The Los Angeles Department of Animal Services opened an investigation Friday into the mauling death of a 4-pound Chihuahua in San Pedro, killed as her owner watched in horror when a passing PIT BULL snatched the dog in its mouth and shook her like a toy.
Investigators planned to interview owner Valerie Shipp, and locate the estimated 80-pound dog to determine if a hearing should be held to weigh the dog’s potential threat to the community.
“We will probably consider, even though the dog was on a leash, could it be considered a potentially dangerous animal?” said Mark Salazar, director of field operations.
The frightening death in the doorway of Shellback Barbers at 1013 W. 23rd St. occurred about 3 p.m. Tuesday as Valerie Shipp’s 4-pound dog, Leche, spent the day inside her business as she typically did. Leche, who mostly stayed inside a crate, wandered over to the doorway to greet the pit bull as a woman walked the animal along the sidewalk on a leash.
“The next thing I know, that thing lunged and grabbed my dog by the neck and started shaking her like she was a toy,” Shipp said. “Everything was happening so fast. I went into shock. I felt I was watching something, but my brain wasn’t registering it.”
Shipp’s apprentice, a 27-year-old barber student named Andrew, said neither dog barked or growled. Andrew asked that his last name not be published.
The pit bull, he said, was wearing a shirt designed to look like a “muscle” T-shirt, something a bodybuilder might wear.
“She allowed her dog to smell Leche,” Andrew said. “As soon as the dog bit down, she started screaming. The dog was on all fours just shaking Leche in its mouth.”
The woman screamed, grabbed hold of the pit bull and bear-hugged it as the dog continued to shake the Chihuahua in its mouth. Quarters flew out of the walker’s pockets as if she had been on her way to do her laundry, and she became soiled with feces as one or both of the dogs defecated, Andrew said.
“I ran up and kicked the dog in the stomach,” he said. “It was like hitting a punching bag. It did nothing.”
Andrew stomped on the dog’s throat in an effort to free Leche from the pit bull’s jaws, trying to avoid kicking the woman in the face as she rolled on the ground with her arms around it.
Shipp said she stood frozen in shock, unable to move.
“I’ve never felt so helpless in all my life,” she said. “It was the most helpless feeling.”
Andrew said he was unsure how Leche eventually was freed. He picked up the bloody Chihuahua, which had gaping wounds, and placed her on a bench outside the barbershop. Barely alive, she died there.
The pit bull, he said, stood calmly nearby as if nothing had happened. Andrew yelled at the woman to leave, placed Leche in a plastic bag in a box in the bed of Shipp’s truck, and got soap and water to clean the blood and feces from the sidewalk.
“This really, really upset me,” Andrew said. “I went home and my 2-year-old son was sleeping. I just sat in the living room and didn’t turn on the TV. Just sat there. Felt sick to my stomach.”
Shipp said her dog had no chance. She called seeing Leche’s body inside the pit bull’s mouth the most horrible thing she’d ever witnessed.
Shipp rescued the white dog when she was 11 months old and kept her for six years. Andrew said the dog helped calm children who didn’t want their hair cut, and she often sat at the feet of customers in the barber chairs.
A lover of animals, Shipp said the pit bull needs to be quarantined, but she did not want the dog put down. The owner, she said, apparently lives nearby.
Attempts to contact her were not successful.
Calling the pit bull a danger, Andrew said he believes it should be put down. The dog could have killed a child, he said.
“Everything happened so fast and made me feel so helpless,” Andrew said. “I’m now holding my son so incredibly close to me.”