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Sonoma County investigating attack by pit bulls on Graton trail that killed dog, injured owner

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Sonoma County authorities are investigating an attack by two pit bulls on a woman and her dog, which died in the mauling, on a public trail in Graton.

The attack occurred Sunday afternoon on the West County Regional Trail and resulted in the violent death of a 12-pound Jack Russell terrier-pug mix called Lucy.

Jordan Simmons, 28, of Occidental said two pit bulls running loose on the trail began circling her and a friend and their two small dogs as they were out for a walk.

Although the unknown dogs initially seemed friendly, the animals became more and more menacing and began nipping at them.

Simmons said she picked up Lucy, her dog of seven years, in an attempt to protect it from the other dogs. But they were relentless, and began jumping up and biting at them.

“They started nipping at my body which I felt was a warning to give them the dog,” Simmons said. “I was terrified. They ended up ripping her out of my arms.”

The two pit bulls, one a copper-colored dog with dark stripes and the other black with some white on its head, mauled Simmons’ dog and then ran away, according to Simmons.

Lucy was killed in the attack, her body ripped apart.

Simmons’ hands and a leg were covered in cuts and bruises from the assault.

She had been screaming for help during the attack, and several people in the area heard her cries and called authorities. At least one other pedestrian on the trail witnessed the mauling.

A Sonoma County sheriff’s deputy and animal control officer responded to the scene.

They found the dogs nearby, according to Simmons.

Rohish Lal, a spokesman for the county’s Animal Services division, confirmed they took two pit bulls into custody and are investigating the incident. He declined to provide any additional details about what happened and said he didn’t know if the county had identified the dogs’ owner or owners.

When a dog or another animal attacks and wounds a person, they are typically taken into custody while the incident is investigated, according to Lal.

Such a dog could eventually be categorized as a dangerous or vicious animal.

An animal is considered dangerous if its behavior constitutes a danger to persons or property; it is deemed vicious if the animal, unprovoked and in an aggressive manner, inflicts severe injury on or kills a person.

An animal designated by the county or a judge as dangerous may be kept by owners with certain restrictions, such as putting the animal indoors, or on a leash no longer than 6 feet while in public. A vicious animal designation can lead to euthanasia or a more stringent set of conditions, such as requiring the owner to obtain liability insurance.

Lal said dog owners have the option of voluntarily deeming the animals dangerous or vicious. Some cases also can be decided by a Sonoma County Superior Court judge.

The attack has been traumatic for Simmons and her friend. Simmons is grieving the death of her dog and lamenting she no longer feels safe on a trail she’s enjoyed since she was a child.

“People need to be responsible dog owners,” Simmons said. “I don’t want to say this is a breed issue, but it’s about knowing what kind of dog you’re getting and making sure you can take care of and train this animal. This was a complete act of negligence and it shouldn’t have happened.”

You can reach Staff Writer Julie Johnson at 707-521-5220 or julie.johnson@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @jjpressdem.

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