Two weeks ago, Chris Card watched in horror as her beloved Chihuahua died in the mouths of her East Nashville neighbor’s two dogs. John Prysock’s pit bulls — Trouble and China — slipped out of their pen while being fed and ran into the alley between his North Fifth Street home and Card’s Lischey Avenue home. There they found Disney, a 1-year-old white wirehaired Chihuahua.
It was about 2 p.m. on May 3, Prysock and his family would later testify in court, when what began as “playing” turned rough. Trouble picked up Disney by the neck. Then China grabbed onto the Chihuahua’s hind legs.
The two pit bulls ran around in the alley while Card, as she later described in a post online, begged for someone to intervene.
In what she later described as a cathartic release, Card shared the story on an East Nashville online message board: “I saw it happen. I heard my dog’s last painful wails as the monsters took over destroying his life; the male pit pulling Disney’s head into his jaws, and the female pit jumping into the frey [sic] and clamping onto Disney’s hindquarters with voracious hunger.”
The Prysocks testified that they’d tried calling off the dogs and even throwing a basketball at them to try to distract them. Trouble and China, playing or not, didn’t release Disney before killing him.
Immediately after the incident, Card couldn’t bring herself to look at Disney’s body. Prysock’s brother would later offer to get Card another dog, but that wouldn’t do. Card eventually sent over a box for Disney’s body. Prysock later said in court he’d already paid for someone to “dispose of” Disney, something Card said she was not made aware of until last week’s hearing.
Hesitant at first but encouraged by neighbors, Card filed a complaint against Prysock’s dogs with Metro Animal Control, which would later take custody of Trouble and China, setting up the court hearing to determine what would happen to the pit bulls.
Last Wednesday in Metro’s Environmental Court, presiding court referee Jim Todd ruled that Trouble and China would remain in Animal Control’s custody until Prysock could build a reinforced pen to Animal Control’s standards — enclosed with a top, and either concrete or chain link fencing on the bottom. It would come at his own expense while paying daily fees to Metro to house his dogs.
Now Prysock, whom an animal control officer called cooperative and whom Todd would not condemn as a pet owner, must now pay a $50 impound fee per dog, a $25 fee per dog to have them microchipped, $18 per day per dog for boarding at Metro’s animal shelter, and $14 for rabies shots.
Through a Metro attorney assigned to Environmental Court, Card suggested to Todd that the Prysock’s dogs need not be put down but that Todd instead order they be penned up and microchipped (to track their location in the future).
In this case, Card said it didn’t come down to any grievance with Prysock or the fact that his dogs were pit bulls. Instead, she said it was only about public safety. The situation described by both parties was simply that Trouble and China, for whatever reason, matched Metro’s description of a “vicious dog” — one that bites or attacks a person or animal on any public or private property — and their owner was subject to court action.
Asked by Todd if his dogs had been in prior altercations, Prysock said Trouble had fought with another dog in the past. Prysock wasn’t cited because his dog was chained up and in his yard at the time. In her online posting, Card suggested there had been other attacks instigated by Prysock’s dogs but other neighbors chose not to file any complaints.
According to Billy Biggs, field operations supervisor for Animal Control, roughly seven to 10 vicious-dog cases are reported each month. Of those, one or two show up in court each week, and the outcomes are similar to that in the Card-Prysock case. When an owner won’t step up to claim a dog after an attack, it is put down.
As for reports of pit bulls being the aggressor in reported vicious dog cases, Biggs said there’s no “overwhelming majority” of a certain breed. Rather, the cases tend to balance out among breed.
“The only difference between a pit bull and a regular dog, pit bulls, when they bite … they do a lot more damage than a regular dog would do,” Biggs said.
The breed’s violent reputation — which has gained currency across the country as local lawmakers have banned the breed entirely in some cities — works against pit bulls and their owners.
“We get a lot of calls [of] of pit bulls running at large and [the caller is] scared to death,” Biggs said. “And we get out there, and the pit bull is friendly.”
Still, more than half of the dogs in Animal Control’s shelter are pit bulls, Biggs said. They’ve been picked up for running at large or after an owner has abandoned them.
“It all depends on how you raise them,” Prysock said after the court hearing. Minutes earlier he told Todd that Card’s dogs and his had had friendly interaction several times before. “That day, I just don’t know what happened.”
Prysock called the decision “justified.”
“Her dog got killed and everything,” he said. “I’m just glad my dogs didn’t have to get put down, because I don’t feel that they deserve to be put down.”
Card said she’s happy that Disney’s death gained attention — at least in her neighborhood. It’s not just pit bulls, she said, though most in her neighborhood are pits. “But there are plenty other dogs that act the same way and play the same way.”
Whether it’s a Chihuahua or a person bit or attacked by a dog, owners should be held responsible, she added.
“I think it went perfectly,” Card said of how the incident played out in court for both parties. “That’s why you bring it to court. That is why you step forward.”