By Sharna Johnson: CNJ staff writer
Grace Gault, 78, has walked the same route almost daily since her doctor advised her three years ago walking would aid in her recovery from cancer, she said.
Monday, she had gone to the grocery store to get syrup to make peanut brittle for Christmas.
She had just walked through a vacant lot in the 1100 block of Connelly Street when four dogs came up from behind and one bit her calf, she said.
“One was holding that leg in his mouth biting and hanging on and the other one came up — I was screaming for help and nobody heard me. … If they’d have gotten me down, they would have killed me,” she said.
“It was like they sneaked up behind me. I don’t know how I stood on my feet,” Gault said.
A man in a nearby yard did hear her screams, and began walking toward her with a stick when the dogs ran away, she said.
Gault suffered severe puncture and tear wounds to her legs, according to an Animal Control bite report. Gault said she spent the night in the hospital following surgery to repair flesh and tissue torn in the attack.
A black-and-white pit bull was captured and impounded, the Animal Control report said. However, a brown mastiff Gault described to officers evaded capture.
The mastiff was the only dog she could describe although Gault said there were four dogs around at the time of the attack.
Animal Control officer Dennis Weist said he is committed to finding the mastiff and patrols the area every chance he gets, but has been unsuccessful in capturing the dog. There is no information to indicate if it is an owned animal, he said.
The pit bull Weist captured has been placed in a 10-day quarantine to evaluate its health, according to Louisa Maestas, Animal Control supervisor.
Maestas said unprovoked dog bites are common and often children are the victims.
According to police reports, a 15-year-old girl was attacked Thursday by two dogs on her way home from school about two blocks from the location of Gault’s attack. Officers could not find the dogs, which ran off after the attack, the report said. The descriptions did not match those involved in Gault’s attack.
Owners of dogs involved in biting incidents can be cited for several code violations depending on the circumstances, Maestas said. Punishment can include destroying the dog and civil action.
“People should be responsible and keep their dogs in,” she said. “If everybody was responsible for their own dogs, this wouldn’t be happening.”
The attack has changed Gault.
“I can’t walk. I can’t go anywhere or do anything, I can barely get around the house,” she said. “That’s the worst, (most) awful feeling I’ve had. I have nightmares — I can still feel that dog’s mouth around my leg. (A child) wouldn’t have had a fighting chance with four dogs.”
— Children who observe a dog loose need to tell a parent, teacher or other adult about it immediately and animal control should be called.
— Teach children not to pet a strange dog no matter how friendly it seems.
— If a strange dog approaches you, walk slowly. Never tease, torment or try to chase a dog.
— If attacked, fall down on the ground and curl up in a tight ball protecting your hands and face. It seems unnatural, but the dog no longer sees you as a threat, and may stop the attack.
— If your child witnesses an attack, tell the child to stay back and yell as loud as possible for an adult. A dog may turn on the child if the child tries to pull the dog away. Fire extinguishers are one of the most effective tools to stop a dog fight or attack.
— Always report dog bites to a medical provider and animal control. Infections and disease transmission are large concerns.
Source: Louisa Maestes, Animal Control supervisor