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When Friendly Dogs Turn Deadly

 May 6, 2021 at 10:47 AM PDT

Speaker 1: 00:00 Dog owners for the most part, think their pets are friendly in public. So what's the harm in unclipping their leash for a few minutes to play fetch at the neighborhood park. Well, a lot of harm can come of it. As KPBS, as Maya troublesome found out after a vicious attack over the weekend, a couple in Poway is grieving after suffering both external wounds and broken hearts. Happy birthday to you. Happy birthday to you. Happy birthday, dear. Kiki's happy birthday to you. Speaker 2: 00:34 Six year old miniature schnauzer cheeky. Won't be getting any more birthday songs or treats her life ended last week after a vicious attack by an unleashed dog, but she wasn't the only victim right here. And then some, some puncture wounds here and little puncture wound there Sheekey's owners, Cynthia and Ricardo Elizondo are back at garden road park in Poway for the first time, since the incident, I believe we might actually find blood trails. Um, my understanding is they tried to clean it up after the incident, but were not successful in getting it all. So we may see some there's a long stretch of grass to the side of the park that is commonly used as a dog run for unleashed dogs to play fetch. We're actually on this path. We were on the, Speaker 3: 01:18 Oh, actually I think that's my glove. Yep. Yeah. And that's blood right there. So this is the glove that you were wearing that morning. Speaker 2: 01:27 A bloody glove, all that remains of the deadly encounter. That seemed so innocent. At first, I was not scared at all. I thought he was just coming to say hello. It was clearly friendly dog playing ball with his owner, but instincts kicked in and the dog who had been playing happily just seconds before had locked his sights on shikis and his jaws into her back and would not let go would not let go. Um, at that point, his owner came running over. We started kicking the dog. The owner actually said, kick him, kick him, do it, go for it. Um, and he, he got on the ground and immediately got his hands into his own dog's mouth to pry open the, the jaws. It took three adults, more than 30 seconds to separate the dogs. At which point the attack continued. The owner clearly shocked by his dog's behavior. During the incident, he kept saying that he's never done this before. He's never done this before. This is not like him. Once Cynthia got Sheekey's into her arms, they spun in circles trying to avoid another bite. This time Cynthia's arm got in the way. And she felt the dog's teeth in her flesh. Speaker 3: 02:38 At that moment, I thought we just need protection. And so we actually, Cynthia and I and took the dog to the, to the children's structure there because I said, there's a Fort. I need a Fort for you climbed up here. So clan from the other side just took my family, right? So I was carrying the dog over here just to keep, because I knew that I only to protect one entrance Speaker 2: 03:01 Once police and MTS arrived, chickies and Cynthia were both rushed to respective emergency rooms. Cynthia needed sutures and staples to close her deep wound. There's a bite out of it. Speaker 3: 03:12 So th there, there was kind of an inch and a half, two inch diameter, you know, separating, you know, with no skin and looking in Speaker 2: 03:19 All the way almost to the bone, cheeky suffered broken ribs and organ damage and had to be euthanized while Cynthia was still in the ER, she did not get to say goodbye. Speaker 3: 03:30 No, Speaker 4: 03:32 There's inherently more safety for everybody in the park. If animals are leashed, they can't reach other animals. They can't reach other owners. Speaker 2: 03:41 Captain Danny cook from the San Diego humane society says the dog that attacked is under a 10 day bite quarantine per California, health and safety code, not punitively, but to rule out rabies, she says, officers regularly get owners explaining why their dogs are off leash. Despite the leash law, Speaker 4: 03:59 My dog is under Boyce controller. My dog comes exactly when I tell them to, or my dog is the sweetest dog and would never harm another dog or person, whether that is in fact true or not. It's not just for their safety and their dog's safety. It is for the safety of the owner, other owners and dogs in the park, Speaker 3: 04:17 Mainly dogs are still weapons. You know, that is the point. Yeah. It can go from licking your toddlers phase to causing a big gash on strangers arm in, you know, because they are dogs that is not a vicious dog is just a dog. Speaker 2: 04:38 Back at the Elizondo is home. Cheeky is crate. Her dog door and toys in the yard are painful reminders of what they all endured. The Elizondo say they have forgiven the other dog owner and want to make clear that he's been equally traumatized watching his beloved pet turned deadly. If even one person decides that they will no longer take their friendly, sweet, loving dog off-leash at the park or anywhere other than the dog park, I will be happy. My a trouble see KPBS news. Speaker 3: 05:14 Joining me is Erin Vihara she's owner and trainer at Wolf dog training in San Diego. And Aaron. Welcome. Speaker 4: 05:23 Thank you so much. Maya's report Speaker 3: 05:26 Could make a dog lovers blood run cold. I'm wondering how often do you