MARTINEZ, Calif. - A pit bull that previously bit a homeless man this summer, attacked a woman last week, following a failed attempt to designate the dog as a dangerous animal and impose restrictions.
The unprovoked dog attack happened in the woman’s own driveway along Saxon Street in Martinez, as she unloaded groceries Friday afternoon.
While she didn’t want to be identified, she told KTVU she’s been fearful of the neighbor’s pit bull that lunged at her once before.
"It did not bark. It did not growl," she said. "I just honed in on me and started coming at me. I was yelling, ‘Get your dog off me!’"
She said the nearly 100-pound animal could not be controlled by the owner and slipped out of its collar. It bit through her sweatshirt and clamped down on her arm before it tackled her to the ground.
The woman said her husband came to the rescue by threatening the dog and scaring it away.
The incident report describes puncture wounds, bite marks and bruising. She was sent to the hospital and said she’s now on antibiotics as the dog remains quarantined at Contra Costa Animal Services.
"I felt like the dog was trying to eat me," the woman said. "I blame the dog and the dog owners because they should control the dog if they know it’s aggressive.
It’s not the first time the 1-year-old pit bull named Spot has attacked, records show.
In late August, a homeless man suffered bites, scratches and a laceration after Spot got loose, prompting county animal services to investigate and designate the dog a "dangerous animal," under a county ordinance.
Animal services staff said while it responds to roughly 20 calls a day for aggressive dogs, most of the attacks and bites occur because owners put their pets in a bad position, typically by not securing them.
The dangerous animal ordinance states if an animal, when unprovoked, bites a person causing serious injury or kills someone behaving peacefully and lawfully, then it can be designated as a "dangerous animal." It does not mean the animal has to be euthanized.
Additionally, if an animal bites causing a minor injury, or has two incidents within three months involving unprovoked behavior requiring defensive action – it can be designated as a "potentially dangerous animal."
Data shows countywide, 100 animals have those designations, and they're living at home with their owners.
"I get that neighbors…or bite victims may not like that that dog has a second chance," Contra Costa County Animal Services Captain Jane Andreotti said. "The process is in place for people to go through it and see if they want to maintain the animal at their home."
That process requires home inspections, insurance, a paid permit and strict rules.
"For a potentially dangerous animal, it must have a muzzle, it must have a big, red, tag and there’s a posting on the door in the front of your home that says a potentially dangerous animal lives here," Andreotti said. "The onus is on the owner. The reality is you need to have effective control of your dog at all times."
For dogs designated as dangerous animals, a permit is required for life. They must always be secured and are not even allowed to go on walks or leave the owner’s property, unless there’s a medical emergency.
Spot's owner would have been required to follow those rules, however, documents show that dangerous animal designation was reversed in court.
A hearing officer believed the dog may have actually been provoked by the homeless man, causing the first reported attack. Spot was allowed to return home without restrictions.
The requirements never had to be met upon the hearing officer’s reversal in early October of the director of animal services' decision.
Weeks later, the woman was attacked and is recovering from her injuries.
"It makes me mad that the dog was let back, and it bit me," she said. "I’m lucky it was me and not one of the kids, my mom, or someone else in the neighborhood. I love dogs, but you have to have control of your pets."
Spot has been impounded and is serving a mandatory 10-day quarantine to look for signs of rabies, despite being vaccinated.
He has since been designated as a potentially dangerous animal.
The incident is under investigation.