There was no warning. Not even a dog’s bark. Just a whoosh in the darkness and suddenly TWO PIT BULLS AND A BOXER had Jack Cash and his Maltese named Duncan surrounded as they walked just yards from their Ventana Ranch home.
The life-and-death battle didn’t take long.
“It was the most terrifying 30 seconds of my life,” Cash told the Journal.
Duncan was on a leash and Cash struggled to pull his 2-year-old “little guy” up into his arms. But the bigger dogs bit Cash on the hand and leg. Cash fought to hold on, but the attackers dragged 10-pound Duncan from his grasp.
“I got sickeningly scared, like I knew my dog was dying,” Cash told the Journal .
Cash said he didn’t know what to do, so he ran home for safety.
“Jenny, Jenny, come help me,” he said he yelled to his girlfriend, Jennifer Braziel, once inside the house. “They killed Duncan.”
The attack about 8:30 p.m. on April 27 wasn’t enough to get the Albuquerque Animal Welfare Department to immediately remove the dogs from their home on Acton Court NW, just a block from where Cash lives.
Cash protested and contacted City Councilor Dan Lewis. Eventually the dogs went to a 10-day quarantine at a private kennel at Animal Welfare’s request.
But Cash said he was told the dogs were back home Monday.
“We can’t even allow my girlfriend’s 10-year-old daughter to go out to play. At least one other neighbor says they can’t let their kids out of the house for fear of another attack,” Cash told theJournal . “I don’t understand this. Protecting the community is supposed to be a fundamental function of Animal Welfare.”
Cash said he only heard about the dogs’ return from Lewis’ office Monday.
“Animal control hasn’t even bothered to keep us updated, even after we have politely explained why we don’t feel safe leaving the house,” Cash said.
Cash said that when he spoke with an animal control officer the night of the attack, he was told “there’s nothing we can do. It’s a process.”
In recent weeks, the city’s Animal Welfare Department has been under scrutiny for allegedly adopting out aggressive dogs.
The agency also is responsible for enforcing a 10-year-old city ordinance aimed at identifying dangerous dogs and keeping them from harming the public. The law allows animal control officers to make a seizure “for immediate danger.”
Following notice to the owner, the law states that animal control can “obtain a search warrant and impound a dog if there is probable cause to believe that a dog is a potentially dangerous dog and may pose an immediate danger to public safety.”
The owner can request a hearing, but the dog is supposed to remain in protective custody pending resolution of the case.
Animal control Lt. Christopher Romero told the Journal that the owners have been cited for having a dangerous dog and being irresponsible owners, but the option of confiscating the dogs was rejected.
“We’ve talked with the City Attorney’s Office on this and they agree this isn’t an unusual case where we would work outside the normal protocol (and seize the dogs). Sometimes things happen,” Romero said Wednesday evening.
Romero noted that there has been no prior “activity” involving the dogs at the house. And the dogs were licensed and had their rabies vaccinations. The owners have requested a hearing on the matter.
Lewis told the Journal, “It’s extremely frightening that these dogs were out and attacked Mr. Cash and his dog. My feeling is that we need to get these dogs out of the neighborhood.”
But Lewis said that he believes the Animal Welfare Department is taking steps to do so and has inspected the property to ensure the dogs stay in the yard, which is surrounded by a 6-foot cinderblock fence and wrought iron gates. The department is reinspecting the property every day, he added.
“We may need to look at a change in the ordinance to be able to have a little more recourse,” he added.
Cash said he and his girlfriend got Duncan after losing another dog who was hit by a car. He was a stray.
“He (Duncan) was so much a part of our lives. We loved him so much,” said Cash. “I mean, I wouldn’t even let him go out in the backyard because we didn’t trust coyotes and things like that.”
Cash, who works from home, said he would walk Duncan on a leash six times a day around the well-manicured neighborhood on Albuquerque’s West Side.
But the little dog for some reason never wanted to venture into the cul-de-sac on Acton Court NW. That’s where the three dogs came running from that night.
“It’s a couple hundred yards from where I live. But he didn’t like it down there,” Cash said of Duncan.
Cash said he’d never before noticed any angry, barking dogs when they passed by the street and told the Journal the attack “was completely unprovoked.”
“We didn’t even have a chance. My poor little guy. If there was some kind of warning I could have pulled him up,” Cash said.
Cash said he initially thought a pack of wild dogs were responsible. “You don’t think three dogs from the neighborhood are going to attack you.”
Cash went to the emergency room for treatment of his wounds. Duncan had multiple bites to his body. At Cash’s request, Animal Control took custody of the dog’s body, which was taken to the freezer at the Westside Animal Shelter.
No action taken
After the attack, Animal Welfare officers talked with George Escamilla, who said he was housesitting for his nephew, Randy Garduno, at the house on Acton Court NW. Garduno was on vacation and owns the dogs, according to a report filed by city animal control officers.
“He (Escamilla) told us that the dogs got out of the yard thru the side gate, that he must have left it opened,” the report states.
Escamilla said he heard the dogs outside in the front of the home that night and brought them inside, but didn’t know about the attack, the report states.
“No further action taken at this time,” an animal control officer stated in his April 27 report. Escamilla was told to keep the dogs in the backyard or on a leash and that animal control officers wanted to speak with the owner.
The next day, a neighbor called the Animal Welfare Department, saying she witnessed the attack and wanted to know why the dogs were still on the property.
“I advised AWD (Animal Welfare Department) cannot force a person to give up their property. I explained the case is pending,” another animal control officer wrote in a report obtained by theJournal .
Cash said he spoke with a neighbor who witnessed the attack that night.
“She said it was terrifying. It made her sick to her stomach. She couldn’t sleep all night.”
Garduno hung up when the Journal telephoned him on Wednesday seeking comment. He didn’t return a follow-up phone message. Escamilla couldn’t be reached for comment.
Since the attack, Cash and at least two neighbors have contacted animal control to ask why the dogs hadn’t been removed, city reports show.
One neighbor reported that dogs had been at her door on April 28, the day after the attack, “and she feared for the safety of her children,” an animal control report stated.
Another neighbor was told that animal control officers “had no authority” to remove the dogs. She was advised to call 911 or 311 if she saw the dogs out running loose again.
Jennifer Braziel told the Journal on Wednesday that Duncan was such “a good little dog.”
“We want to do the right thing and fight for him the way we feel that we should.”