Blind World Magazine

pit bulls attack deaf-blind handler and her guide dog.




Fort Worth Star Telegram, Texas.
Wednesday, September 06, 2006.




FORT WORTH - The owner of two pit bulls that police say attacked a 72-year-old blind woman and her guide dog Sunday apologized Tuesday, saying he was unaware that the dogs had dug their way out of his back yard.


Lazaro Vazquez Jr., 19, said he and his father voluntarily relinquished the two dogs and a third pit bull they owned to animal control officers to be euthanized.


"I felt that was the most responsible thing to do," the younger Vazquez said. "It happened once. It could happen again. I do not want to go through this anymore. I'm deeply, deeply sorry that this had to happen."


The woman, who friends say is partially deaf, was released from Huguley Memorial Medical Center after treatment of her injuries Sunday.


The guide dog, a black Labrador mix named Ryder, remains at the I-20 Animal Medical Center in Arlington. A receptionist said Ryder was in stable condition Tuesday afternoon and was eating and drinking, but the extent of the dog's injuries are still unknown.


"She relies on this dog because he's both her eyes and her ears," said Tim Gil with Bridge Christian Education for the Blind, a nonprofit ministry in Fort Worth in which the woman participates.


The woman and Ryder were walking in the 3700 block of Bridalwreath Drive shortly before 9 a.m. when the pit bulls attacked, police said. Friends said they believe the pit bulls initially attacked Ryder. The woman was bitten on her right hand and arm after throwing herself on top of the guide dog to try to protect it, they said.


Tammy Oberst, communications manager for MedStar, said dispatchers received three 911 calls about the attack.


"People were honking their horns trying to get the dogs away. People were setting off their car alarms to try to break this up," Oberst said. "Two of the callers stated they thought the service dog might be dead."


Officers later found two pit bulls in the area - a brown 4-year-old female and a white 3-year-old male - their coats stained with blood. A third pit bull, a white 1-year-old female, was in the front yard of the Vazquez home on nearby Longmeadow Way, Sgt. J.D. Moore said.


Police don't believe that the third dog was involved in the attack.


Vazquez said he didn't notice that the dogs were gone until police arrived at his home. "Dogs will be dogs," Vazquez said. "They find a way out. They dug under the fence."


One neighbor told police that she has frequently seen the dogs running around the neighborhood, a police report stated.


Vazquez denied that the dogs run loose, saying the youngest dog had escaped briefly once before, running only as far as the front yard. He said that the dogs were family pets and that he had never seen any of them behave aggressively toward people or other dogs.


Still, Lazaro Vazquez Sr. was issued nine citations - three for not having proof of the dogs' rabies vaccinations, three for not registering the dogs with the city and three for not restraining the animals, said James Agyemang, division manager of Animal Care and Control.


Scott Hanlan, the city's assistant public health director, said that the pit bulls were euthanized and that the two dogs involved in the attack will be tested for rabies. "The third animal was euthanized because it was also exhibiting aggressive behavior," Hanlan said.


The woman was staying with a relative Tuesday and could not be reached.


Oberst said the woman's love for her guide dog was evident. As ambulance attendants checked on the woman's injuries, she pleaded with them to instead care for her dog, Oberst said.


Satisfied that the woman's injuries were not severe, the paramedics bandaged the dog and transported it to Huguley with the woman after they could not find a veterinarian from the scene, Oberst said.


Meanwhile, two other MedStar employees who had just gotten off duty - paramedic Kim Sharp and emergency medical technician Dana Campbell - heard about the attack and met the ambulance at Huguley, taking it upon themselves to drive the dog to the animal hospital, Oberst said.


"This isn't something they had to do," Oberst said. "If no one else was willing to pay, [Sharp said she] was going to do it at her own expense to make sure the dog is taken care of."


The Flower Mound Humane Society has donated $400 toward the dog's vet bills.


"This is a mixed-breed dog that has gone out in the world and is giving something back," said Stacy Smith, vice president of animal welfare for the society. "It just seems like the right thing to do."


A receptionist at the animal medical center said about a half-dozen people have called to ask about the dog or to ask about donating money.


Deanna Boyd, 817-390-7655 dboyd@star-telegram.com



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