Dangerous Dogs of North Minneapolis

It's a rough life for man's best friend

BRYAN BLOOMQUIST'S MAIL satchel was nearly empty when he noticed the front door ajar. It was the second-to-last house on the second-to-last block of his mail route—the one with the pit bulls.

Quietly, he backed down the path to the sidewalk. Then he saw the screen door fly open. In slow motion, two pit bulls hurtled soundlessly toward him. Bloomquist froze.

He felt searing pain as the dogs ripped into his flesh. He stretched out his forearms to find 90 pounds of dog hanging off each limb. If he could just cross the street and reach the neighbor's yard, he could climb the fence to safety.

“It’s like muscles with teeth,” Casey Toner says of this dog who lives behind her house
Nick Vlcek
“It’s like muscles with teeth,” Casey Toner says of this dog who lives behind her house
Bryan Bloomquist weighs 300 pounds and served in Iraq—but was no match for two pit bulls
Nick Vlcek
Bryan Bloomquist weighs 300 pounds and served in Iraq—but was no match for two pit bulls


One of the pits let him go, and the other clamped onto his right wrist. With his free arm, Bloomquist gripped the dangling canine by the throat and swung him like a club at the other snarling dog.

Momentarily free, Bloomquist scrambled halfway up the fence to freedom. But one of the dogs lunged and sank his teeth into Bloomquist's calf, then dragged the helpless mailman back to the street.

Bloomquist shielded his face. He was breathing hard as the dogs chewed into his hands. He resigned himself to his fate.

Then, miraculously, the dogs let up. Someone was beating at the dogs with a baseball bat. A car horn honked.

The neighbors had come to his rescue.

Surrounded, the dogs padded back to their yard, where they sat on the front stoop, mouths agape.

Bloomquist lay in the street, trying not to pass out. He heard the police sirens, then the dogs bark, then the gunshots that killed the pits.

When Bloomquist awoke at North Memorial Hospital, he'd been through surgery. It had taken more than 80 stitches to close the 41 wounds caused by the dog attack. He felt lucky to be alive.

Ten days after the attack, Bloomquist sits in a Minneapolis coffee shop, picking absent-mindedly at a dark scab on the palm of his left hand. Below a deep gash on his right calf where the dogs tore in, his leg is numb, perhaps permanently.

"It just feels so weird," he says.

Bloomquist says he'll never go back to his mail route.

"Every time I hear a dog barking, I'm just going to jump out of my skin."

During his recovery, he occupies himself playing video games. He's also spent time with his dog Zoe, a Springer-Labrador mix.

"The only thing you got to worry about with her is that she'll lick you to death," Bloomquist says. "She'd never hurt anyone."

He pauses.

"I'm sure the people who own those pit bulls would say the same thing."

DOGS IN NORTH Minneapolis are morelikely to be killed by police than canines from any other part of the city. In the past five years, Minneapolis cops have killed at least 113 dogs; 81 of them—72 percent—were killed in North.

In fact, dogs from north Minneapolis face a greater risk of being shot than people. If they live in the North neighborhoods, dogs are more likely to be killed by police than their owners are to be murdered.

Minneapolis cops are trained to kill dogs in two circumstances: if a dog is severely hurt and Animal Control isn't there to help, or if the dog is a threat to the officer or others.

According to Sgt. William Palmer of the Minneapolis Police, 99.9 percent of the time it's the latter. "When I was on SWAT one year, we killed 12 in one month."

The most notorious case of Minneapolis cops shooting a dog came in 2002, during a raid of a house at 26th Avenue North and Knox Avenue North. A pit bull was turned loose on the cops, so they shot and killed it. Unfortunately, the bullet ricocheted and also hit 11-year-old Julius Powell in the arm, inciting riots in the neighborhood.

One evening in August 2007, cops searched a house on the 3500 block of Irving Avenue North looking for a man who'd assaulted a Hennepin County Sheriff's deputy. A pit attacked them, so they shot and killed it. They found another pit was in the basement, among piles of feces and urine.

By far the most dangerous dog to be in north Minneapolis is a pit bull. Police logs are loaded with pits. In June 2008, for example, police raided a house on 25th Avenue North, found a loaded gun and some crack cocaine, and shot and killed a pit that charged them. Just this May, police shot a pit at 34th Avenue North and Russell Avenue North, the scene of a double murder. Police said they had to kill the dog because it would not let them near the bodies.

Pit bulls weren't always considered dangerous dogs—that honor has shifted from breed to breed throughout history. In the 1880s, bloodhounds tormented the populace. In the early 20th century, Newfoundlands were the canine terrors. By the 1960s and 1970s German Shepherds and Doberman Pinschers led the pack, until Rottweilers took over in the '90s. And today it's pit bulls.

Pit bulls aren't an individual breed, but rather a broader category for at least three kinds of dogs—the modern American pit bull terrier, the American Staffordshire terrier, and the Staffordshire bull terrier—collectively referred to as the "bully breeds." Pits are the modern-day result of crossing bulldogs—used in the sport of bull baiting and to corral livestock—with terriers, who were known for their courage and speed. By the early 20th century, pits were the breed of choice in dog fighting.

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