hear of incidents like that? Speaker 4: 05:34 Well, I think this incident was, uh, was particularly scary. Um, but it's really common that there are incidents involving dogs having this sort of behavior. Maybe not to the degree that it happened in this particular situation, but, um, it is common for dogs to show, um, some, some form of behavior, um, towards other dogs or towards people when they're in the community, Speaker 1: 06:03 What causes a usually friendly dog to have an attack episode like that Speaker 4: 06:09 That's tricky and it's tricky without knowing this particular dog. Um, but I think something that's common that comes through my world that I see often is, um, uh, underlying behavior that a dog has some body language that they may have shown over. Sometimes what's actually a pretty long period of time. Um, and it just hasn't either hasn't been noticed or hasn't happened in a way that, that people can understand it. Speaker 1: 06:39 Now, do you hear about owners disobeying leash laws because they think their dog would never behave violently. Speaker 4: 06:46 Absolutely. Very, very, very commonly. Yeah. Speaker 1: 06:50 Is that a wrong assumption for people to make? Speaker 4: 06:54 I would certainly say so. Um, as a dog trainer, um, and just as a pet owner, pet dog owner, um, it it's something that comes up very, very frequently. Um, it often happens when I'm out working with clients. It happens to me with my personal dogs very frequently, and it it's, it's a really common thing for people to say that my dog is friendly and they sort of give you a wave as this, that, that that's okay for your dog to be coming up to someone else's dog or up to some person because they're friendly. Speaker 1: 07:26 Now, some dog owners feel that their dogs need to be let off the leash and run free. Occasionally. Is that true? Speaker 4: 07:32 I think that's difficult. I think it's, it's an understandable desire that people have that they want to let their dog off the leash. There are dogs to thrive running off the leash, but I think that when we choose to let our dogs off the leash in order to get that sort of exercise or stimulation of whatever kind, um, I think that we have to be aware that we're sharing public space and that we can only do that safely when we have our dogs off the leash and places that other folks know there are going to be awfully shags and they're allowed to be there. Speaker 1: 08:09 Do you think that training could have helped in this particular situation? We just heard about it. Speaker 4: 08:16 What I would caution folks is that even with training, even the best trained dogs, even service dogs, who I work with, I always recommend having the dog on the leash when you're in a public space. Speaker 1: 08:31 And I'm wondering how should people who are, you know, out walking their dogs or in a neighborhood park with their dog on a leash, how, how should they assess the safety of other dogs? Is there anything they should look out for? Speaker 4: 08:46 Usually you're looking at body language, um, you know, dogs are communicating what their body language. And when we see that a dog is walking, for example, directly towards another dog, particularly face to face, um, that can be something to be aware of. Also, if we see it usually looking at the dog's body, um, kind of from head to toe. So not just their tail is wagging, but like their entire body. What does it look like? What do we see in the way that the dog is carrying themselves? So are they leaning forward, you know, towards the dog and presenting a specific posture, um, is their body tense? Do we see that they're holding their mouth tightly, their ears, tightly, their body, you know, there's all sorts of small details that we can notice. Um, unfortunately, sometimes it happens really quickly, but those are, um, you know, those are some of the signs when you see that the dog is carrying tension in their body. So that's something that generally means that something's uncomfortable about the interaction or that the dog is experiencing some level of stress, whether that is good stress or bad stress. So, you know, it's going to vary a lot by scenario, but it's, uh, you know, if you're seeing that it's something to pause and kind of have a caution about Speaker 1: 10:08 If there are dogs in the area and let's say in your neighborhood park that are off the leash, should you just leave with your dog? Speaker 4: 10:17 I do typically, um, I think that, you know, either leaving or, or, uh, of course talking to the person, um, if that's possible before you get your dog into that situation, talking to the person, um, or making a report, if that, you know, depending on everybody's comfort level with those things, I think all of that could be a good option, but if I'm walking in, I'm entering a park and I noticed that there's off-leash dogs and I've got my dog. I think the first thing that I would do is, um, is try to try to make sure I have a safe environment for my dog and then go from there. Speaker 1: 10:50 Okay. I've been speaking with Erin [inaudible] she's owner and trainer at Wolf dog training in San Diego. Aaron, thank you very much. Speaker 4: 10:59 Thank you so much. I appreciate it.

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How a Poway dog attack highlights the importance of leash laws.
KPBS Midday Edition Segments