Moments after Gayle Silver let her dogs out into the yard on Daufuskie Island last week, she heard a sound that sent her running after them.
Silver, 69, followed the screech to her 10-year-old Havanese, Humphrey, who was trapped against the side of her Fuskie Lane home by two Samoyed dogs, according to her husband, Rich Silver. Gayle Silver tried to stop the attack. She suffered bites to her hands that required stitches, and Humphrey died of his injuries a few days after the March 13 incident, despite emergency treatment in Bluffton and Charleston, Rich Silver said.
He said his wife's hands are healing, but she's still shaken.
"This could have been a grandchild instead of a dog," Silver said. "What she's now going to live with are the nightmares."
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The Samoyeds' owner, a Savannah resident with a second home on Daufuskie, said the 5-year-old dogs were playing in the ocean when they started chasing a pelican to the end of the Bloody Point beach, where the fight began. Owner John Menzies said he'd never let the dogs off leash, and they're accustomed to a large fenced yard in Savannah. However, the beach was empty that afternoon, Menzies said, and he decided to let them run.
Rich Silver, whose property has an electric fence, said he wants dog owners to be more responsible on the island.
"People have a mentality that since it's Daufuskie, there's no rules, no laws, it's like the Wild West, and people can come in and do anything they want," he said.
Menzies and his wife retrieved their dogs in a golf cart and left the Fuskie Lane home, according to a Beaufort County Sheriff's Office report on the incident. They will be cited by Beaufort County Animal Control for animals running at large, Sgt. Robin McIntosh said.
However, Animal Control has no authority to go to Savannah to assess the dogs, Daisy and Duke, for aggression, according to county spokeswoman Joy Nelson.
Menzies said his pets had never been never violent before. However, his wife received a citation from the Savannah-Chatham Metropolitan Police Department in a December 2012 incident, in which the dogs got out of their electric fence and killed a neighbor's cat, the police report said.
"Apparently these people were aware there were aggression issues with these dogs," Silver said. "It's one thing if they're in their own neighborhood where they're familiar, but not to bring them to someone else's neighborhood and let them run free."
Menzies said he did not consider his dogs dangerous after the 2012 incident because it was in their nature to chase cats, squirrels and birds. However, he said the attack March 13 was unacceptable and prompted him to euthanize Duke, who Menzies said was the more aggressive dog in the incident and might have been acting in defense of Daisy.
"We're very sorry about what happened, and there's nothing I can do to take it back," Menzies said. "The whole thing would have been prevented if all the dogs were on leashes -- our dogs, their dogs, all the dogs."
Follow reporter Rebecca Lurye on Twitter at twitter.com/IPBG_Rebecca.
- Port Royal official calls for 'one-bite' ordinance, July 13, 2012: http://bit.ly/1h3dK2n