Warren Harper said he was stunned when he learned on Facebook that his dogs had been out killing people‚Äôs cats.
For about a month, one large and one small dog had been spotted along Sand Ridge Road, just north of Bridgeton. Showing up in the early morning hours, the dogs went after roughly a dozen cats, shaking and killing them, then leaving them on the ground to find new prey.
‚ÄúWe‚Äôve had her since she was a puppy,‚ÄĚ Harper said of the larger dog, a great dane. ‚ÄúShe was born to a litter and the people were giving her away. My wife showed up with it when it was a puppy and said, ‚ÄėHey, you‚Äôre not going to like this.‚Äô And I said, ‚ÄėAlright.‚Äô
‚ÄúMy daughter loves her. They play. She‚Äôs never shown any signs of aggression with anybody.‚ÄĚ
Great danes are large dogs¬†‚ÄĒ upwards of 30 inches at the shoulder and weighing as much as 150 pounds. They are not known as dangerous, at least not to humans. Petwave.com describes the breed as ‚Äúoutstanding, affectionate, loving and trusted,‚ÄĚ while a representative of a local great dane rescue group said the dogs are ‚Äúusually docile.‚ÄĚ The representative also said, ‚ÄúI‚Äôve never heard of a great dane running around and killing cats before.‚ÄĚ
Still, they were originally bred to hunt wild boar. And dogs of any breed can have what local pet trainer Dona Baker described as a ‚Äústrong prey drive.‚ÄĚ
‚ÄúOnce they start doing things like that, and they get pleasure from it,‚ÄĚ she said, ‚Äúthey‚Äôre going to repeat.‚ÄĚ
The dogs have killed several cats over a period of a month and a half, sometimes killing more than one at a time. One resident, Jennie Tripp, discovered one of her cats torn and dead in her front yard two weeks ago when she was letting her own dog out in the morning. As she went to the back yard to get a shovel to bury her cat, she found another of her cats torn and dead there.
Later, Tripp caught images of the dogs on a deer camera she had set up in her yard and, this past Saturday, stumbled upon the dogs as they stood in her yard early in the morning. A few minutes later the same dogs attacked a cat three houses down, but the owner, Linda Bridgers, was able to drive them off and the cat got away.
Tripp, told the dogs had been found and secured, said she was happy that she could feel her remaining cats were safe again. She said she expected some kind of restitution, however, and added that, ‚Äúeven so, if I see that dog on my property again, I‚Äôll still shoot it. I‚Äôve got to protect my own.‚ÄĚ
Harper didn‚Äôt say why the dogs were loose, but said he was being careful to keep them in now.
Lisa Lee, a board member with Colonial Capital Humane Society, said the organization had received good reports about Harper and his pets. She does not want to see the dogs destroyed.
‚ÄúI plan to turn this negative into something positive,‚ÄĚ she said. ‚ÄúThese dogs are doing what comes natural to some dogs. I‚Äôm not condoning it, but if they go to run they will go after other animals.‚ÄĚ
She said the society would assist Harper in building a fence to contain the dog when it is out of the house and seek assistance through the Colonial Capital Facebook page.
Baker said that some dogs could be trained to avoid cats rather than hunt them by use of a shock collar. They could also be taught to tolerate a cat‚Äôs company through positive reinforcement. Still, she said, ‚Äúthose dogs need to be contained.‚ÄĚ
She added that dogs that are allowed to run are at risk, as well as being a risk ‚ÄúThere‚Äôs the standard getting run over by a car situation,‚ÄĚ she said. ‚ÄúSnakes are out in full force this year, and a dog with a strong prey drive may find a poisonous one.‚ÄĚ She added that dogs left on their own could also be easily exposed to rabies.
‚ÄúThe best thing for this is containment,‚ÄĚ she said, ‚Äúand keeping the dogs busy. Dogs are social animals. They love the indoors.‚ÄĚ
Harper said he had never had trouble with his dog until, about a year ago, when it was picked up by the animal shelter, at which point he purchased a shock collar to try to keep the dog home.
‚ÄúI‚Äôve been trying to figure this out and get it resolved as fast as I can,‚ÄĚ he said.
Anthony Thomas, Craven County animal services director, said that Harper had contacted him, and that they had spoken. He said he would be meeting with Harper to decide how to handle the situation.
Harper described himself as an animal lover and said he is very sorry for what his pet has apparently done.
‚ÄúI don‚Äôt know what to say to the people who, my dog killed their cats,‚ÄĚ he said. ‚ÄúI know they‚Äôre pets and loved. I‚Äôd like to apologize to them.‚ÄĚ