Charges could be filed by the end of the week over an incident Tuesday in which two dogs belonging to Steelers linebacker Joey Porter -- a pit bull and a mastiff -- got loose from Mr. Porter's Pine home and killed a miniature horse at a nearby farm.
The dogs, named Tina and Nemo, were still in the corral with the dead horse when police arrived about 4:45 p.m., said Chief Bob Amann, of the Northern Regional Police Department. The department includes Pine, Marshall, Richland and Bradford Woods.
The owners of the horse, Richard and Eleanor Bowers, were not home at the time and their home was occupied by a daughter, Chief Amann said. The Bowers yesterday declined to comment on the attack.
The 6-year-old American miniature horse was 29 1/2 inches tall, probably smaller than the two dogs. Mastiffs can weigh more than 200 pounds and stand nearly 6 feet on their hind legs.
Police knew immediately to whom the dogs belonged because the dogs had gotten free last year, but caused no problems, Chief Amann said. As a result, Mr. Porter was notified Tuesday and got the dogs under control after he arrived at the scene of the incident on Hill Haven Lane.
The dogs were later transported back to Mr. Porter's Tanglewood Drive home about a mile away by Triangle Pet Control Co. Inc. of McKees Rocks, with which Pine contracts for animal control problems.
Mr. Porter's back yard is completely fenced in, so police are not sure how the dogs got loose, Chief Amann said.
Police also notified the regional dog warden with the state Department of Agriculture, which has jurisdiction when a dog is involved in the death of livestock. The agency is acting in an advisory capacity and will coordinate charges and any subsequent issues with local police, said Chris Ryder, a Department of Agriculture spokesman in Harrisburg.
The state has a fund that pays up to $10,000 for damage or the death of an animal in a dog attack. Miniature horses average $4,000 in price.
Charges would be based on the state Dog Law and could include violations of the dangerous dogs and confinement of dogs sections. Other possible violations could result from checks on whether Mr. Porter's dogs were properly licensed and had received the proper rabies shots, Chief Amann said.
The charges are summary offenses with a maximum penalty of a $1,000 fine. There are other penalties for the dogs should a judge, in this case District Judge Regis Welsh Jr. in Hampton, determine that they are dangerous.
Mr. Porter issued this statement yesterday:
"I am saddened to learn that my dogs escaped from my yard and attacked and killed a horse. It was an accident and I am not sure how the dogs escaped. We have a very secure yard with a six-foot fence around it and this has never happened before. I have reached out to the owners of the horse and will do whatever I can to help them get through this very unfortunate situation."
Staff writer Ed Bouchette contributed. Mike Bucsko can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1732.