A firefighter was bitten as he tried to provide aide to two elderly women after they were attacked by two aggressive dogs in northwest Houston on Thursday morning. The dogs were identified as a 4-year-old Chocolate Lab, named Apollo, and a 1-year-old tan Boxer, KTRK News reports. The dogs’ owner says he can't believe his dogs would ever be capable of such a thing.
"They've never shown any aggression before. I'm just as surprised as anyone else," Sonny Pena told reporters.
This incident brings the total number of bites in Houston in one week to 19. Usually there are only four, Carlene Lormard of the City’s BARC Animal Shelter told Joel Eisenbaum of KPRC.
The attacks occurred at the Covered Bridge Condominium Complex at 5005 GeorgiLane in the Oak Forest neighborhood on Thursday morning, just as people were leaving for work, according to KTRK News. Both of the women attacked were walking to their cars. Animal Control officers reported that one of the dogs, reportedly the tan boxer, first attacked the two women just before 7 a.m. It is unclear to what degree the Lab was directly involved in the attacks.
"As I got close to my car, the light brown one, which I haven't seen before, lunged at me and I jumped in my car as quick as I could," resident Lynn Ringe told reporters.
The agitated dog then approached a 62-year-old school teacher, who was going to visit her grandchildren. He so severely mauled her that she will need several surgeries, according to her daughter. She tried to shoo it away, instead the dog attacked.
A neighbor who saw what was happening came to help the victim and was also bitten by the dog. Her arm was bitten to the bone, a police source told KHOU News. Both women sustained serious injuries to their legs.
When Houston Police arrived, an officer fired his gun several times at the animals to try to scare them away from the victims. As an emergency response team attempted to administer first aid, one fireman was bitten by the brown lab, but not seriously injured, according to Click2.com.
The owner of the two dogs, Sonny Pena, apologized to the women and added that he's concerned about his dogs.
"My dogs aren't aggressive dogs. I don't understand what transpired while I was asleep, said Pena. Maybe if they attacked anybody they were scared because they were out. Generally they're inside dogs," he said.
Animal control investigators were told the animals were accidentally let out of the home by a friend who was visiting. However, in a taped interview, owner Sonny Pena said the dogs usually stay in the house and must have squeezed through a door that he keeps ajar. They then escaped by digging under a wooden fence, according to reports.
Both dogs were later brought by their owner to City’s Bureau of Animal Regulation and Care (BARC) animal shelter, where they will remain under quarantined for 10 days. If they're healthy, they'll be returned to the owner, officials stated. The quarantine would indicate the dogs did not have rabies shots. There is no information on whether they were neutered.
Houston animal control says there is no record of the dogs having bitten anyone before. However, the victims could ask for a dangerous dog hearing, in addition to civil damages. "I'm not certain what the outcome or protocol could be, but that's a possibility given the nature of the injuries," said Carlene Lormand with Community Outreach at Houston BARC.
The dogs will not be automatically euthanized, but one or both could be deemed "dangerous dogs" by a justice of the peace reports Click2.com.
That would result in an expensive process for Pena to save them. The “dangerous dog” designation includes an annual special registration fee and the obligation for a specified amount of liability insurance, among other restrictions.
Both female victims were seriously injured and remained in the hospital Thursday evening, according to the report.