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DOGS MAUL CANOGA PARK MAN : 2 PIT BULLS QUARANTINED AFTER ATTACK.

Byline: Steve Getzug Daily News Staff Writer

Gene Chen knows now what it means to have good neighbors after they helped chase off a pair of pit bulls that had attacked Chen, leaving behind 67 bite marks and cuts from head to toe.

``I thought I would die,'' the 45-year-old printer said from his hospital bed. ``Every time I tried to stand, I was pulled down.''

Neighbor Raymond Reveles recalls feeling helpless as the two dogs mauled Chen, whose cries broke the summer night's calm and emptied the houses on Lull Street.

And Reveles had an oak ax handle in his fist.

``It was one of the worst things I'd ever seen in my life,'' Reveles said. ``It seemed like I was standing there for an eternity. You can only do so much. You take a swing at the dog and you could hit the guy.''

For two to three horrifying minutes Sunday evening, Reveles and about a dozen others drawn into the cul-de-sac by Chen's pleas for help yelled, screamed and wielded sticks and poles in a panicked bid to stop the attack.

Chen, who tumbled over sidewalk and curb as he was pulled by the dogs, was saved only when the two dogs, named Chopper and Jody, were surrounded by screaming neighbors and gave up the attack.

On Monday, Chen was hospitalized at Northridge Hospital Medical Center where he was being treated for 67 tooth marks and cuts. Painkillers and whirlpool treatments barely dimmed his ordeal.

A city animal control officer also was bitten in the wrist as he took the two dogs in custody inside the garage of a home in the 20500 block of Lull Street. Officer Frederick Galdi was treated for his injury and released, officials said.

Peter Persik, a spokesman for the city Animal Regulation Department, said an investigation is under way to determine the exact circumstances of the attack and to identify the dogs' owner or owners.

Debbie Potts, who identified herself to the Associated Press as the dog's owner, apologized for the attack and said she wouldn't try to prevent the dogs from being destroyed if authorities decided they must die.

``We're sorry and regret this happened,'' she said. ``We're really sorry and actually are scared to have (the dogs) around our children after this has happened.''

The dogs, an 85-pound male and a 50-pound female, were placed in a rabies quarantine at the West Valley Animal Care and Control Center, where they will be observed for 10 days.

No one at the scene could explain why the dogs had gone after Chen.

Police and neighbors say the two pit bulls, who emerged through an open garage door, bolted at the 135-pound man as he went outside about 9 p.m. to throw out garbage - a chore, Chen said, he had put off all day.

Children riding bikes on the street saw the dogs tear toward Chen. Other neighbors peeked through windows or left their homes to investigate when they heard barking and loud yells.

Cleaning up the front yard of his home after a family barbecue, Lonnie Van Cott, his left arm in a sling from elbow surgery, sprinted over to Chen's aid but could do little to deter the attack.

``As I ran I started yelling for all my neighbors to get their attention,'' he said. ``The dogs were biting him from head to toe. He was down trying to cover himself . . . and that dog was just pulling him, pulling him.''

From his view down the street, Reveles initially thought Chen was engaged in a tug of war with one of the dogs - until he realized it was Chen's arm, and not a towel, in the mouth of one of the dogs.

``The guy let out a scream that you just knew this was not play,'' he said.

Reveles grabbed the ax handle, leaped a backyard wall, and sprinted to Chen as other neighbors began circling the dogs. With sticks and poles the neighbors tried to keep the dogs off the downed man.

``We finally scared the damned dogs off,'' Van Cott said.

``So many wounds,'' said neighbor Sanz Vuong, 47. ``All over the body.''

Reveles said Chen sat down and was comforted by neighbors as the dogs ran back into the garage and the garage door was shut behind them. Chen appeared to go into shock as paramedics arrived, neighbors said.

At noon Monday some of the people who tried to help Chen stood outside their homes watching television news reporters provide live feeds about the previous night's activities.

Van Cott lighted a cigarette and shook his head.

``I'm so angry about what happened,'' he said. ``Nobody with responsibility (for the dogs) was home to stop this. . . . That was the worst thing I've ever seen in my life.''

Noting the presence of children on the street, Reveles and Van Cott said the tragedy could have been compounded.

``It's very unfortunate that this guy got hurt,'' Reveles said. ``But if this had happened to one of those kids you'd be writing about a death right now.''

As it was, Chen's physician, Dr. Mehran Okhovat, said the victim was lucky.

Okhovat said Chen's lacerations - most extensive on his hands and forearms - ranged from a quarter-inch to 1 inch. Chen had cuts on the back of his head and neck, and a sweeping superficial claw mark over his right eye, he said.

Dena Mangiamele, chief veterinarian for the department of animal regulation, said the squat, heavy-set dogs - formally known as Staffordshire terriers - are cousins to the American pit bull terrier and similarly endowed with a very strong jaw.

She said the breed is very loyal and compassionate, but like any large dog, can be dangerous if not trained or quartered by responsible owners.

``A lot of it has to do with whose handling the animals,'' she said.

For 1994, the last full calendar year for which statistics are kept by the Los Angeles County Health Department, more than 16,200 people were bitten by domestic or wild animals, officials said.

Hundreds more probably aren't counted because most bites statistically occur to family members within the home and go unreported, Persik said.

CAPTION(S):

3 Photos

PHOTO (1 -- color) Animal control Officers Wendell Bower s, left, and Fredrick Galdi cage one of the pit bulls.

(2) Chopper was one of the dogs involved in the attack.

(3) Animal control Officer Fredrick Galdi, who suffered a bite, pets Jody.

Gene Blevins/Special to the Daily News
COPYRIGHT 1996 Daily News
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1996, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

 
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Jun 25, 1996
Words:1082
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