Former Aspen mayor in trouble over alleged West End dog attack |

Former Aspen mayor in trouble over alleged West End dog attack

Charles Agar
The Aspen Times
Aspen CO, Colorado

ASPEN ” City officials have issued Bill Stirling, former Aspen mayor and animal rights activist, a summons to appear in municipal court over allegations that his two dogs attacked a woman in Aspen’s West End.

Stirling faces two misdemeanor counts of allowing dogs to run at large and two counts of keeping vicious animals, said Jim True, assistant attorney for the city of Aspen.

Stirling is scheduled to appear in municipal court on April 16, more than one month after the March 12 attack on Sandy Iglehart, who was walking her dachshund puppy, Ziggy, on North Street between Third and Fourth streets. That’s when Stirling’s two dogs approached her “with a purpose,” she recalled.

“It was a totally unprovoked attack,” Iglehart said. “They spotted me and they came bounding up to me.”

She said she scooped up her small dog and one of the attacking dogs jumped on her back and knocked her down.

“I got up and that’s when they really started clawing at me,” Iglehart said. And that’s when one dog ripped a chunk out of her calf, she said.

She added: “They were going to go through me to get to Ziggy. I was screaming at the top of my lungs to come and help me.”

Stirling, who was Aspen’s mayor from 1983-91, said Wednesday that the episode was his fault.

“The dogs got loose and it happened under my watch so I’m 100 percent responsible,” he said. “It’s not anything anyone should have to experience in a lifetime.”

The dogs ” one a 43-pound mix of blue healer, border collie and Australian cattle dog mix, the other a 53-pound terrier mix ” are rescue dogs from Glenwood Springs and are usually well-behaved and stay in his fenced-in yard, Stirling said.

But recent snows have built up around his fence and the dogs were able to escape, Stirling said.

“It was the one day they got out,” Stirling said. “They’re great dogs, but the minute two dogs are loose outside, they become a pack.”

Although Stirling said it’s the “nature of the beast” and his dogs were simply trying to get at Iglehart’s dachshund, he said it was no excuse.

“It had to be utter terror for her,” Stirling said.

Stirling wrote the victim a $500 check as a first contribution to medical expenses and said he’d be happy to pay future costs related to her injuries. Iglehart said she said expects her medical bills to total $1,300. Iglehart said she does not plan to sue Stirling; she simply wants her medical costs covered.

“I’m fine, I just want to raise awareness for public safety,” Iglehart said.

While Stirling wasn’t on hand when the attack occurred, Iglehart wasn’t completely alone; she was having a phone conversation with her friend Darlynn Fellman.

“It was horrific,” Fellman said later.

Iglehart told her friend not to hang up, but was unable to tell Fellman where she was and the conversation cut in and out, Fellman said.

“I thought they were eating her alive, and basically they were,” Fellman said. “She just kept screaming and said, ‘Oh God, somebody help me!'”

Iglehart ran across the street and put her dog on top of a car, then the attacking dogs tore her pants to her ankles, and nipped and bit at her arms, which she held aloft as she screamed.

The attack lasted almost 10 minutes, Fellman said, before Iglehart reported to her friend that someone had arrived and that she was going to be OK.

“If someone didn’t come out I wouldn’t be here talking about it,” Iglehart said.

The neighbor who arrived, North Street resident David Goodwin, was alerted to the scene by his own barking dogs and was able to shoo Stirling’s dogs away, said Courtenay Cave, who is Iglehart’s daughter.

Cave arrived shortly after the incident and took her mother to the family’s West Hallam Street home and then to the Aspen Valley Hospital for treatment of scratches, bruises and stitches in a deep gouge in the leg.

“It’s going to be a very severe scar,” Cave said of one of the bite wounds.

Meanwhile, True said any penalties in the case would be determined by Aspen Municipal Judge Brooke Peterson.

“We’ve had a couple of cases of dog bites,” True said of his one year as the city prosecutor. “But none as serious as this.”

In other dog-bite cases, Judge Peterson has ordered restitution, True said.

Stirling’s dogs were quarantined in the house for some 10 days after the incident, but Cave said it’s not the first time the dogs have been loose in the neighborhood.

And while Stirling has been “very helpful” in the wake of the incident and has offered to pay Iglehart’s medical bill, Cave said: “These dogs have issues … These dogs need to be moved.”

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