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Pit bulls attack, kill woman, 82

March 9, 2005 1:10 am

By ROB DAVIS

Loose dogs blamed in Partlow death

UPDATE: Spotsylvania County officials believe a dead pit bull they have in custody is the third such dog involved in a fatal attack on an 82-year-old woman killed yesterday.


An 82-year-old Partlow woman died en route to VCU Medical Center yesterday after she was attacked by three pit bulls roaming her rural Spotsylvania County neighborhood.

Dorothy Sullivan was found by her daughter at her home off Partlow Road, about two miles west of Berkeley Elementary School, authorities said last night.

Sullivan, who lived at 205 Oak Crest Drive, was in her yard when the attack occurred at about 2:17 p.m., sheriff's Capt. Ed Lunsford said.

A deputy responding to the emergency shot and killed one of the dogs shortly after the incident; an animal control officer captured a second dog, said William Tydings, director of animal control. Both were identified as the dogs responsible for the attack, he said.

A third dog was on the loose last night, and animal control officers were going door to door in the neighborhood hoping to find it.

The incident brought out all of Spotsylvania's available animal control officers--one was recovering from a broken leg--and sent them bouncing down rutted muddy lanes and driveways to canvass residents.

Some homes in the area are posted with blaze-orange no trespassing signs and posters that warned: BEWARE OF DOG.

Authorities came close to capturing the brindle-colored dog earlier in the afternoon. It had been standing alongside the dog that was shot, Tydings said.

But when the deputy killed the wiry black dog, the other pit bull bolted into the thick woods. As the sun began setting around 6 p.m., it still hadn't surfaced.

Animal control officers weren't sure whether it had returned to its home or found shelter in the woods.

Two neighbors said they told authorities loose pit bulls have been a problem in the neighborhood for at least a year.

Jean Baker said last night that she was picking up limbs in her yard a year ago when a pack of dogs advanced on her. She said she was able to retreat to her home.

"I started screaming," she said. "I was so scared."

Baker's grown daughter, Deborah, said she reported a pack of loose pit bulls to Spotsylvania Animal Control three weeks ago.

From her kitchen door, she spied three multicolored dogs approaching a neighbor's house through the back yard. She confronted the dogs, knowing a 4-year-old child was playing out front.

"At first they went toward me," she said. "I was willing to give my life for that child."

One neighbor returning home from work yesterday told an animal control officer he'd seen the brindle pit bull loose before in the neighborhood.

The man said he threw a chunk of firewood at the growling dog when it recently approached him as he stood on his porch. The man missed, and lamented that he should've shot the dog instead.

Tydings said yesterday his office had been actively pursuing reports of pit bulls loose in the area in recent weeks.

A Spotsylvania animal control officer was in the area when the attack occurred, responding to a call of a loose boxer, Tydings said.

"This is a bad situation," he said. "This is my worst nightmare."

Authorities identified the nearby owner of one of the dogs yesterday, but did not release her name. Lunsford, of the Sheriff's Office, said criminal charges were possible, but none had been lodged yesterday.

The captured dog will be kept in captivity for 10 days to see if it has rabies, Tydings said, then it will be killed. The dead dog will be sent to Richmond for a rabies check before being destroyed.

Pit bulls have been a controversial breed for years, primarily because of attacks.

Earlier this month in Canada, the Ontario legislature voted to ban pit bulls and require those already owning the breed to neuter them and muzzle them.

According to published reports, similar bans are in effect in Britain, France and Germany.

There were two attacks by pit bulls in Alabama earlier this month, according to published reports.

Because of attacks in Georgia, a state legislator there sponsored a bill that would ban the importation, sale and possession of new pit bulls in the state.

Last summer, city councilors in Boston approved a new ordinance requiring pit bulls to be muzzled in public after two deadly incidents in one week.

But the breed also has its defenders.

Breeders, the American Kennel Club and the American Veterinarian Medical Association oppose breed-specific bans.

Owners are responsible for a dog's behavior, they say, according to published reports.

Staff writer Edie Gross contributed to this story.

To reach ROB DAVIS: 540/374-5418 rdavis@freelancestar.com





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