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2 Vicious Dogs Shot After Killing a 3rd

In Laguna Niguel, the loose animals terrify neighbors, then mutilate a terrier, whose owner wounds them with a pistol in self-defense.

February 27, 2003|Dan Weikel and Mai Tran | Times Staff Writers

A Laguna Niguel man shot two aggressive dogs that had fatally mauled his family terrier and then attacked him as he tried to track down their owner early Wednesday, sheriff's deputies said.

Joseph Perrigoue wounded the dogs -- a pit-bull mix and a Labrador mix -- with a .45-caliber pistol about 6:30 a.m., ending a rampage by the two dogs that had menaced residents in the gated apartment complex on Tessier Street for more than three hours.

Deputies said Perrigoue grabbed his handgun when he heard the screams of his wife, Vanessa, who had just stepped outside their home to walk their dog, Ethan, a rare six-toed Norwegian lundehund.

The couple had owned the 4-year-old dog -- a small, playful animal with white and reddish fur -- since he was a puppy. At 15 pounds, he was no match for the much heavier and more powerful animals. Despite efforts by Vanessa Perrigoue and a neighbor to shield Ethan and fight back, the lundehund was "torn to pieces" and disemboweled, authorities said.

"I've never seen anything like it," said Chris Jones, 25, a neighbor who tried to keep the animals away from the lundehund. "Her dog was really mangled and mutilated."

As Ethan lay in a pool of blood, Perrigoue tracked down the attacking dogs by following their bloody paw prints to their owner's apartment. When he knocked on the door, the two dogs jumped through an open bedroom window and attacked him, deputies said. Perrigoue tried to kick at them, then fired three times, hitting one in the chest and the other in the back.

Animal control officers had been called to the upscale complex, Hidden Hills Apartments, earlier in the morning after several residents complained that the dogs were running free, barking and behaving aggressively. But the officers were searching a different area of the complex when the attack occurred.

No criminal charges will be filed against Perrigoue, deputies said, because it appeared he was acting in self-defense.

"The dogs attacked him, and he has a right to protect himself," said Jim Amormino, a spokesman for the Orange County Sheriff's Department. "He made every attempt to ward off the dogs. He was in fear of his life."

A relative said Perrigoue and his wife were too upset to talk. Neither was injured.

Authorities said the owner of the mixed breeds could face criminal charges depending on the outcome of the investigation.

Neighbors said the owner, a young woman, had moved in about two months ago and kept to herself. She has been out of town for several days and authorities have been unable to reach her, said Rick Howard, the deputy city manager for Mission Viejo, which handles animal control for Laguna Niguel.

The pit-bull mix suffered life-threatening injuries, but the second dog was in good condition and was expected to recover, Howard said. Neither dog was licensed.

The incident began about 3 a.m., when residents first heard the animals running around the complex.

Deputies said the dogs were able to come and go from their home by pushing out a screen that covered an open window. Several neighbors said the dogs threatened them that morning.

Erin Salisbury, 33, said she was preparing to take her 7-year-old daughter, Madison, to school about 6:20 a.m. when one of the dogs ran onto their porch, sniffed at Madison and pinned her against the front door.

Salisbury pulled her daughter inside. When she and Madison finally went to their car, she said, the second animal ran by and she heard screaming from outside the Perrigoues' apartment.

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