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Dog bites
Top 10 states with the most insurance claims relating to dog bites for 2012.
California – 451 claims worth $17.1 million
Illinois – 337 claims worth $9 million
Texas – 236 claims worth $4.3 million
Ohio – 235 claims worth $5 million
Pennsylvania – 165 claims worth $4.5 million
Michigan – 151 claims worth $2.7 million
Indiana – 148 claims worth $2.7 million
Florida – 123 claims worth $7.1 million
Georgia – 121 claims worth $3.3 million
New York – 116 claims worth $6.4 million
Source: State Farm
Breeds that bite
Top 10 breeds involved in the 709 local dog bite incidents reported to Animal Care & Control during 2012. Victims include humans and other animals.

Breed

Bites
Percentage
of bites
Pitbull 242 34.1
German shepherd 51 7.2
Labrador retriever 38 5.4
Unknown stray 36 5.1
Siberian husky 26 3.7
Boxer 25 3.5
Jack Russell terrier 21 3
Rottweiler 13 1.8
Mastiff 13 1.8
Beagle 12 1.2
Source: Fort Wayne Animal Care & Control
Michelle Davies | The Journal Gazette
Peggy Bender, with Animal Care & Control, stands in the KIND clubhouse, a program that teaches children how to deal with dogs.

Dog bites leave marks well after attack occurs

Courtesy photo
Angela Diamente and her boxer, Dulli, were attacked in November.

Some of it is impossible for her to forget.

The first time she saw the pitbull mastiff, bounding through the parking lot of the Shady Nook on Parnell Avenue, for instance.

The animal’s approach toward her, her daughter and her own beloved dog, a full-blooded boxer named Dulli.

The way the pitbull mastiff latched its jaws around Dulli’s neck. How the dog would not let go, despite the kicks and punches to its body.

Dulli’s scream.

“That’s the sound that’s hardest to get out of your head after a while,” says Angela Diamente, now seven months later.

The attack, which happened in November while Diamente was walking near the intersection of Parnell and Kenwood Avenue, left her bitten in the hands and her own dog nearly dead.

And she and her dog are still feeling the effects of the attack today.

Dog bites are not uncommon in Indiana.

A recent study by State Farm found that the Hoosier state ranked seventh in the nation for the number of insurance claims filed regarding dog bites in 2012.

The Centers for Disease and Control Prevention estimates that 4.7 million Americans, more than half of them children, are bitten annually by dogs.

U.S. Postal Service officials have also reported an increase in dog bites involving postal workers in the greater Indiana District, which includes Fort Wayne, though the city itself was hardly affected.

Locally, the number of dog bites – and animal bites in general – reported to the city’s Animal Care & Control has actually dropped in recent years.

And contrary to the national numbers, most of the human victims of dog bites in Fort Wayne are not children.

They’re adults.

“It’s one of those things where, if we can get the adults to listen, we’d be in pretty good shape,” said Peggy Bender, the community relations and education specialist for the city’s Animal Care & Control.

What’s with adults

Bender joined the department in 1985 with one main goal: Get into the schools.

She wanted local children to be taught how to deal with animals, especially strays or wild animals they might encounter.

They needed to know to be cautious around animals, and that all animals can bite.

“I wanted to get it looked at as seriously as crossing traffic and all those kind of things that children get taught in school,” Bender said.

“I wanted it looked at as common knowledge,” she added.

In the beginning, Bender made contacts with nine local teachers who would teach some of the materials she would give them.

Then it grew to 27 teachers.

Today, she said roughly 525 local teachers receive materials dealing with animals from her for them to go over with students.

Those materials are designed to teach safety, respect, empathy and compassion, said Bender, and for children to “look beyond themselves” when dealing with animals.

Children are taught to be cautious around dogs they don’t know, to ask permission to pet dogs that belong to someone else and to treat pets gently and with respect.

And going by the numbers, it might be keeping bites down.

While more than half of bite victims in the country are children, only 34 percent of the bite victims in Fort Wayne were 17 years old or younger during 2012.

Broken down further, only 24 percent were 11 years old or younger, according to Animal Care & Control statistics.

So, what is happening with the adults?

That’s hard to say, but Bender said some might get a little careless with animals, or be more likely to interact with a stray or wild animal in an attempt to be a good Samaritan.

She remembers a mother calling her once, saying that she found a little stray dog that she let sleep with her child in his bed.

No bite happened, but there was always the possibility.

“I think they feel to some degree it’s not going to happen to them,” Bender said of adults. “Sometimes people are just missing the thought process of erring on the side of caution.”

And then there are adults caught in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Like Diamente, who took her daughter and dog for a walk on a nice November afternoon only to end up on the ground of a bloody driveway.

She would become one of 367 adult animal bite victims in the city during 2012, which made up 66 percent of all city bite victims.

Later, her boyfriend would describe the aftermath as looking like a murder scene.

‘There was no collar’

The pitbull mastiff, luckily, did not go for Diamente’s daughter.

Instead, he quickly sank his teeth into Dulli’s neck and refused to let go, despite Diamente’s repeated attempts to hit the dog and drag him off.

