The Story of Scarlette
Kingsport, TN - In November of 2007, James and Lisa Gilreath received a phone call that their horse Scarlette was under attack by two pit bulls. The Gilreaths kept Scarlette and another horse on a small farm in Hawkins County. The call came from James’ father, J.D. Gilreath, who lives near the farm. The pit bulls belonged to a neighbor.
The Gilreaths’ other horse was in its stall with the door shut, but Scarlette’s stall door was open, allowing her access to a small lot. "My father-in-law went there with his gun, and by the time he got there Scarlette was already down," Lisa said. When he approached to get the dogs off, one of the dogs turned on him, so he got back in his truck and went to a neighbor's across the street and called the sheriff’s office.
Deputy Richard Chandler arrived on the scene and made contact with the owners of the dogs who reside on the property adjacent to the Gilreaths’ farm. The owners reportedly gave Chandler permission to shoot both pit bulls. There had been concern about the pit bulls before. Lisa said the dogs had gotten out in the past and she’d spoken to the dog owners about preventing their dogs from getting loose.
"It’s a horrible way for an animal to die," Lisa said. "[Scarlett] had no place to run, and even if she went into her stall the door was open so they could come in after her. She fought valiantly but it [the place where Scarlette fell] looks awful -- like a crime scene." The Gilreaths named her Scarlette because she had a scar on her nose. Lisa described her as a sweet, gentle horse and a good riding partner.
Scarlette was valued at $3,500. Chandler stated in his report that the horse suffered severe lacerations to its face and belly as a result of the attack. The dog owners, John C. Smith and Ray Ward, were cited into Hawkins County Sessions Court for allowing dogs to run at large. Gilreath said that she was not out to lay blame. She just wanted to raise awareness of the dangers of dogs like this. She added:
"Thanksgiving Day we went to feed the horses and my children were leaning over the fence petting these dogs, and they didn’t have the appearance of being the vicious killers they are bred to be. Those dogs did exactly what they’re bred to do, and that’s the scary thing about pit bulls. It tragic and we’re upset at the loss of our horse, but at the same time we’re thankful that it wasn’t a human because it could just as easily could have been one of us or one of the children."
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