GREENWOOD SC - 2 PIT BULLS "SOMEHOW" GOT OUT AND ATTACKED A MAN TAKING A WALK IN HIS NEIGHBORHOOD ..."THEY RIPPED MY ARMS AND THEN WENT AFTER MY THROAT AND HEAD"
The peace of David Hays’ walk on Jan. 6 quickly turned topanic when he was attacked by two dogs.
“Sunday was a pretty warm day, so I tried to go out and walk,” he said. “Thankfully, I put on a long-sleeved shirt, so that sort of helped.”
He heard barking, turned around, and saw TWO PIT BULLS running at him. Before he could really react, they were jumping and biting at him.
“They started ripping into my arms, biting really hard, and then they started going toward my throat and head,” he said.
No one was around to help — Hays said he was alone in struggling against the two dogs for about five minutes. Once the dogs took off, he headed to a nearby neighbor’s house to clean his wounds and get a ride to the emergency room. His arm needed stitches from the bite, which left a gash across his forearm. He had damage from a bite between his shoulder blade and throat, and he said it scared him how close they got to biting at his neck.
“They were doing a lot of damage to my arms, so I just thought I had to sacrifice my arms to cover my face,” Hays said. “Really, when it was all over is when I realized I could have been killed.”
The dogs’ owners willingly turned them over to animal control, and Hays said he’s spoken with them and they’ve been incredibly apologetic. He said he’s completely forgiven them for the situation — the dogs are normally confined but had gotten out earlier, they told him.
Greenwood County Animal Control Officer Joseph Brooks said the dogs’ owners had a tough time dealing with the animals’ sudden change in attitude. He said he was told the dogs had recently begun acting differently and that they typically weren’t violent.
After the bite, the owners kenneled their dogs and began the process of quarantining them — keeping the animals separated and restrained to a crate. Tyga, an adult male pit bull, and Boss, who is another pit bull that’s about 1 year old, were handed over to authorities and taken to the county animal shelter.
Brooks said after a dog is seized, a magistrate judge will have a hearing to determine what to do with that dog. That hearing has to be within 5 days of the seizure, and the owner can make their argument for why the dog should be returned and that it is not an aggressive animal that poses any threat. At that point, Brooks said, it’s up to the judge.
For pet owners, Brooks said there are some aspects of the law that a lot of people aren’t aware of.
“One of the things that people really don’t understand is the unrestrained, unconfined part,” he said. “If you’re out there with your dog running loose, I can cite you even if it’s on your own property.”
Running at large is an offense that can land people a $50 fine for their first offense, but if an animal isn’t considered dangerous then restraining them can be as simple as having a fence or using an electric dog fence. Even tethering a dog is a form of legal restraint, though Brooks said it’s not recommended.
Animals that have been deemed legally “dangerous” have other restrictions. If the owner knows or reasonably should know that the animal has a disposition to attack unprovoked or endanger the safety of people or other domestic animals and attacks someone outside of its confined area, then that animal is considered dangerous under state law.
Dangerous animals have to be confined securely indoors or in a securely enclosed fence or pen that is clearly marked as containing a dangerous animal. When the animal is taken out beyond the premises, it must be safely restrained.
To avoid accidents like what happened to Hays, Brooks said pet owners should accept that they might not know everything about their dog.
“Just because a dog is good when you’re there doesn’t mean that’s how they’ll act when you’re not around,” he said. “Our furry friends haven’t been living in the type of situation we’re putting them for long, in the grand scheme of things. Go back 100 years — how many people kept house dogs?”
For people who walk or run outside, like Hays, Brooks said the best defense is information. Drive a route before committing to walking and running it, to learn the geography and street names and learn about any areas that might pose safety risks.
“If you have a problem on your route and you see something that concerns you, contact us,” he said. “It’s not necessarily filing an official complaint, but there’s no harm in us just coming out to check.”
Anyone who finds themselves in Hays’ position of being attacked by an animal always has the right to defend themselves, Brooks said. Personal defense items such as small air horns have been known to scare dogs off, and the sound of an electric stun device often drives them away.
If all else fails and a dog attack is inevitable, Brooks said people should try to stay on their feet and call out for help. Falling down or getting low is the most dangerous thing a person can do, since it makes it easier for the dog to bite at vital areas such as the neck and face.