Bulldog identified as killer of miniature horse will be destroyed

Mugsy remains at the Edgartown dog pound where he awaits his fate. — Photo by Ralph Stewart

Updated 5:45 pm, Monday

“Mugsy,” the dog responsible for a vicious attack in Edgartown that left one miniature horse named Majik dead and another named Chance with wounds to his neck and body, will be destroyed.

Mugsy is owned by Adam and Christine Mahoney of Edgartown. Ms. Mahoney said the family is “absolutely shocked and saddened” and takes full responsibility for the dog’s action.

Mugsy is currently quarantined in the Edgartown dog pound where he has been since Sunday afternoon and will remain until his appointment with a vet. In a telephone conversation Monday, Mr. Mahoney told The Times that he and his wife had made the painful and difficult decision to make an appointment to put the dog down on May 20.

On Monday, Edgartown selectmen voted to declare Mugsy “a dangerous dog.” The designation insures that Edgartown animal control officer Barbara Prada has the authority to maintain control of Mugsy at all times. Ms. Prada told selectmen she would accompany the Mahoneys to the vet or would be present at the Mahoneys’ home if that can be arranged.

“We are trying to do everything as best and as correct as we can possibly do,” Mr. Mahoney said. “We came to the very tough decision that we will agree with the powers that be, and that’s what we’ll do.”

Acting on a tip Sunday morning, Edgartown animal control officer Barbara Prada, accompanied by two Edgartown police officers, went to the Mahoney home in the Island Grove section of Edgartown. Mr. Mahoney confirmed that “Mugsy” had gotten loose Saturday and returned home earlier Sunday morning bloody, muddy and with cuts all over his body.

She described Mugsy as a three-year-old mixed breed who exhibits characteristics of the old English bull dog, a taller, sleeker variety of the more commonly known, squatter bull dog.

A second dog owned by Mr. Mahoney, “Youke,” a pointer cross, was also loose but was clean, and did not play a role in the attack, Ms. Prada said. He is under a ten-day quarantine at the Mahoney’s home.

“He was just tagging along,” she said. “I think this was all Mugsy.”

Ms. Prada said she spoke with Ellen Harley, the owner of Majik on Sunday. “She was relieved to know we had found the dog,” Ms. Prada said.

Island Grove is not far from the farm on Meetinghouse Way where the daylight mauling took place, putting area residents and farmers on alert.

Ms. Prada said that at first she placed Mugsy on a short list of suspects but had no evidence on which to act Saturday. Asked to elaborate, she said that shortly after Mr. Mahoney adopted Mugsy from an animal shelter, he got loose last year and went to Morning Glory Farm where he bit a baby cow on the nose.

“That’s why I sort of suspected him,” she said. But there had been no further problems, and Mr. Mahoney has always been good about restraining the dog, she said.

Ms. Prada said that when she arrived at Mr. Mahoney’s house, it appeared that he knew something had happened. Ms. Prada said that, while shocked, Mr. Mahoney was very helpful.

Ms. Prada said Mugsy was friendly and licking her on the face. She said the incident is a strong reminder that even the friendliest family pet is not always predictable. People think their dog will not chase or harm livestock, she said, “but it’s a dog: it can.”

Sadness and relief

For Ms. Harley, the quick identification of the dog brought relief and sadness.

“I love all animals so I am very sad about this dog and I feel for the owners,” Ms. Harley told The Times in a telephone conversation from her home in Charleston, South Carolina, Monday morning. “However, when an animal tastes blood it remembers that.”

Ms. Harley said the likelihood of Mugsy repeating his behavior, should he be allowed to go free, is high. Despite the death of her horse, she does not welcome the alternative.

“I work with rescue dogs and rescue horses, so I am pretty familiar with them,” she said. “So it just breaks my heart that this has happened and that this dog did this and needs to be brought to justice.”

The entire incident has been difficult for everyone associated with the farm, Ms. Harley said. The barn manager has been staying with the animals at night.

“We are all very, very traumatized over this,” she said. “Everyone that was at the death scene. It was so horrible. I think people are just devastated.”

The support of the community, expressed in emails and calls, has helped temper the loss of her beloved miniature horse. “Having read some of the comments and the outpouring in my email box has been incredibly heartwarming and made me shed more tears as I will right now over it,” Ms. Harley said, as her voice broke over the phone. “Whether people are from on the Island or off the Island it’s just a special community that lives there and I’m so grateful to the community for the outreach.”

Ms. Harley praised the quick action of police and animal control officer Barbara Prada, “who just did a fabulous job of just resolving this quickly.”

She said she has no plans to speak to the owners of Mugsy. “I am not going to do that,” she said prior to learning of their decision to put the dog down. “They have their own cross to bear now. So they have to make what surely is a difficult decision.”

Apology and decision

In a statement to The Times left on an answering machine Sunday afternoon, Ms. Mahoney said, “Words cannot express my deepest apologies to the owners of the two miniature horses and those affected alike by the terrible tragedy that occurred yesterday.”

On Monday, Mr. Mahoney told The Times he and his wife are pained to be the subject of widespread news coverage that could lead people to conclude they are irresponsible dog owners, or that Mugsy is a bad animal.

“He’s a lovely, beautiful dog and very good with people,” Mr. Mahoney said.

Mugsy and Youke are both rescue dogs. A gate was left open and the two dogs left. “It’s not as though we don’t watch our dogs,” he said. “We are responsible pet owners. We take care of our pets. It was a one-time thing and unfortunately it ended horribly.”

Mr. Mahoney said while it is still too early, he and his wife do want to apologize in person to Ms. Harley. “We are truly, truly sorry,” he said. “We really want to go apologize to her and tell her how truly sorry we are.”

Vicious attack

Ms. Harley, owner of the farm at 40 Meetinghouse Way in Edgartown, said her barn manager, Danielle Fogg, went to the farm Saturday morning to feed her three horses and the two mini-horses, Majik and Chance, a gelding owned by Kirsten Davy.

The horses were in one pasture and the two miniatures in a separate pasture for the day. A stock fence designed to keep animals out surrounded the entire pasture.

Ms. Davy had loaned Chance to Ms. Harley to keep Majik company, Ms. Harley said in a telephone call Saturday night from Charlestown, South Carolina. “She [Majik] was a very small, very loving mini,” Ms. Harley said. “And they were just inseparable. He [Chance] always put himself in front of her when you walked in because he always wanted to protect her. He was very protective of her.”

Ms. Fogg returned to the farm earlier than usual to bring the horses in for the night, because of the threat of rain. At the pasture she came upon a horrifying scene.

Majik was lying on her side dead. Her face had been ripped off. Chance had bite wounds on his face and neck. “He was obviously trying to protect her,” Ms. Harley said.

Not the first time

Following the attack, Ms. Prada said that the dog that killed Majik jumped over a four-foot fence and was intent on a kill.

“The dog went right for the horse’s jugular,” Ms. Prada told The Times Saturday evening. “There are no bite marks on the legs, like it chased it and pulled it down. So this animal was experienced, I think.”

Edgartown authorities asked nearby residents to be vigilant. Ms. Prada also called area farmers and horse owners and cautioned them to keep a close watch on their animals. She asked the public to call police with any information.