“There was no collar, so I couldn’t grab anything,” she said.

Diamente then put her hands into the pitbull mastiff’s mouth, trying to pry his jaws off her dog. That’s when she suffered bite wounds to her hands.

But it did not get her dog free.

“It was a good thing her hands were in the dog’s mouth and prevented more damage (to her dog),” said Amy Jo Sites, the deputy director of Fort Wayne Animal Care & Control.

Eventually a neighbor boy came out and tried to pull Diamente’s dog free while she opened the pitbull matiff’s mouth.

Still, Dulli was trapped. Soon, he began to go limp.

“I thought he was dead, but I didn’t want the other dog to destroy him,” said Diamente, who continued to try to free her dog.

A woman called police.

Finally, the mastiff relinquished its hold on Dulli. Neighbors took the dog inside a home. Part of the boxer’s ear was missing and muscles had been torn out of his chest and neck.

But as they took the dog away, the mastiff still tried to get at it.

Diamente put all her weight on the dog, wrapping her arms and legs around its body. Her head right next to the dog’s snout, she kept her hair in front of her face to avoid eye contact.

The dog dragged her across gravel, causing more cuts. He finally stopped when Dulli was out of sight. That’s when he began panting while lying on the ground.

Fifteen minutes later, a Fort Wayne Police officer tapped her on the knee. He told her to hold on, they had to hogtie the dog.

“It was like we were spooning at that point,” she said.

Soon thereafter, Animal Care & Control investigators would trace the violent history of the mastiff, and the dog’s owner would end up in the court system.

Other attacks

It was impossible for Diamente to know the mastiff had just attacked and killed a cat in the neighborhood minutes before attacking her dog.

And it was also impossible to know the dog had a reputation for killing the chickens of multiple farmers in rural Allen County.

Named Rello, the mastiff had been given to a new owner just one week prior to his attack on Diamente and her dog.

According to Animal Care & Control officials, the previous owner had given no warnings about the dog’s violent nature before surrendering the dog.

“He transferred ownership not through us like he should have,” said Sites, the deputy director of Animal Care & Control.

‘Not how it works’

The new owner of Rello was cooperative with Animal Care & Control, officials said.

She came forward right away and admitted to being the dog’s owner as details of the attack hit the news, Sites said.

The dog had not been on a leash, did not have a collar and the owner was charged with possession of a dangerous animal.

She pleaded guilty and has been fined $500, though it’s unclear whether she’s paid the fine. The owner could not be reached for comment.

Bender, the education specialist for Animal Care & Control, said coming forward when a bite happens, even if you own the dog or animal, is the right thing to do.

Medical officials in Fort Wayne report all bites treated at their hospitals to Animal Care & Control, as well, to ensure that they do actually get reported.

It takes the pressure off of bite victims who may be afraid to report bites from a neighbor’s dog or even their own dog.

“What a lot of people are frightened of is if a dog bite happens, and it’s reported to us, there’s this misconception the dog will be taken away or even destroyed,” Bender said.

“That’s not how it works,” she added.

There might be fines – for instance, if the dog is running loose and attacks someone outside its yard – but the goal is to teach pet owners safer ways to keep their animals, Bender said.

Almost all bites result in an animal’s quarantine.

If the bite happens on a pet owner’s property, the pet can be quarantined there, with limited contact with other humans.

But if the bite happens outside a pet owner’s property, the animal must be quarantined at Animal Care & Control.

Still, the goal is to get people their animals back. At least, most of the time.

Lingering effects

Today, Dulli is for the most part happy, Diamente says.

He’s come a long way from the attack, which left him bleeding and lifeless on the floor of a living room, his tongue lolling out of his mouth.

It’s unbelievable sometimes that he lived through such damage, Diamente says.

He’s a little fatter now, maybe, but that’s because he has not been getting his twice-daily walks he had been getting before.

Diamente had not been up for walking until about a month ago, when she finally got up to courage to take her dog back outside.

“I walk with a knife now,” she says. “I’m going to get mace soon.”

This is what might get lost in these dog attacks: While the physical wounds can heal, the psychological effects linger. In this case, for both Diamente and her dog.

Dulli, who is turning 5, is more standoffish than he used to be. Diamente has to make sure he sits and calms him when kids approach wanting to pet him.

That didn’t use to happen.

Diamente herself is now scared of most dogs.

Just the other day, she said, she became so frightened when approached from behind by a 35-pound friendly dog that its owner profusely apologized after seeing the look on her face.

“It makes me angry that I’m scared when I do something that I love doing,” she said.

Diamente said she talked to the owner of Rello once on the phone.

She began discussing whether the owner would pay for her medical bills. The owner eventual hung up on her, Diamente said.

When she called back, she got the woman’s voice mail.

She’s filed a small-claims case against the woman and has a court date set for later next month. The woman has yet to respond to anything filed by her lawyer, Diamente said.

And as for Rello, he wasn’t a case where Animal Care & Control tried to get him back to his owner or find a new home.

His past had been too violent, once investigators began looking into the dog’s history.

He was euthanized shortly after the attack.

jeffwiehe@jg.net

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