Phoenix Dog Attack Leaves Elderly Woman in Critical Condition

An elderly woman was attacked by five dogs at Phoenix's Barrios Unidos Park park early yesterday morning, police say.

The woman remains in extremely critical condition at a nearby hospital.

See also: -Number of Arizonans Hospitalized for Dog Bites Has Doubled Over Last Five Years

All five dogs were euthanized following the attack, according to Maricopa County Animal Care and Control spokeswoman Melissa Gable. Their bodies will be tested for rabies due to the vicious nature of the attack, she says.

The victim, identified as a 72-year-old woman, was collecting cans in the park when the dogs approached her unprovoked, Phoenix police spokesman James Holmes says.

A Good Samaritan driving near the park, located at East Mohave Street and South 14th Street, witnessed the attack and stopped his car to assist the woman, Holmes says. He was able to bat the dogs off of the victim while calling 911 at around 5:25 a.m. yesterday. When officers arrived, the woman had multiple, severe dog bites. She was taken to a nearby hospital where she underwent surgery, Holmes says. Police are "cautiously optimistic" that she will continue to recover from the attack.

At the park, the oldest of the dogs moved as if to attack the approaching officers, and one officer fired a round, striking the dog in its mouth, Holmes says. The four other dogs were all less than one year old, police say. Two were young puppies. Though police initially said the main dog involved in the attack was a pit bull and bullmastiff mix, Animal Care and Control now reports that all five dogs were rottweiler mixes.

The attacking dog survived the gunshot wound and ran with the other dogs to a home on 12th Street. By following the animals there, officers were able to identify their owner, Sonya Lopez. Police believe that the animals escaped through a hole in Lopez's fence, Holmes says.

Lopez surrendered her dogs and asked that they be euthanized, Gable says. Animal Care and Control had no prior complaints on Lopez's household, though none of the five dogs were properly registered. In Maricopa County, all dogs over three months old must be licensed in a process that requires proof of current rabies vaccinations, Gable says. Animals are only tested for rabies in special circumstances. The nature of this attack coupled with the possibility that the dogs were not properly vaccinated led Animal Care and Control to move forward with testing in this case. Test results are not expected until early next week.

Though one dog seemed primarily involved in the attack, police officers report that all five dogs were seen circling the victim when they arrived at the scene.

Lopez was given 10 citations--two for each of her five animals--as a result of the attack. She was cited for failure to register each dog, Gable says, though these citations could be dropped since the dogs have been euthanized. She also received a "dog at large" citation for each animal. Such citations can carry up to a $2,500 fine per animal, Gable says. Animal owners can also be held liable for a victim's medical bills if injuries occur while dogs are at large, Gable says.

Lopez is scheduled for arraignment at the Phoenix Municipal Court on July 30.
UPDATE 1:55 p.m.: This is new. The five dogs involved in the attack last week tested negative for rabies, Maricopa County Animal Care and Control reports.

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Ashley Cusick
Contact: Ashley Cusick