Until a few weeks ago, neighbors Allison Katz and Beth Silverberg didn’t know each other. They may have passed each other on the streets of their Short Hills neighborhood while walking their dogs, but can’t really be sure.
But then one recent Friday, they both experienced traumatic events with their dogs, and their paths crossed at the Millburn Veterinary Hospital.
On Jan. 6 both woman had walked their dogs on Deer Path in Short Hills when out of nowhere came a large brown dog that attacked their little "toy" dogs.
“It was horrific,” said Katz, whose dog Maggie, a 8-month-old Havanese puppy, was bitten so severely that she suffered a punctured lung and had to have emergency surgery.
Katz said she was just a couple of houses away from home on their walk when out of nowhere two dogs came charging toward them. “I thought there must be an invisible fence but nothing stopped them.”
Katz herself suffered bruises and a bite wound, although she doesn’t remember getting bitten as she frantically kicked the dogs away from Maggie and then scooped her up, went home, got her daughter and they took the dog to the vet.
“The entire way there the dog was crying and screaming; she was in so much pain,” she said.
At the hospital, the staff said it was the second attacked dog they’d had that afternoon.
In fact, Beth Silverberg was still at the vet with her dog, Bentley. She had lived through a similarly harrowing experience about an hour earlier.
The vet examined Maggie and sent Katz to an emergency veterinary hospital in Bloomfield that could handle such a trauma.
Because her daughter had to be elsewhere, she called her mother to come pick her up. She would stay at the vet’s while Katz took Maggie to Bloomfield.
“I didn’t even know Beth but she said she’d stay with Lauren until my mom got there,” she said.
Beth Silverberg was still shaken from her own incident with her Maltese but had had time to calm down, and said she could tell Katz needed to know that her daughter would be looked after while she waited.
Silverberg recalled her incident as “harrowing” but because only one of the dogs attacked her dog and because she was with a friend, they were able to get the dog pulled off her little Maltese a little more quickly.
“He looked friendly, and he came over slowly. Then all of sudden he leapt at Bentley and just attacked him,” she said.
Since then, both women, who used to walk their dogs everyday are nervous to take their dogs out for a walk in their own neighborhood.
“I will not go out without a weapon,” Silverberg said.
They both filled out police reports and filed charges and are now working to get some laws in Millburn changed. They’ve been told there’s not much that can be done until after the case goes to court and a judge has decides what remedy there will be for the situation and the dogs.
The dogs belong to another neighbor that she has gotten to know for the first time as well and who was charged by police with allowing her dogs to "run at large." Katz said the prosecutor told her he might also charge her with keeping a vicious dog.
“She was very sorry, and she’s been very nice,” Katz said, adding that the owner sent her a check to cover veterinary costs, which were about $2,400. “But that doesn’t make me feel better about her dogs. She said her invisible fence had been broken since the [snow] storm. But these dogs apparently have a reputation. Animal Control was familiar with them.
“I don’t know why Animal Control can’t seem to do anything.The family should send them the to a farm or something. If not, I want them muzzled. I want the fence fixed. I want them kept inside. I am scared to go out.” She said.
Meanwhile, there’s a court case set for Feb. 21.
Millburn Police Chief Greg Weber said that the Animal Control officer is periodically driving by the dog owner’s house to see what is happening with the dogs.
Katz said the Animal Control Officer told her that the pet door is now blocked and there doesn’t appear to be any problems with the back fence anymore. Weber said there are flags up in the yard, but he's not sure if the invisible fence is fixed.
Chief Weber said dogs in question have lived in Short Hills for nine years and he knows of only one other incident involving them.
“They’ve not been a persistent problem,” said Weber, adding that one of the dogs is a pit bull the other is a mix.
As for impounding or muzzling the dogs or making the owner do anything else, the court makes those rulings, Weber said.
Katz and Silverberg said they have had to take the initiative to find out anything about the case, including that there was even a case and that there was a court date. Had the women not called the police repeatedly, they would not have even known there was a court case and a date.
“We’re the victims. We’re the witnesses,” Silverberg said. “Wouldn’t you think that they’d want our testimony? Shouldn’t we be able to tell the judge what a terrifying experience this was?”
While Silverberg’s dog has recently taken walks again, he is timid while he’s out and she refuses to go near the street were the attack took place.
Maggie is healing, but still unable to go out and Katz is not going to take her out until she knows for certain those dogs can't get out.
“She’s lucky she’s alive,” she said. “She's a tough little thing. Thank goodness we’re OK. I keep thinking, what if it had been my daughter who was out walking her? It’s so frightening.”