Two pit bulls that fatally mauled a wheelchair-bound man will be killed after the dogs have finished a 10-day quarantine to check for rabies, a sheriff’s officer said Monday.
Walter Feser, 75, died Friday after being attacked by the dogs in his back yard just outside Yakima city limits.
Feser, a one-time animal-control officer and former manager of Yakima County’s water plant, was an animal lover who collected goats, turkeys, potbellied pigs and other creatures on his half-acre plot, friends said.
The owner of a dog that seriously injures or kills someone automatically is guilty of a Class C misdemeanor under state law, said sheriff’s Lt. Stew Graham. The crime carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a $10,000 fine, Graham said.
The pit bulls’ owner has not yet been contacted, Graham said Monday.
The owner had left the dogs with Lawrence Delzer of Yakima while he moved to the Seattle area, police said. The dogs dug under a chain-link fence to escape from the yard, Graham said.
Feser, who was partly paralyzed by a stroke several years ago, was in his yard with his dachshund, Helga, when the pit bulls jumped his 3-1/2-foot fence and attacked and killed the dog before attacking Feser, authorities said.
“It’s the hardest thing to accept this tragedy,” said Feser’s stepdaughter, Becky Simmons, 46, of Kennewick. “He’s the last man in the world you would think to be mauled by dogs because he cared so much for God’s animals.”
No charges had been filed by Monday afternoon, according to the prosecutor’s office.
Feser’s neighbor, Herman Miller, 70, also was attacked when he entered Feser’s gate to respond to the “lifeline” device Feser had used to call for help. Miller suffered more than a dozen bites to his neck, head, back and legs before he was able to retreat to his house.
Miller, who was hospitalized for his injuries, said he believes Feser fell from his wheelchair while trying to rescue his small dog from the pit bulls.
“It’s likely he lost his balance. All he could do was lie there on the ground, defenseless, nowhere to go, as they mauled him,” Miller said.
“Walter was on the ground, a bloody mess,” Miller recalled. “He was awake, and his eyes were telling me, ‘Get the hell out of there.’ Then I saw the two dogs looking right at me.”
Miller said he was knocked down a half-dozen times before reaching his own door.