EL CAJON, Calif. — A local mayor is calling for change to a policy that landed a dog back in his neighborhood following a gruesome attack on a senior-aged woman last month.
El Cajon Mayor Bill Wells said he and his wife were doing yard work early Sept. 27 when they heard yelling. His wife started off down the road toward Granite Hills High School, where they thought some kids may have been fighting.
“She quickly yelled back to me, ‘It’s a person and she’s being attacked by a dog,'” Wells told FOX 5. “A 70-year-old woman had been dragged to the ground by a pit bull and it was ripping her arm and it was shaking its head, doing that thing that dogs do.”
It appeared the woman was trying to stop the pit bull from attacking a chihuahua, which she had scooped up and was holding in her arms, according to Wells. He, his wife and next-door neighbor quickly did what they could to stop the dog’s advances.
“She was screaming. It was just horrible, one of the worst things I’ve ever seen,” Wells said. “We punched and kicked the dog and got it to release the woman. Then I saw she was really hurt. The bite had gone down to the bone, the bone was broken. The artery was severed.”
Wells, who worked in psychiatry in emergency rooms for 15 years, took off his shirt, applied pressure and clamped off the artery until first responders got there. He said his wife was understandably shaken and concerned about the pit bull hurting someone else. He figured it would be euthanized.
“After about two weeks, the Humane Society returned the dog to the people and it’s back in our neighborhood, which is kind of frightening considering how many kids walk by that house every day,” Wells said.
The six-year-old American pit bull terrier was quarantined for 10 days, according to Nina Thompson with the San Diego Humane Society.
“As a result of the investigation, our Humane Officers initiated a Dangerous Animal Declaration,” Thompson said. “The owner requested a hearing on this matter. The dog was brought to San Diego Humane Society to serve out his quarantine in advance of the hearing.”
The hearing was held on Oct. 6.
“This declaration imposed a number of conditions on the owner,” Thompson said. “An inspection was conducted of the owner’s property to confirm that these conditions were met and at that time the dog was allowed to be reclaimed by the owner.”
Thompson added that their officers have notified the neighbors of abutting properties of the existence of a declared Dangerous Animal and how to contact them to report any violations.
“Any violations of the conditions imposed are misdemeanor offenses which will be pursued by San Diego Humane Society’s Humane Law Enforcement,” the Humane Society spokesperson said. “The declaration also allows San Diego Humane Society’s Humane Law Enforcement Department to seize the dog for any violations. Officers will make periodic inspections of the property to ensure continued compliance.”
Thompson said the San Diego Humane Society follows the City of El Cajon’s Municipal Code: Title 6 Animals.
“Our Director of Government Relations is in continuous contact with all of our contract cities and San Diego Humane Society is always open to discussing how we deliver services to those cities,” she added.
Wells said he was sharing details of the gruesome attack and rescue with FOX 5 Friday morning in hopes of bringing attention to the process that led to the dog’s placement back in his neighborhood.
“I was dumbfounded. Frankly, I think it’s a terrible policy and should be changed,” he said. “I love dogs, I have a dog that’s my best friend and I could not imagine putting him down. At the same time if he were to hurt somebody, I would say, ‘Hey buddy, you have to go. There’s something wrong with your brain.'”
Wells encouraged residents to contact the San Diego Humane Society about the policy, which he referred to as a “one free bite” rule. Thompson from the Humane Society refuted that characterization.
“San Diego Humane Society does not have a ‘one free bite’ policy,” she wrote in an email to FOX 5. “Each case is investigated individually and city or county codes for each particular jurisdiction are applied.”
As for the woman, Wells believes she’ll survive but may have lasting issues resulting from the attack.
“She was pretty hurt, she probably had to have some reconstructive surgery done on her arm and I imagine she will lose some function on that arm,” he said.
FOX 5’s Domenick Candelieri contributed to this report.