KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- A Northland couple says their dog was attacked at Bar K last month. The dog is going to be alright, but they say the business didn't report it to animal control, and won't give them the information to file a report themselves.
Ralphia is a little big for her age. The 10-month-old great Pyrenees loves her family, and loves to play, especially at Bar K Dog Bar on Kansas City's riverfront.
"We were so excited that something cool had opened up near us," owner Daniel Wells said. "It's only eight minutes away. We went to Bar K everyday essentially unless it was pouring down rain."
Daniel and Kristin Wells take her almost every day to play, but on March 16, the couple says she was attacked. They say there were two incidents the same day with the same dog. In the first incident they said Ralphia was laying on her back when a Pit Bull mix allegedly tried to attack her, and a staff member was able to get between the dogs. The second time they said the dog made contact.
"The attack happened Ralphia yelping in pain before it took two dog tenders this time to separate the dog from Ralphia's hindquarters," Wells said.
"We did examine this particular dog immediately after the incident and found no injuries," Bar K partner and co-owner, Leib Dodell said. "In fact, this dog stayed and played in the park for two hours after the incident occurred."
Wells disputes that they were there for two hours after the incident. He said employees told him Ralphia wasn't injured, but based on her behavior Wells believed she might be. Something he said his vet confirmed. They found a sprain, put her on pain medication, and told the family not to let her do any activities for a week. A week later the couple said Ralphia got an infection in her foot pad and was back at the vet. Wells said their vet costs total around $300, but isn't looking for money.
Reporting with animal control
Wells said they contacted Bar K, and submitted their vet bills the day after the incident, however, Bar K wouldn't tell them who the owners of the dog are, and may not know. Without that information the city said the couple won't be able to file a report with animal control. Wells said he went in to file a report with the information he did have, but was turned away.
"They said you at least need to have the other person's address," Wells said. "I said, well I don't have that. Bar K wouldn't give it to me. I said, can I put Bar K down as them. They said, no, they aren't the owner of the other dog."
"If it happened to us it’s going to happen to somebody else, and I don’t know if they realize that they are doing this, but by not holding the dog that attacked Ralphia accountable in any way they’re spreading the message that you can bring your dog that may be aggressive, and if your dog attacks another dog you won’t be held responsible," Kristin said.
"It is our policy in the event of any altercation of any seriousness that we would share with both parties involved the report showing the identities of the dog and the owners so the parties can discuss among themselves what they feel is appropriate," Dodell said.
However, that hasn't happened in this case. Dodell said they did not believe the incident was serious based on their evaluation of the dog, and did not file an internal report. He said they are considering filing an internal incident report retroactively now.
Bar K said they file reports with animal control when they believe it's a serious matter, and always file a report if it involves a person.
"We're all dog people here know that they're constantly engaging with one another, and there's no obligation to report every incident to the city," Dodell said.
John Baccala, an animal health spokesperson with the city says, it's important to report every incident, but it's not required.
"Whether it's dog biting dog, dog biting man, because it's really important that we know from really a public health standpoint, because we want to make sure that the offending dog does have it's proper shots," Baccala said.
Baccala says while it can be an emotional moment for any dog owner, it's important to get the other dog owner's information yourself, and not to rely on a third party.
"I’d look at it like you do a car accident," Baccala said. "If you’re in a car accident what do you do - you get the name, and the address, and the phone number of the other driver. Same here. You need to get the name, address, and the phone number of the other dog owner."
When a dog is reported to animal control Baccala said they are able to keep a record of the dog for future incidents, and when it's not done it's hard to hold dog owners accountable for future incidents.
You don’t know if that dog’s had it's rabies shot, if that dog bites a child, bites someone else, we could have a big issue," Baccala said. "Think of it this way, you’re protecting the rest of the city, because we don’t know about the attacking dog. Until we can get it in and check to make sure it’s had all it’s vaccinations, and shots, and doesn’t pose a health risk."
What can be done legally?
James Stigall, a former animal abuse prosecutor with Jackson County said while Bar K isn't liable for the damages done to the dog - the other dog's owners might be.
"If you can prove that that dog owner knew of the dangerous propensities," Stigall said. "Usually it takes one maybe two incidents of injury to another person, and he brings his dog there - he can be liable."
Stigall said while the organization doesn't have to give information about the other dog, sometimes clients can get information through litigation, but it can be costly. He also said, if you know an organization may have information or evidence that could disappear after a certain amount of time, the best thing you can do is send them a formal letter asking for it to be saved in case it should be needed for litigation later.
"Unfortunately to get that you’re forced to file a lawsuit which gets them in a situation - do I hire an attorney for this small amount when I just want the information?" Stigell said.
The couple says they will keep going to Bar K, but they want to make sure all dogs that go there are safe. They also would like to see an update to Bar K's policy and how they believe it contradicts their businesses vision.
"Be aware. Be present. Watch your dog, and that doesn’t mix with - go have a beer and watch the game while our professionally trained dog tenders make sure that there’s a safe, clean, fun environment for their dogs and humans," Wells said.
Bar K says while this is one incident there are hundreds of people who come to their establishment and experience no issues.
"We take incredible pride in what we’ve created here in Kansas City, a joyful community meeting place for people and dogs, and we hope that those of you who haven’t checked it out will do so," Dodell said.