the owner cannot be ascertained, the animal shall be impounded."
Another neighborhood resident, Doug Thornburg, said the same two dogs had come into his yard the week before the attack on Abby.
"Last week, before all this stuff happened, two dogs came into my garden out back," Thornburg said. "I think they were after my dog. I have a female Doberman on a runner. I chased the dogs, and they took off."
Thornburg said he called Police Chief Ned Kindler to complain about the incident.
"Kindler told me he cited the guy," Thornburg said. "But other than that, he said he can't do anything."
Thornburg said he was angry about the attack and about the lack of penalty for the dogs or the dogs' owner.
"We can't have this. We shouldn't have to tolerate it," he said.
Martin has been cited twice for having dogs on the loose, according to Kindler.
"Further charges may be pending," Kindler said. "The case has been turned over to the city prosecutor."
Kindler said Martin showed remorse about the attack on Abby.
"He seemed to be very upset about it," Kindler said. "He told me he was going to dispose of the dogs when he did find them."
Kindler pointed out that the two dogs have now been classified as dangerous dogs. As a result, if they attack a person or another dog, the owner could be charged with a Class C felony under state law.
Kindler added that he didn't have the authority to impound the dogs at the time of the May 1 attack.
"Until the other dog died, all I could do is declare the dogs potentially dangerous," he explained.