Woman hospitalized in 'unprovoked' attack by Santa Clara police K9
SANTA CLARA, Calif. - WARNING: The video may contain graphic images disturbing to some viewers. Viewer discretion is advised.
Melissa Silva was out for a walk with her small Pomeranian named "Chapo" over the weekend when she ventured onto a soccer field near Levi’s stadium.
The seemingly harmless move quickly turned violent when a Santa Clara police dog off its leash rushed her "out of nowhere," she said, and began a vicious attack.
"It’s surreal. It’s unreal," Silva, 42, told KTVU in an interview Monday after being released from the hospital following the episode. "I can’t believe the dog would just do that. He wasn’t commanded to attack. He just attacked and I don’t know why."
Silva was taken in an ambulance to Santa Clara Valley Medical Center with several puncture wounds to her left arm. She was released on Sunday and may need surgery and physical therapy.
The case is the latest recent controversial police dog bite KTVU has been documenting.
Earlier this year, KTVU published a 2-month-long investigation that found there are not statewide police dog standards on training or use in California.
What’s more, police K-9s that are trained to bite – not search dogs – are responsible for serious injuries to people accuse of non-violent crimes. In some cases, like Silva’s, they’re not accused of any crime at all.
In a statement to KTVU, a Santa Clara police spokesman said the soccer field – a public city park – was not open to the public at the time and the officer was doing an "off-leash training with his dog."
"While conducting off-leash training, a person and their dog unexpectedly entered the facility through the closed and latched gate," the statement said. "The police K-9 immediately ran towards the person and their dog. The person picked up her dog and struck the police K-9 in the head resulting in an unintentional bite to the person’s upper arm."
On its website, the City of Santa Clara said the youth soccer field where the incident happened is open from 6 a.m. until a half hour after sunset "unless otherwise noted at park entrance."
Officials said the dog and its handler have worked together for four years and have no history of unintentional bites.
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Silva said she’s still in shock from the episode.
She said she never saw the officer or K-9 before the attack.
Silva said she was trying to spare her own dog from a mauling by swinging it in the air by its leash when the police dog turned on her.
She said it took around 45 seconds for the officer to pry its dogs jaws off her arm as she bled profusely.
She reached out to KTVU after seeing earlier stories involving police dog attacks.
"Never in a million years did I think it would happen to me," she said, "especially just walking to the park on a Saturday afternoon."
Evan Sernoffsky is an investigative reporter for KTVU. Email Evan at Evan.Sernoffsky@foxtv.com and follow him on Twitter @evansernoffsky