PINETOP-LAKESIDE — On Sunday, Sept. 19, three loose pit bulls mauled a Lhasa Opso and bit its two owners along the walking trail at Woodland Park.
The 8-pound dog, Snickers, sustained massive injuries and nearly died. The pit bulls also bit the little dog’s owners, Candy Masone, 68 and Marco Masone, 65 and who were visiting from the Tuscon area.
During a telephonic interview with the Independent on Tuesday, Candy Masone detailed the horrific event; a public records request to the Pintop-Lakeside Police Department was filed shortly before press time and it’s not unusual for processing to take a few days. This story will be updated as the details, as the police recorded them to be, become available.
Candy describes walking the leashed Snickers just past the covered bridge in the park, ready to take the path uphill when she noticed three big dogs with people down by the water’s edge. The people were allegedly out of town visitors. One dog was loose, and the other two were on leashes, but pulled away from their masters and “bolted” towards the Masones, she said. She described a “nightmare” attack by the “most vicious pit bulls” that she had ever seen as the dogs set upon the couple and Snickers. Candy grabbed the unleashed beast by the collar to stop the animal from chewing on the little dog, but its large head slipped through the collar and the attack continued.
In the end, Snickers sustained a fractured pelvis in six places, a dislocated hip, and eye injury and lacerations so severe they had to be stapled shut. The dog was in “extreme shock,” Candy said, and was taken to an emergency vet in Show Low, treated with medicine and kept overnight. Its hip ball was sawed off and wrapped with ligaments. The Masones have to monitor Snickers “24/7,” Candy explained and she herself is still so traumatized that she can’t sleep.
Typically in dog bite cases, the animal is impounded so that it can be examined for rabies. Rabies is an incurable disease, but if caught early enough, it can be prevented. The PTLS Town Code says that if an unvaccinated dog bites anyone, it must be quarantined for 10 days at the Town’s animal shelter, the county pound or a veterinary hospital.
According to Candy, that didn’t happen. It is possible that the pit bulls’ owner said that the dogs were vaccinated in which case the code says that the animal “may be” confined and quarantined at the owner’s home. In this incident, Candy says that an animal control officer identified as Chelsea Hass released the animals back to their owners and the Masones were advised to get tetanus shots right away, which they did. Later, Candy and Marcos was treated for puncture wounds caused by the pit bulls.
Following a dog bite, another procedure sometimes takes place.
A vicious dog may be put down after a hearing in the Town’s Magistrate’s Court. Because the identity of the owner is not yet known, there is no way to track whether anyone started that process. Candy said that Hass reportedly concluded that because the pit bulls attacked another dog, such an evaluation was not needed.
After the attack, PTLS police officer responded to the park. Candy said that the officer took the pit bull owner’s version of the story first who allegedly reported that Candy had attacked them with her walking stick thus causing their dogs to attack the Masones and Snickers. The officer’s interrogation of Candy focused on that and she said that the officer told her that it was foolish of her to try to break up a dog fight which was the action that caused her injuries. As stated, the view of the PTLS police has yet be shared with the public.
It might be noted that under a state statute in Arizona, (ARS 11-1025) dog bite cases are ones of “strict liability.” That means that if a dog bites a person in a public place, the owner is responsible, period. If the case goes to court, the injured party doesn’t have to prove that the owner was negligent, the law already established that. The only issue is the amount of damages the injured party is entitled to.
Meantime, the vet bill is around $7,500 and may go as high as $15,000, an amount that Candy says most people don’t have sitting around. The Masones have consulted a lawyer about recovering damages. They have been told that if the pit bull owner has homeowner’s insurance, that may be a source of recovery for the Masones, but some insurance companies do not offer coverage for injuries caused by pit bulls or rottweilers, she said.
Finally, the Town Code prohibits dogs at large and requires them to be leashed in public. The Code requires that the owner or custodian of an animal “shall exercise proper care and control...to prevent the animal from damaging the person or property of others,” according to section 6.04.11 of the code. PTLS police told the Masones that they have issued a citation to the pit bull owner but because the owner has yet to be identified, there are no details about the citation from court records, yet.
The Independent will update this story as it develops.