Friday, Aug. 19, 2022 |
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WAILUA — Allison Kohlhepp sustained a dog bite on her right thigh and one on her right arm on Saturday after being attacked by a pit bull on the Moalepe Trail.
She says she feels lucky that she only got bit twice, and that the dog was really going after her 4-year-old golden retriever, Mac.
Mac escaped the encounter without a scratch.
The Kapaa woman, who teaches inclusion science at Kauai High School, said she’s been hiking that trail for 20 years. It eventually turns into the Kuilau Ridge Trail, which ends at the Keahua Arboretum.
She usually does the entire trek on the weekends, and she’s been taking Mac, a service dog, with her since she got him two years ago.
She and Mac had started at the Moalepe Trailhead and were hiking toward the arboretum on. They walked to the overlook and had passed two young men on the way there, with five hunting dogs and one large, white pit bull. The men appeared to be in their early 20s, Kohlhepp said.
“I’d passed by them once and I’d seen them and they corralled their hunting dogs,” Kohlhepp said. “I didn’t have a problem, because I’d seen them ahead of time.”
On the way back, though Kohlhepp and Mac ran into the dogs again, and things turned ugly.
As the pack rounded the corner, unaccompanied by their owners, Kohlepp said she instructed Mac to lay down, which he did, and she stood over him while the dogs passed.
All of the dogs ignored Mac except one, a large, white pit bull that was “definitely older, and had kind of a beat-up looking face.”
Kohlhepp said all of the dogs had GPS collars on them except for the pit bull.
“The pit bull was huge and he went right after Mac,” Kohlhepp said. “So I put myself between the dog and my dog and the first bite was on my right thigh, by the knee. It was a pretty good bite.”
While she was fighting off the pit bull, the pack surrounded her.
“All the other hunting dogs were on me, jumping on me, and they were all going crazy, but they weren’t biting me, just the pit bull was,” Kohlhepp said. “It was scary though, you’re not sure if the other dogs are going to start biting.”
The dog sank its teeth into her right arm, at the elbow, before the two young men who were with the dogs, ran over and intervened.
“They were stunned and, of course, the dog didn’t listen to them and they couldn’t control him,” Kohlhepp said.
She said the men told her that the pit bull had been attacked by a dog that looked like Mac earlier that week, and that was their theory as to why the pit bull attacked.
They didn’t give Kohlhepp their names, and they “got out of there as soon as possible so I could hike out without worrying about running into them again,” she said.
Once the men and their dogs were gone, Kohlhepp hhiked about a mile to the Arboretum, where her husband was waiting. They drove to truck at the other end of the trail before they went to urgent care.
“I was a muddy, bloody mess, but I know a little bit about first aid,” Kohlhepp said. “I was in shock, because it hurt so much more later.”
Kohlhepp said that she’s worried about other hikers on the Moalepe Trail, specifically those who have their dogs with them.
“People have to be really aware when they’re walking their dogs,” Kohlhepp said. “Sometimes the dogs aren’t after people, it’s aggression toward other dogs. I don’t think I would have had an issue if I wouldn’t have had a dog.”
Kohlhepp said she knows that there is a leash law, but her feeling is that if dog owners are on public lands, on the trails with their canines — even hunting dogs – those dogs should be on leashes.
“Obviously, there’s plenty of responsible hunters that would put their dogs on leashes on the trails, but I’m not seeing it on this trail,” Kohlhepp said.
She’s filed a report with the Department of Land and Natural Resources, as well as with the Kauai Police Department.
Deborah Ward, DLNR spokeswoman, said all of the dogs that Kohlhepp encountered should have been on a leash.
“Na Ala Hele Rules require dogs to be leashed at all times when hiking on a program trail, which Moalepe is,” Ward said. “All dogs used for hunting shall be crated, caged or leashed, or otherwise under restrictive control, while in transit to and from the hunting areas along, along program trails, and access.”
According to state law, it’s legal to let hunting dogs loose to hunt once they have entered a public hunting area, if so designated for hunting dogs, Ward explained. Hunting dogs need to be on a leash on any parts of a trail outside the public hunting area.
Ward said DLNR has assigned an officer to investigate the case.
KPD’s spokeswoman Sarah Blane confirmed that a report on the incident was filed with KPD. She said officers are trying to locate the owner of the pit bull, and an investigation is ongoing.
She said the owner of the dog could possibly be cited for dangerous dog violations.
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