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VIDEO: Community speaks out at New Hope Borough Council meeting on deadly Riverwoods dog attack

All eyes and ears were on Keith and Denice Horlacher at the New Hope Borough Council meeting Tuesday night, as the Riverwoods couple recounted the horror of seeing their pet Maltese killed by a large off-leash dog on Aug. 2.

As first reported in the Free Press, at 5:57 p.m. on that day, police responded to the area of Riverwoods Drive and the Deer Path for a report of two pit bulls attacking another dog.

“The investigation of the incident concluded that the pit bulls had attacked and killed the Maltese, which was being walked by its owners on a sidewalk in the Riverwoods development,” said police.

One could hear a pin drop at the New Hope Community Room Tuesday night as Denice Horlacher made an impassioned plea to borough council and a packed house for more stringent enforcement efforts against irresponsible dog owners. Members of the audience offered their condolences, and aired their views at the mic, with some critical of so-called “dangerous breeds,” and others, notably several dog trainers, asserting that the problem often lies with the dog owner, not any specific breed.

On Aug. 4, police cited the owner of the pit bulls, Jane Tracy, 66, of New Hope, for five violations of the Pennsylvania Dog Law, including harboring a dangerous dog and failing to confine her dogs. One of the pit bulls was later euthanized, and police are awaiting official notification on the second dog’s fate.

Borough Council will next take up the issue at its September meeting.

About the author

Charlie Sahner

“Once you can accept the universe as matter expanding into nothing that is something, wearing stripes with plaid comes easy." - Einstein


  • The problem here is that the owner is a compulsive “rescuer” of deadly dogs, irresponsible, and, if you’ve ever met her….a bit of a loon. She’s also the luckiest woman in New Hope in that it took the death of a little dog, and not a little kid, to put a hopeful end to her lunacy.

  • The dogs in this story were rescued and being rehabilitated. Their owner has had multiple rescues.The problem here is that the dogs were not contained. This incident was not the first time they escaped the yard.

  • Jack White –

    Again, all anecdotal evidence. Just because you’ve been around some well-behaved pit bulls doesn’t prove anything. The data is the data. There’s a reason CDC employs epidemiologists and statisticians instead of storytellers.


    “Pit bulls make up only 6% of the dog population, but they’re responsible for 68% of dog attacks and 52% of dog-related deaths since 1982, according to research compiled by Merritt Clifton, editor of Animals 24-7, an animal-news organization that focuses on humane work and animal-cruelty prevention.

    Clifton himself has been twice attacked by dogs (one pit bull), and part of his work involves logging fatal and disfiguring attacks. Clifton says that for the 32 years he’s been recording, there has never been a year when pit bulls have accounted for less than half of all attacks.”

    The idea of “breeding” itself ensures that these dogs are more prone to violence. Pit bulls as a breed were selectively bred to ensure strength and aggression –

    “Pit bulls were created by breeding bulldogs and terriers together to produce a dog that combined the gameness and agility of the terrier with the strength of the bulldog. In the United Kingdom, these dogs were used in blood sports such as bull-baiting, bear-baiting and cock fighting. These blood sports were officially eliminated in 1835 as Britain began to introduce animal welfare laws. Since dogfights were cheaper to organize and far easier to conceal from the law than bull or bear baits, blood sport proponents turned to pitting their dogs against each other instead. Dog fighting was used as both a blood sport (often involving gambling) and a way to continue to test the quality of their stock. For decades afterwards, dog fighting clandestinely took place in small areas of Britain and America. In the early 20th century pit bulls were used as catch dogs in America for semi-wild cattle and hogs, to hunt, and drive livestock, and as family companions. Some have been selectively bred for their fighting prowess.”

    The entire point of this breeds existence is to be aggressive and deadly – in as much as it seems incredible that it’s in some breeds DNA to herd sheep, in some breeds DNA to chase rabbits down holes, and in some breeds DNA to do nothing but lay around in their owner’s laps – these aren’t accidents. They are breeds, not separate species, and these traits were carefully chosen and encouraged in their very creation.

    So I’m glad you and your daughter know a family with some well behaved dogs. But to act like it’s not a breed-specific problem is just wrong according to every bit of quantifiable data – be it the numbers or the very history of the creation of the breed, and to act like that’s not true is just to either ignore the history and data or to not have read much of it and be ignorant of it.

    They exist for only one reason – they were bred for the entertainment value of watching them fight and kill either each other or other species.

  • I just spent the day at a friends house with my daughter and they have 7 dogs (5 which are pits) and 9 cats. And these dogs layers in Us licked us played with us like we were family and it’s only the 2nd time ever around them. And they were all fosters from bad homes but because the owner now (my friend and her husband and their daughter) treat them with liove these dogs are super well behaved and beyond friendly. So again before u throw out statistics about certain breeds take a deeper look into the attacks and find out about the owners. I bet u will find a very large amount of them were treated poorly.

  • What a terrible situation. I hope these owners can find some peace, and I hope the laws are both strengthened and stringently enforced to ensure this never happens again. People that assert there’s no problem with any specific breed are ignoring every bit of evidence to the contrary. There’s always someone offering nothing but anecdotes about pitbulls to say “every one I’ve ever been around has been a sweetheart”. Anecdotal evidence aside, stop ignoring the facts. As horrible as this was, next time it could be a child.

    2014 data: 42 total dog bite human fatalities in the U.S. – pitbulls responsible for 27 of them (64%). Even though only 6% of dogs in the U.S. are pitbulls, they accounted for almost 2 out of 3 human fatalities last year.

    In the words of the Center for Disease Control “…there appears to be a breed-specific problem with fatalities”.

    There are comments about this situation on Facebook that act like “oh well, sh*t happens”…I assume those comments are from children or teens, because I find it hard to believe an adult would be immature enough to callously laugh off a local family’s loss, and dumb enough to ignore quantifiable data in favor of shallow anecdotal evidence.

    • As someone who was terrified of pitbulls I’ve learned a lot about them. You out statistics up there but you say nothing about the owner and how the dog was treated or raised. It is a lot of times the owner and not the dog. you can ask any dog trainer. there are dogs of all breeds that are bad. so before you throw out numbers make sure you check about how they were treated at home.

  • we need a leash law in NH and we need to enforce it. yesterday on the tow path, i’m riding my bike and two little unleashed dogs go after my ankles and the owner did nothing. last week, a dog ran across main street out of control – at least there was no traffic. it’s become a nuisance not having a leash law in town. most people don’t take the time to train their dogs to heel, sit, down and come – so that makes there dogs out of control and dangerous to bikers, runners and it puts the dog in danger too. why is it a problem to require leashes???? why are we as a community sitting on our hands waiting for another tragedy??? why do we not have a city laws with teeth? $15 fine for dog attack is an insult to the residents of NH.

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