By Brian Sherman, The Island Eye News Managing Editor
An Isle of Palms resident is determined to do whatever is necessary to prevent another person, especially a child, from the fate she suffered on the beach April 27.
Rebecca Kovalich, who runs along the shore just about every day, was viciously attacked by two large dogs and suffered serious but not life-threatening injuries. She said she attacked in a similar manner more than 10 years ago and has been trying – without success – to convince members of the City Council to enact stricter leash laws. She said her only support on the Council so far has come from Randy Bell, though she did receive an email response from Ryan Buckhannon and has spoken with Mayor Jimmy Carroll and his predecessor, Dick Cronin.
“If we don’t have an emergency Council meeting, I will do what I can to prevent anyone else from getting hurt, legally or otherwise,” Kovalich said May 1. “When a child is permanently injured or killed – not if, when – I hope they have it on their conscious for the rest of their lives.”
“It’s not about me. It’s about the future for other people,” she added. “These dogs were attack dogs. They were killers. Maybe they were trained like that or maybe it’s just their nature. But even big dogs that are nice can injure children.”
Kovalich said she was running north on the beach near Sixth Avenue at around 12:30 p.m. when she saw a Doberman and German shepherd running toward her. A man with the dogs was holding a leash, but the animals obviously were not under his control. She said the shepherd jumped on her first, sinking its teeth into her left arm and causing severe bleeding. The Doberman joined the fray by climbing onto her back. At 5 feet tall and 100 pounds, she said both dogs outweighed her. The man arrived and started beating the animals in an effort to get them off of her.
“The rest is a blur,” Kovalich said. “He was screaming. I was screaming. He kept saying he was sorry, that the dogs belonged to his son. For the first time in my life, I realized I wasn’t going to make it. I was going to die.”
She did survive, struggling off the beach to Ocean Boulevard and stumbling back to her home on Breach Inlet. Her daughter arrived and helped clean her up and take her to a doctor, where she said she needed around 40 stitches to stop the bleeding.
Neither the man nor the dogs have been found.
“It was horrible. We don’t know who the person is who had the dogs. He didn’t offer assistance. He just left that lady there,” Carroll commented.
According to the Isle of Palms website, dogs are allowed to be off-leash from 5 a.m. until 9 a.m. from April 1 through Sept. 14 and from 4 p.m. until 10 a.m. from Sept. 15th through March 31. At all other times, dogs must be on a leash and under complete control, even if they are in the water.
Kovolich said she regularly sees people flaunt the rules, leashing their dogs only when beach officers are nearby.
“I see loose dogs all the time,” she said. “If they see police or animal control, they grab the leash, and as soon as the police car goes away, they drop the leash.”
On nearby Sullivan’s Island, from May 1 until Sept. 30, dogs can be off-leash from 5 a.m. to 10 a.m. and on-leash from 6 p.m. until 5 a.m. They are not permitted on the beach at all from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. From Oct. 1 to April 30, dogs can be off-leash from 5 a.m. to noon and must be leashed the rest of the time.