Scrappy, 4, on the left, and Junior, 9 months old.
Scrappy, 4, on the left, and Junior, 9 months old. (Submitted)

The owner of three pit bulls that police said attacked a retired York City teacher more than a week ago said she's trying to do the right thing as she faces hard decisions about the fate of the three dogs, which she said are loyal members of her family.

Melanie Robinson said Scrappy, Sasha and Junior were always docile, gentle family dogs.

"If I had known they could've possibly been a threat, never in a million years would I have had them around my children," who are 4 and 5, she said. "Our kids and the neighbor kids rode Scrappy like a pony. My kids are able to take food bowls away from the dogs."

But Robinson also is trying to keep things in perspective. She said she feels horrible about the July 4 attack on her next-door neighbor, 62-year-old Bonnie Cole.

"Right now the focus needs to be on Mrs. Cole and her recovery," Robinson said. "My heart goes out to her. ... If there was anything I could do to turn back the hands of time, (I would)."

The attack: Cole spent several days in York Hospital and requires physical rehabilitation for her injuries.

She told The York Dispatch she suffered bites on her back, calves, thighs and both arms, and said the dogs basically shredded the skin on her arms from shoulders to wrists.

"I'm pretty badly injured," she said. "They bit all four limbs. They tore a tendon out of my right arm."

Cole was mowing her lawn about 11:15 a.m. July 4 when she was attacked. She taught math and English to seventh- and eighth-grade special-education students before retiring last summer, she said.

Robinson said she had put the three dogs, plus 3-1/2-year-old Sasha's litter of five 3-week-old puppies, into her back yard, which is enclosed by a 6-foot stockade fence.

Chewed fence: She said 4-year-old Scrappy chewed through the wooden fence, which is how the dogs got out.

She and her husband believe it was 9-month-old Junior who initiated the attack.

York City Police said it was Junior who had Cole's blood all over him when officers arrived, although Scrappy had a trace of blood on his face.

After the attack, the couple did online research to try to understand what caused the attack, and they believe the dogs viewed the lawn mower as a threat to Sasha's pups. Robinson said they are not trying to justify the attack, merely to understand what happened.

The three dogs are now under a 10-day home quarantine to watch for rabies, York City Police Lt. Gene Fells said.

When that period ends, police will work with Robinson to determine the fate of the dogs, he said.

Fells said police at this point believe the dogs either need to be euthanized or moved somewhere safe.

Sasha's puppies are in new homes and are being bottle-fed, according to Robinson.

Citations filed: Mark McCartney, the city's animal enforcement officer, on Thursday filed six summary citations against the 42-year-old Robinson — three for allegedly keeping dangerous dogs and one each for letting her dogs run at large, failing to have the dogs vaccinated for rabies by a licensed veterinarian and for not having the dogs licensed. A summary citation is akin to a traffic ticket.

The Robinson family moved to their home in the 400 block of Lincoln Street about a month ago, they said.

Fells confirmed it appears Robinson did provide rabies shots for the dogs, just not through a veterinary office.

Robinson said she bought rabies and other vaccinations from a local agricultural/home-improvement store and administered them herself because it is far less expensive than having a vet do it.

She said it was only after the attack she learned the state does not recognize rabies shots unless they are administered by licensed professionals.

"It's not like we were negligent pet owners," Robinson said.

Rescued dog: Scrappy was just 3 months old when Robinson found him abandoned in the yard of a vacant Harrisburg home, a choke collar embedded in his neck. She saved Scrappy and nursed him back to health.

Robinson said she and her family, including her children, are devastated.

"This situation has completely changed my life," she said. "As much as I love pit bulls, I would never own one again, because anything could happen despite a million good intentions."