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Santa Rosa woman's face severely injured when she was attacked by American bulldog

A Santa Rosa woman settled a lawsuit Tuesday for $1 million for severe facial injuries suffered when a 90-pound American bulldog attacked her.

Wendy Rydberg will receive $900,000 and her husband and two children will receive about $33,000 each, an amount that equaled the upper limit of the dog owner's insurance policy and avoids a trial that was sure to be emotional.

The hearing, during which Judge Gary Nadler approved the children's settlement terms, was closed to the public because the minors' confidential financial details were being finalized, attorney Mark Clausen said.

"Oh-eight is going to be a good year," Rydberg said following the hearing as she, her husband, Alan, and their children left court. "I feel like an extreme pressure is gone, just a relief that this is over."

Rydberg was badly injured on April 6, 2006, when Denali, a dog owned by Emmellia Dale-Pincus, bit her face as she walked her own dog to pick up her children from a bus stop west of Santa Rosa.

Dale-Pincus, who was 19 at the time, initially was charged with a felony, as was her mother, who bought the dog for her. A judge reduced the charges to misdemeanors after a preliminary hearing and the case was dismissed against the mother when Dale-Pincus agreed to admit responsibility.

Dale-Pincus was sentenced in July to four months in jail, which she was allowed to serve on work furlough. The dog was killed by animal control officials.

Rydberg spent four days in the hospital and has had three surgeries to minimize the scars on her nose, cheek and lips. She said Tuesday she may need one more operation to lessen a scar on her nose and upper lip.

"I'm just glad it's over," she said, smiling with her children, Austin, 13, and Ashley, 11, nearby. "I thank God every day I have what I have. The kids are doing great. I have my vision. I got a promotion."

A teaching assistant when the attack occurred, Rydberg has since been promoted to a health technician at Jack London Elementary School.

She said her family's bonds have become stronger and tighter during the ordeal that began 22 months ago.

"I want to say thanks to everyone who supported us: friends, family, teachers, kids, the community," Rydberg said. "I feel like my case may have changed some of the animal laws."

Tougher animal control ordinances were adopted in most of Sonoma County in 2006 after dog attacks on Rydberg and others.

You can reach Staff Writer Lori A. Carter at 568-5312 or lori.carter@pressdemocrat.com.

Lori A. Carter

 Sonoma County courts and Rohnert Park, The Press Democrat

Local journalism is vital to a community's wellbeing, and that means keeping an eye on what happens in our justice system and our communities. I cover Sonoma County courts, as well as the city of Rohnert Park. In my work, I want to share the stories that affect our daily lives and, yes, maybe even rile us up. 

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