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Man uses shotgun to save boy from attacking rottweilers

Originally ran here as:
"Rottweilers attack boy waiting for bus"
by Mike Glenn
Houston Chronicle
January 10, 2002

HOUSTON, TEXAS -- Two unlicensed and possibly unvaccinated Rottweilers mauled a 9-year-old Waller ISD student waiting for the school bus Wednesday morning. And, while the dogs are in custody, neighbors say they won't feel safe until both animals are destroyed.

Michael Martinez, a fourth-grader at Jones Intermediate School, was taken by Life Flight helicopter to Memorial Hermann Hospital after the attack, which occurred about 6:45 a.m. in the 24000 block of Jumpin Jay Lane.

Hospital officials, citing the family's wishes, would not comment about the boy's condition late Wednesday afternoon. Earlier in the day, however, they listed him in fair condition.

Neighbors in the Ranch Country subdivision in northwest Harris County said Michael knew the dogs and wasn't afraid of them.

"He called them over there," said Megan Watson, 11, who was also at the bus stop. "They came and then they started attacking him."

The two dogs that mauled the boy -- and a third that didn't leave the yard -- were taken into custody by Harris County animal control officers.

The two will either be destroyed or, if the owner still wants to keep them, they will spend at least 10 days in quarantine to ensure against rabies. If the owner chooses to keep the dogs, Harris County officials said they will likely start proceedings to have the dogs declared dangerous.

Animal control officials said the owner is in violation of at least two regulations. The dogs are not registered with Harris County and were not kept in a secured enclosure. Officials were still working Wednesday to determine if the dogs had received their shots -- also required by county law.

"We have no vaccination information on the animals," said Colleen Hedges, a spokeswoman for Harris County Public Health and Environmental Services. "If they had them vaccinated at a private clinic, we don't have that information."

The owner could not be reached for comment.

While animal control officers investigate dog bite cases almost on a daily basis, Hedges said an attack this severe usually only happens every couple of years.

One case that brought national attention involved a San Francisco couple who now face involuntary manslaughter charges in the death of a woman mauled in her apartment hallway by two Canary Island mastiffs.

Diane Whipple died after the attack, which occurred one year ago. Her neighbors, Marjorie Knoller and Robert Noel, were caring for the animals at the time.

Megan Watson, who rides the school bus every day with Michael, witnessed Wednesday's attack.

"They were just biting him and dragging him and throwing him on the ground," Megan said. "He was trying to scream but he couldn't hardly scream because they were just pounding on him."

Terrified, she raced to her home screaming for help. Her home, like the home of the dogs' owner, is within a few houses of where the attack occurred.

Her father grabbed his shotgun and ran back to the bus stop.

"When I first got there I couldn't see anything but the dogs because they were on top of the boy," Trent Watson said.

The Rottweilers then began pulling at the boy, Watson said. He told the other children to leave the area and began shouting at the dogs to divert their attention from the boy.

"One came after me and I shot him," Watson said. "The next one jumped off, but then got back on the boy."

Watson said he guessed that each of the dogs weighed at least 60 pounds -- about as much as Michael.

He moved around to get a better shot at the other dog.

"He turned toward me, and I wounded him in the leg," Watson said.

One of the dogs returned to its home while the other ran away. The animal was captured a few hours later in the same subdivision.

Megan said the dogs have acted friendly in the past, but now she wants them put to sleep.

"I have a little sister and she likes to go outside. We both like to go outside," Megan said. "It could be one of us."

Others agreed with her.

"That little boy is a family friend (of the owners)," said Tracey Vancantfort. "Look what happened to him."

Hedges, with Harris County Public Health and Environmental Services, said the Rottweilers now meet the two criteria to be declared legally dangerous -- the attack occurred outside their yard and it sent the victim to the hospital.

In a hearing before a justice of the peace, the dogs might be destroyed if the judge deems them a threat to the public safety.

However, the judge could allow the owner to keep the animals, providing she can meet an extensive series of new regulations, Hedges said.

Owners of dangerous animals must maintain $100,000 in liability insurance and house the animal in a fenced-in enclosure with a concrete floor. The animals must be spayed or neutered and muzzled anytime they are off the property.

"What usually happens in these situations is the owners do not want the dogs back," Hedges said.

Neighbors said they have at times seen the Rottweilers roaming the area. Vancantfort let the animals stay in her garage Sunday night because of the cold weather.

"We brought those two in and we pulled out a 25-pound bag of dog food, and they were just starving to death," Vancantfort said. "We felt sorry for them."

Vancantfort didn't call animal control and now regrets giving the dogs back to their owner.

"We were just trying to be good neighbors. Now we feel kind of bad," she said.


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