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The State

Dog-Mauling Survivor Says, 'I'm Sure They Were Going to Kill Me'

Violence: Eleven of 13 animals in the pack have been captured. The victim was saved by a passing motorist.

January 08, 2002|GARRETT THEROLF | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Using baited traps and nooses, animal control workers have captured most of the feral dogs that mauled a jogger on a swath of desert in Thousand Palms last week.

As of Monday, Riverside County officials say, 11 of the reported 13 dogs in the pack were caught and are likely to be euthanized.

Steve Jenkins, 48, of Pasadena remains in a Palm Springs hospital after two surgeries.

"They left me looking like a bloody piece of red meat," Jenkins, a professional drummer, said Monday from his bed at Desert Regional Medical Center.

"I'm sure they were going to kill me."

He was saved by a motorist in an all-terrain vehicle who scared the dogs away by honking his horn and shouting. The unidentified man then called paramedics.

Ralph Rivers, spokesman for the Riverside County Department of Animal Services, said Monday that he is confident the entire pack will be hunted down this week. "Traps are baited for the remaining two," he said.

The captured dogs--mutts and some mix-breed German shepherds--are being quarantined for seven days to test for rabies. Rivers said they will likely be euthanized soon after.

Rivers said that attacks by packs are extremely rare and that this was the first to take place in Riverside County in recent memory.

"I think it was just a combination of having a few aggressive alpha dogs in the pack," Rivers said. "The rest are extremely submissive, and submissive dogs can bite just as quickly because they bite out of fear."

Jenkins was in the desert area for a New Year's Eve gig in Rancho Mirage with his band, Ronny and the Classics, a Vegas-style oldies troupe.

He suffered the pack attack on New Year's Day afternoon while jogging solo along a road through salvage yards and sand mines, in an area that residents say is a dumping ground for unwanted animals.

Several miles from his hotel, Jenkins passed a sand mine where dogs barked at him behind a fence.

"I didn't get too worried about it because I thought they were contained by the fence," Jenkins recalled. "At first they looked like normal dogs. It wasn't until later that I realized they were vicious."

One by one, the dogs squirreled under the fence to follow Jenkins. "I wanted to stay cool and not run," he said. But the larger ones began to nip at his heels and Jenkins was finally knocked to the ground.

For 10 to 15 minutes the dogs surrounded Jenkins, ripping flesh until the motorist came to his aid.

"Fortunately, the dogs didn't hit any arteries," Jenkins said. "Doctors said that if they had, I might be dead."

In the week since, Jenkins has undergone two sessions of surgery for the wounds to his limbs and his abdomen.

He said he is still afraid to look while doctors change his bandages.

He is expected to be released this week.

"I have to recover. As a drummer, my body is my livelihood," said Jenkins, who hopes he can locate and thank the good Samaritan who rescued him. Authorities say they don't know the man's identity.

Residents say dogs are frequently abandoned in the area and sometimes are joined by runaways.

Sam Jones, who owns the sand mine, said he has seen dogs thrown out of windows of passing cars. He recalled discovering three of the pack as puppies, starving in a cardboard box on the side of the road.

Although he used to put out food and water for the emaciated animals, he welcomes the crackdown.

"If I had known what would happen, I wouldn't have fed the dogs. I would have called animal control," Jones said.

Officials said they do not plan to hold Jones accountable for the attack even though the pack lived mostly on his property.

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