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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Dog will be euthanized for biting young girl

Thomas Clouse Staff writer

The mother ran outside when she heard her 8-year-old daughter scream. She found a pit bull dragging the girl across the front yard of an East Central Spokane home.

The mother, who asked not to be identified, heard the commotion about 4:10 p.m. Sunday. Her 5-year-old son and a neighbor’s 8-year-old daughter were also standing in her front yard at 2100 E. Fifth when the attack occurred.

“I ran out and the dog was already on top of her,” she said. “I cannot begin to tell you the panic that went through my mind because I didn’t know if he had her by the head or the throat. She was screaming, ‘Mommy. Help me.’ ”

The dog – which forced open a gate as the children tried to push it closed – will be euthanized, said Gail Mackie, executive director of SpokAnimal.

During the incident, the pit bull kept pulling the girl down each time she tried to get up, the mother said. The woman got down on the ground. Only then could she see the dog had chomped down on her daughter’s left arm.

“I tried to wedge my hand into the dog’s mouth. He just clamped down harder,” she said.

Robert Hernandez, who is related to the mother’s landlord, was in the mother’s back yard, moving items out of a garage. When the mother screamed for help, he and about a dozen neighbors responded, the mother said.

“Robert jumped on the dog, and somehow or another, got the dog off her arm,” the mother said. “It was such a mess. We were fighting with the dog.”

As Hernandez struggled to get the dog to open its mouth, he suffered a bite to the thumb, said Dianne Holmes, an animal control officer for SpokAnimal. Holmes was present during the interview with the mother.

The mother said she was able to pull her daughter’s arm out of the sleeve of her sweater. She ran the girl inside as Hernandez held the dog in a head lock.

Other neighbors tied the dog to the fence to wait for animal control officers. A neighbor drove the mother and daughter to a local hospital.

The girl has numerous stitches to close bite marks on her upper left elbow. She also suffered severe scratching in the face and a nipped ear, the mother said. She stayed home from school on Monday.

“She’s scared,” the mother said, “but she’s a brave little girl.”

The dog currently is in the custody of SpokAnimal, where 10 of 52 dogs in the shelter Monday are pit bulls, Mackie said.

The dog’s owner is 25-year-old Sorrell Lewis, who lives at 2029 E. Fifth. He told investigators that he found the 1-year-old pit bull two months ago in a hotel parking lot.

“He chained it to a tree and he had not done anything with it,” Mackie said. Lewis “is really remorseful and signed the dog over for euthanasia.”

It will be up to the injured girl’s mother whether charges will be filed against Lewis. They were meeting Monday afternoon but Mackie said she hadn’t heard back from the mother.

Nobody answered the door at Lewis’ home Monday afternoon. Lewis’ mother, Theresa Wilson, said by telephone that she did not want to comment.

Holmes said she had been to Lewis’ home before. She previously cited Lewis because the same pit bull was simply chained to a tree in a yard with no fence and it had no dog house.

Mackie said Lewis had until the end of this week to get a dog house and license the dog. Otherwise, he may have faced a neglect charge.

Both Holmes and Mackie said pit bulls can make good family dogs. But owners need to be strong, conscientious, and they should get their pit bull’s temperament tested.

“When they get over-stimulated and they are playing, they don’t want to stop,” Holmes said. “That’s when they can be dangerous.”

The size of the breed and its strength compound the problem, Mackie said.

“Any dog can and will bite if the circumstances are right,” Mackie said. “The problem is these dogs are so strong that the severity of the bite is much worse than another smaller dog that might attack in the same manner. They are not for everybody.”

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