Valley woman looks for answers after dog attack

Posted at 8:31 PM, Jun 23, 2016
and last updated 2016-06-23 23:32:21-04

A walk to the mailbox ended in heartbreak for one Valley woman.

Mary Heland says in December 2015, she put her dog Mac on a leash, and walked across the street to pick up the mail.

"I put my key in mail box here and I turned to my right. For some reason and two pit pulls were charging us," she says.

Mary tried picking up her 8 pound Chihuahua mix. She says one of the pitbulls bit her arm and she dropped him.

What happened next still haunts her.

"It was just brutal what these dogs did to him. One of them had him by the head and the other one had him by the bottom. They were twisting and turning him and pulling him," she recalls.

Eventually, she says a neighbor heard her screams and used large boulders to scare them off. 

The attacking dogs eventually returned and were taken in Maricopa County Animal Care and Control (MCACC). Mary was taken to the hospital for her injuries. So was Mac. He didn't make it.

"Oh I was just devastated," she says.

The other dogs were in quarantine for 10 days as required by state law.

Mary received a letter from MCACC saying the dogs didn't have any signs of rabies and that her case was closed.  

Still grieving the loss of her dog, healing from her own injuries and stuck with thousands in veterinarian and hospital bills--the case was still very much open for Mary.

"If for no other reason than to help people in the future avoid these kinds of situations," she says.

She wanted to know what happened. Why were these dogs loose? Who would be held accountable for what happened to her and her dog?

Finding out wouldn't be easy.

State law says dog owners can be held liable for damage their animal causes.

Filing a vicious animal petition in Maricopa County Justice Court or through the city, is a piece of that process.  

The petition asks a judge for a hearing to deem the animals vicious.

But to file, she needed to know who owns the dogs.

"Animal control told me to go to the court system where you would file a complaint," she says. "I took it to the court and they were like 'what do you want us to do with this?'  They (the courts) said go to the police department--which I had already been there."

Mary says the police referred her back to the courts.

"I'm telling them I don't know who the people are and nobody will tell me," she says. "I was just getting more frustrated and angry and no closure whatsoever on the situation."

Mary received a bite report from MCACC. It included pictures of the dog, their names, even the owners names. But it blacked out their address and phone number.

"They say we can't give you that information," she says. "It's against our policy or law to do something like that due to people's privacy."

So if they can't give that information to victims, then who can?

We called MCACC to find out.

The agency sent over a statement saying in part they  "only provide the name - no phone number or address - in a dog bite case. If the victim gets a subpoena, than (sic) we release the entire report with all information un-redacted."

They say police can get the unredacted information too.

Mary says no one told her that and she thinks it's unfair.

Oh my God it's so frustrating," she says.  "I can't tell you how many nights Ive laid in bed and said how am I ever gonna get this done?"

After we contacted them, MCACC agreed to release the unredacted report to Mary. She tell me she plans to pick the documents up soon so she can finally start the process of getting closure.

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