SALT LAKE CITY — Police and Salt Lake County Animal Services are looking into reports of a vicious dog attack at Liberty Park that involved the dog’s owner shooting squirrels in a tree with an airsoft gun.
Located near the heart of Salt Lake City, Liberty Park offers an escape from the city’s hustle and bustle.
However, that sense of serenity was lost on Sunday for Preston Powell, who was at the park with his boyfriend and dog.
Powell said his Chihuahua-Yorkie mix Dash was attacked by an unrestrained German Shepherd.
“The German Shepherd came up behind Dash, sniffed him and my dog freaked out. Then the dog grabbed him by his back and shook him like a toy,” Powell said.
While they scrambled to help Dash, Powell thought things had taken a turn for the worse.
“My dog stopped squealing after 30 seconds and just went limp. I thought he was dead,” he said.
Powell said other witnesses spotted the dog’s owner holding an airsoft rifle.
“The owner of the dog was actually right over here, shooting at some squirrels in that tree to feed his dog,” Powell said.
The situation only got worse.
“After everyone is screaming telling him to get over here he comes over, he grabs his dog and he beats his dog,” Powell said.
Powell said the other dog’s owner dragged the dog to his truck and put him in the bed.
Powell said the owner then turned his aggression on him and his boyfriend.
“He starts chasing after me and my boyfriend after we are on the phone with the police screaming ‘hey gay boys, hey gay boys,’” Powell said.
Powell said the man fled the scene before police arrived, leaving the truck and his dog behind.
“It’s traumatizing,” Powell said. “Dash has a five-centimeter puncture wound on his side and enough damage to kill a dog.”
Powell said he spent $300 in medical expenses for Dash, who still needs x-rays.
Police are looking into the case as a possible hate crime. They said there are no laws restricting airsoft guns in Salt Lake City, which means they can’t investigate the case on those grounds.
Salt Lake County Animal Services is investigating the dog attack including animal cruelty.
“Depending on the actual incident itself it could be anything from a Class B misdemeanor all the way up to a felony charge on those cases,” said Sergeant Marcy Seale of Salt Lake County Animal Services.
Seale also emphasized the importance of making sure dogs are leashed at all times in city parks. Owners can be fined for allowing their dogs to roam off-leash on public property.
Anyone who spots a dog off-leash is asked to report the incident and take pictures or videos of alleged violations.
In the meantime, Powell said he won’t feel safe at the park until they find the suspect.
“He could be here at any point and he could show up and other people’s animals could be at risk,” Powell said.
Both animal control and the police department are asking anyone with information to contact them.
The suspect was described as being tall with no front teeth. He was last seen wearing a tan camo jacket and jeans and could be driving a white 2005 Ford F-150.
Salt Lake City Police can be reached at 801-799-3000.