4 Pit Bulls Kill Jogger: How Big A Problem Are Stray Dogs In The United States?

By iScienceTimes Staff on May 10, 2013 2:02 PM EDT

pit bull
Four pit bulls attacked a jogger in rural Los Angeles County on Wednesday. Police are searching for the dogs. (Photo: Creative Commons)

Four pit bulls killed a jogger in Los Angeles County on Thursday, police say.

Sheriff's lieutenant John Corina said that on Thursday morning, a woman in a car saw the pit bulls attack the 63-year-old female jogger in Littlerock, Calif., a desert town roughly 65 miles northeast of Los Angeles. The driver honked at the dogs and called 911. The jogger died in an ambulance en route to the hospital.

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"When the first deputy on scene saw one dog still attacking the woman, he tried to chase the dog away," Corina said. "The dog ran off into the desert, then turned around and attacked the deputy, the deputy fired a round at the dog and tried to kill the dog, and the dog took off into the desert."

Authorities are searching for the four pit bulls with the assistance of a helicopter, and have alerted residents to be on the lookout for four tan dogs.

Authorities searched a house near the site of the attack on Thursday, removing six pit bulls and two mixed breeds. They also arrested a 29-year-old man from the house, who is suspected of cultivating marijuana.

Littlerock residents said that stray dogs are common there, and that they've attacked people before.

"It's really scary," said Diane Huffman, a Littlerock resident. "I don't know what to think. I really think I'm going to be getting a gun to protect myself."

John Mlynar, a spokesman for nearby Palmdale, acknowledged that there are stray dogs in the area, but said that he'd never heard of a similar attack before.

The number of stray dogs in America isn't known; Salon pegs the number of stray dogs and cats combined at over 100 million, while the ASPCA says the number of stray cats alone numbers 70 million.

Some poor cities have seen alarming number of dogs living in their own human-free ghettos. Benoit Denizet-Lewis, a writer for the New York Times, told Salon that in East St. Louis, Mo., "You'd have these abandoned buildings in grassy areas, an urban prairie that's a perfect spot for these dogs. You have dogs who were born out there who have had almost no contact with humans at all. We'd see them roaming in packs in the distance."

In 2009, the city of Harrisburg, Penn., caused a stir when they decided to solve their stray dog problem by shooting them. Because of budget woes, police officers were asked not to bring strays to city shelters. Instead, they were either to adopt the dogs themselves, or, if they weren't so inclined, to simply shoot them and drop at a Department of Agriculture loading dock. After public outcry, the policy was rescinded. The reality, though, is that dogs brought to shelters don't face very good odds anyway. According to the American Humane Association, 64% of the animals brought to shelters were killed in 1997 (the last year a comprehensive statistics are available).

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 4.5 million people are bitten by dogs every year, with 885,000 requiring medical attention.

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