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Cat owners want answers; say roaming dogs killed their pets in Santa Rosa

Two families are heartbroken after they say their cats were brutally killed on their own property in central Santa Rosa Friday by two free-roaming dogs.

Matt Malik and J. Mullineaux said that at about 5 p.m. they and a neighbor kicked and punched the two dogs, described as pit bull-mixes, after the dogs pushed through the couple’s gate and attacked their cat.

They said they tried to save Dale, a male with gray and white short hair and green eyes, but they could not get the dogs to let him go.

“We are pretty bruised up after trying to fight the dogs,” Mullineaux said. “The thing I can’t get out of my mind is the brutality of the attack.

“They were lightning fast,” Malik said later.

The couple said Saturday night that they are devastated by the attack and had been crying and hadn’t eaten since it happened.

According to the pet owners, the dogs were loose in the neighborhood for about two hours Friday.

First they attacked Bel, a male orange and white short-haired domestic tabby, chasing him from the driveway through the breezeway and into the backyard, said Alan Butler, a 26-year homeowner with his wife, Margaret, in the Grace Drive tract near the neighborhood Proctor Terrace.

“It was pretty awful and we were pretty helpless to stop them,” Butler said. “We were in my wife’s art studio and we were afraid to intervene because of the injuries we heard people have received from pit bulls. We watched them kill our cat and then they played with it,” Butler said. “They pretty much tore him apart.”

After the dogs left, he said he ran out to warn people who were out walking their dogs on Grace Drive, including his neighbor, a woman in her 90s, who was walking her “teeny, tiny dog,” he said.

Butler then saw the dogs chasing a donkey inside a fence, “but apparently he was too big for them,” he said.

After that the dogs continued to roam the neighborhood and then attacked Dale, according to the residents’ accounts. Neighbors had already called Sonoma County Animal Services, and an officer was on his way from Sonoma, Butler said.

Dale’s owners said they rushed him a veterinary hospital. The cat was still hanging on, but once at the hospital he “only lasted a minute,” Mullineaux said.

One resident of the area was able to capture the dogs in the backyard of another neighbor and delivered them to the Animal Services officer, Andy O’Brien, after he arrived, Malik said.

Bel, 13, was one of a pair of cats that the Butlers’ son, Elliot, had raised. The two were named for a band called Belle and Sebastian, Butler said. Elliot still lives in Santa Rosa and visits often.

Dale had been with Malik and Mullineaux for 15 years, and they brought him with them when they moved to Santa Rosa and into a 1951 vintage bungalow, which they restored.

“He was such a lovely cat,” Malik said. “People would come around and hope to see Dale. Just an approachable, sweet cat. Once you have an outdoor cat they don’t want to come back in. But at least we were able to get him in during the nights. This all happened just before we could get him in for the night. It was just a big tragedy.”

The name of the dogs’ owner was not immediately available and O’Brien did not immediately return a phone call or an email on Saturday evening.

O’Brien told the cat owners they could file a form declaring the dogs “dangerous animals,” which would result in the owner having to keep them inside and muzzled when walked on a leash, Butler said.

Many other residents in the neighborhood helped search for the dogs and came by to express their condolences, Malik said.

“We wouldn’t have been able to get through this without our neighbors,” he said.

Both families expressed concern if the dogs were allowed to stay in the neighborhood.

Malik and Mullineaux have already submitted a “dangerous animal” form and said they will be talking to their insurance agent about putting in a claim for the damage sustained to their house by the attack, and putting the blame on the dogs’ owner.

“We want to make sure this doesn’t happen to anyone else,” Malik said.

You can reach Staff Writer Kathleen Coates at kathleen.coates@pressdemocrat.com or 707-521-5209.

Kathleen Coates

Windsor and Cloverdale, The Press Democrat 

As someone who grew up in a small town, I enjoy covering what's happening in Windsor and Cloverdale, which are growing in their own unique ways.  I delve into issues by getting to know people and finding out what’s going on in the community. I also pay attention to animal welfare and other issues that affect Sonoma County.

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