- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 12, 2001

Residents in the Brookland area of Northeast are furious that five pit bulls havent been removed from a neighborhood home after a D.C. woman was bitten for the second time in a year.
Whitney Watras, 55, said she was walking her own dog, a husky named Juno, and her neighbors chow, Cho-Cho, at about 9:30 a.m. Saturday in the alley behind her home when two pit bulls approached her through an open gate at 1617 Lawrence St. She said the dogs circled her dogs, each sniffing the others, when without warning one of the pit bulls attacked the chow.
"At that point, I wasnt all that scared, because I was trying to rescue the dog that was attacked," Miss Watras said.
She said she was trying to protect her husky while wrestling the pit bull for the chow when two more pit bulls charged out from the open gate. It was then she felt one of the dogs jaws clamp down on her lower leg.
"I knew there was nothing I could do," she said. "It seemed like forever before they came out and got their dogs."
By the time a young man did come out of the house, Miss Watras was bleeding heavily from deep cuts to her lower leg. Cho-Cho had one very bad bite and a lot of smaller puncture wounds. Juno was unharmed.
"I can say it was the most painful experience of my entire life," Miss Watras said. Neighbors called an ambulance, and she was transported to Providence Hospital.
Jackie Young, a neighbor, saw Miss Watras after the attack and described the wounds as "serious."
"Her sneaker was filled with blood," she said.
The incident followed a less-serious attack Miss Watras suffered while jogging in front of the same home a year ago. She said that in that case, her leg was only bruised, and the pit bull released her and fled. She said she watched the pit bull jump over the 4-foot fence back into the front yard of the house.
"What I find most discouraging is animal-controls response," she said. When she called the Washington Humane Society after returning from the hospital to check if the animals had been vaccinated, she said she was told they were not current on their shots, but not to worry about that because the attack didnt fit the profile of a rabid dog.
Then she found out the dogs had been quarantined, not impounded, because the animal-control officer sent to the scene couldnt determine which one had attacked her.
"They cant do anything because I cant identify which of the four dogs bit me," she said.
"How many people when confronted by four dogs are going to pay attention to what the dogs look like?"
According to neighbors, the house is the center of crime and drug activity on the street and they suspect the pit bulls are used as a "security system."
Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner Darcy Flynn said several concerned neighbors have contacted him about the house, saying it had "all the trappings of a house with drug activities and other crimes."
One resident is currently in prison for a 1998 robbery against a neighbor.
Mr. Flynn contacted an official at the Washington Humane Society, who told him privately yesterday that three animal-cruelty complaints had been lodged against the occupants of the house in 1998 and two more in 1999 and that the house had been investigated for a lack of veterinary care to the animals and mistreatment of animals mostly dogs fighting other dogs.
"I have a problem with [the animal-control officers] initial decision," he said. "She just wasnt armed with the facts."
Mr. Flynn said he was told by New York Avenue shelter manager Pam Chapman and the Health Departments animal-disease-control supervisor Peggy Keller that an animal-control officer would be sent back to the house with the consent of the owner to impound two of the dogs, because humane society records indicated that only two dogs had participated in the incident.
"I could be marginally satisfied if they were certain that only two dogs were in the alley," Mr. Flynn said.
Mrs. Chapman said she was "not in a position" to comment on the incident and referred inquiries to Mrs. Keller, who declined to comment.
Officials at the Washington Humane Society did not return phone calls.
Residents at the house chose not to comment, but did say that the incident "was not a dog attack."
But several neighbors complained the dogs make the community unsafe.
Miss Young speculated on the outcome of the incident if Miss Watras had been walking with her 12-year-old daughter instead of two dogs.
"A kid would have been dead," she said. "Are we going to wait for one of the kids to get killed?"

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