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Search is on for homeless man whose dog bit Asheville tourist

Tom Deremer came to Asheville for a good time and a vacation getaway. He ended up with a trip to the emergency room at Mission Hospital on Tuesday, after a pit bull belonging to a homeless man bit him on the hand. (Photo credit: WLOS staff)

Tom Deremer came to Asheville for a good time and a vacation getaway. He ended up with a trip to the emergency room at Mission Hospital on Tuesday, after a pit bull belonging to a homeless man bit him on the hand.

"The dog just lunged at me," Deremer said. "I've got two good puncture wounds and teeth scratches on my hand."

Deremer may have to get a series of rabies vaccinations since he has no way to confirm if the dog, he describes as brown, wearing a harness back-pack, has had a rabies shot. Deremer said the owner apologized but was also confrontational right after his dog bit him.

Deremer, who has filed a police report, was walking along the sidewalk on the southeast corner of Pack Square about 2:30 p.m. Monday. He said the homeless man was tall and Caucasian, with lots of hair. He said the man was standing with his dog outside Posana restaurant and about 15 feet from the patio of Rhubarb, a restaurant next door.

"I was so surprised. Why, didn't I snap a picture? Well, my hand's bleeding like crazy. I didn't think of getting my camera out. From what I gathered, from other people talking, he's a homeless person here in Asheville. I didn't even see the dog coming. I heard it, and by that time, he had my hand."

Asheville Police Department spokeswoman Christina Hallingse said the department welcomes information on the owner, which, in turn, could help Deremer.

"Whenever someone is bitten by a dog and we can't locate the owner of the dog, we usually send out some sort of public notification," Hallingse said.

APD sent out a public notice Tuesday.

"It's certainly really unfortunate that it happened," said John Fleer, who owns Rhubarb.

His restaurant was closed when Deremer was bitten. Fleer said a large majority of the homeless who hang out in front of his restaurant are travelers, or people who go from city to city and have dogs and cats as pets.

"We've seen some dog fights, where a traveler will have a dog and will snarl and jump and lunge at another dog," Fleer said.

Fleer said he's never seen a dog attack a pedestrian, but he said he's spoken with APD officers and Asheville's former city manager Gary Jackson to see if anything can be done about the recurring issues of travelers congregating and hanging out on the sidewalk during spring, summer and fall months.

"They (the city) have addressed generic congregation in hot spot areas for busking with a pilot program. But the area in front of Rhubarb is actually the 'control' site for that trial. Meaning, that in the other areas, in the Wall Street/Grove Arcade area, restrictions are in place. Rhubarb does not. There are legitimate public safety issues that I think have been addressed by that effort. I don't think travelers are really part of that."

Deremer is just trying to find someone who can help him get information on the dog that bit him. He said he and his wife tried to look around downtown Asheville for the man on Wednesday but didn't see him.

Deremer said he simply wants to get information on the man's dog.

"I'm not going to charge him. I would like not to have to take the rabies series if I don't have to."

The dog's owner is described as a tall, white male with long red hair. Anyone with information about the man and his dog is asked to contact the Asheville Police Department at 828-252-1110.

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