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Animal control officer seriously wounded in pit bull attack

The man had come to a Lakewood home to collect three of five dogs. Now, they will all be euthanized.

May 08, 2008|Rong-Gong Lin II | Times Staff Writer

A 60-pound pit bull named Rocky mauled an animal control officer in Lakewood, leaving the officer with serious but non-life-threatening injuries, authorities said Wednesday.

The 28-year-old officer, who was not identified, suffered flesh wounds to his arms and legs and a broken knuckle after the dog lunged at him during a routine house call, said Capt. Aaron Reyes, who heads operations for the Southeast Area Animal Control Authority in southeast Los Angeles County.

Rocky was one of five pit bulls owned by a woman living in the 6100 block of Briercrest Avenue.

Neighbors had complained that the pit bulls had escaped in the past, Reyes said.

The woman agreed to part with three of her dogs to comply with a city ordinance limiting the number of dogs allowed in a household, Reyes said.

She allowed the officer into her backyard to assess how he planned to secure the three pit bulls and went back into her house.

The pit bull, which was not one of the dogs the officer came to collect, walked up to the officer.

"Rocky appeared to be very friendly and was walking to the side of him and was really relaxed," Reyes said.

But the four other pit bulls appeared to become agitated, "and then just out of nowhere, he just snapped and lunged."

The officer tripped on a tree branch and fell backward during the attack.

He attempted to fend Rocky off with a catch pole, but the pit bull was able to grab the catch pole away from him.

Then, the officer "took out his tactical baton and was actually able to use that and strike the dog twice," Reyes said. "It didn't appear to faze Rocky at all."

At that point, the officer screamed for help, and the owner came outside. She pulled Rocky off the officer and called 911.

A team of animal control officers, sheriff's deputies and paramedics responded.

The officers shot a drug-filled dart at the dog, and he fell asleep within minutes.

Serious attacks on animal control officers are rare, Reyes said.

What made this case particularly unusual was Rocky's instantaneous change "from a seemingly nice dog to a vicious pit bull acting like a predator."

"I think had the officer stayed on his feet, it may have turned out very differently," Reyes said.

"Unfortunately, he tripped on a tree branch and ended up on his back, and at that point, it's very hard to defend yourself."

Reyes said he hopes the officer makes a full and speedy recovery.

The pit bulls' owner was not arrested, but Reyes said his agency was working to present a case to the district attorney's office for possible charges.

The owner had too many animals on the property, owned dogs without licenses or records of rabies vaccinations, and owned a vicious animal with a propensity to attack, all of which are code violations, Reyes said.

After the attack, the owner decided to allow animal control officers to take all of her dogs. They will be euthanized.

Rocky, who is about 3 years old, will undergo rabies testing today.

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ron.lin@latimes.com

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