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Published: Tuesday, 7/23/2013

Couple lied about dog attack at Wildwood, Metroparks officials find

BY TANYA IRWIN
BLADE STAFF WRITER

A report of a dog attacking two people at Wildwood Preserve Metropark earlier this month was fabricated, Metroparks law enforcement officials said.

“The two individuals did suffer injuries inflicted by a dog,” said Joe Fausnaugh, chief of operations, who oversees the park district’s Ranger Department. “But our investigation has concluded that they were injured by their own dog in a West Toledo apartment, and not on Metroparks property. We don’t like to see anyone suffer injuries like these, but this had nothing to do with the Metroparks.”

On July 5, Rangers were notified by Toledo Police that two people were being treated at Mercy St. Anne Hospital for dog bites they received that morning at the park. A ranger went to the hospital to check on the victims’ condition and gather information to ensure the safety of other park visitors. Rangers closed the east entrance to the park for the rest of the day and searched for the dogs with the assistance of Sylvania Township police officers and the Lucas County Dog Warden.

Nicole Farrell, 36, told the ranger that she and Steve Thompson, 35, were walking their own dog at Wildwood that morning when they were confronted by three stray dogs, one of which attacked them. However, in a subsequent interview last week, Ms. Farrell gave a written statement that the incident did not occur at Wildwood.

Park rangers have charged Ms. Farrell with falsification, a first degree misdemeanor, and turned over information they have gathered to the Sylvania prosecutor.

“Safety of park visitors is always our first concern, and our law enforcement officers took this matter very seriously,” said Steve Madewell, executive director of the park district. “Evidence convinced them the incident did not happen as it was reported, and that there was never a threat to the safety of our park visitors. Our actions reflect the Metroparks commitment to providing clean, safe, natural parks.”

The Lucas County Dog Warden sent three patrols to the Sylvania Township park but were unable to locate the dogs, Dog Warden Julie Lyle said. Two dog traps were set in the hopes of catching the dogs and were checked by park personnel.

The east entrance to Wildwood Preserve and trails leading to that side of the park was closed after the incident.

Metroparks brought in rangers from other parks and the Sylvania Township Police to sweep Wildwood’s east side. While rangers believed the dogs were no longer in the park, they continued to search for several hours.

Contact Tanya Irwin at tirwin@theblade.com or 419-724-6066 or on Twitter @TanyaIrwin.


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