9 On Your Side Investigation
Elderly woman seeks justice after pit bull mauling
Should the owner of the two dogs who attacked an elderly woman face felony charges?
Reporter: Tammy Vo
TUCSON (KGUN 9-TV) - In early March, Miriam Seymour, 89, went to check her mail. She came face-to-face with two neighborhood pit bulls that were chained together. They attacked. One month later, Seymour still cannot walk and has undergone several surgeries. She remains at a medical care facility going through two physical therapy sessions per day.
"She has some very graphic and horrid memories of it. There's a point in the attack when she blacked out because of the loss of blood" says her attorney, Ted Schmidt.
The owner of the two dogs, Marisabel Perales, has been cited by Animal Control for two misdemeanors: dog off leash and biting dog. Is it enough or just a slap on the wrist?
Fabian's Law was created by the Andrade couple in Glendale, after their poodle was killed by a roaming pit bull. The Andrades explained their frustration when the owners of the pit were slapped with a misdemeanor charge for the dog being off leash. Now the law says, in part, that if the dog's owner knows that the dog has a history of biting or could hurt someone without being provoked, they are guilty of a class 5 felony.
Did either of the dogs that attacked Seymour have a history? Yes, according to a mail carrier. Did their owner know about it? Yes, according to Animal Control records.
Rob Soler, spokesman for the postal service tells KGUN 9 that they take safety issues very seriously. About week before Seymour was attacked, Soler says that a mail carrier had an aggressive encounter with one of the dogs that attacked Seymour. The carrier identified the dog when he saw it on KGUN 9 after the attack.
"The pit bull came up, watched him for a while but when the carrier moved towards his vehicle the dog became aggressive. The carrier pulled out his pepper spray and the animal fled. Letter carriers are trained to identify aggressive behavior, so it was the typical behavior: ears down and showing their teeth. So, he knew the dog meant business" said Soler. The mail carrier's supervisor immediately called animal control to let them know. Records released by Animal Control show that they took a report and eventually contacted the dog's owner to give them a warning.
"What do you think in this case are reasonable charges?" asked Reporter Tammy Vo.
"Right now these are the only charges we can do" said Jeff Carver, Field Supervisor at Pima Animal Care Center. He added that the County Attorney's Office could pursue heftier charges.
So, KGUN 9 contacted them on Friday. A spokesperson told KGUN via email:
"I just spoke with the prosecutor, and was informed the case is still under investigation, so unfortunately we can't provide any additional information right now."
Could all of this justify a felony charge under Fabian's law?
"This is a case where the statute was violated and felony should be the penalty" said Schmidt. He says that Seymour wants prosecutors to pursue felony charges.
"She definitely wants the laws enforced and she wants action taken. God forbid it happen to somebody else... One would hope that the government would look at this and say, 'We have got to get the message across.' These folks (the dog's owner) didn't get it and a slap on the hand isn't going to be adequate" said Schmidt.
Perales, the dog's owner, is due in court in late April to face those misdemeanor charges. 9 On Your Side will stay on top of this story.
Meanwhile, Miriam Seymour was able to write a letter to those who have supported her saying:
"I genuinely appreciate this opportunity to tell everyone that I am recuperating. The medical care is superb. To all you who have called and sent cards and contributions and emails and prayers, my deepest appreciation. Your expressions of care and caring have helped enourmously".
"I would like to gather all of you into a great big hug but my arms aren't long enough. So instead, I send to each of you a hug from the heart".
- Miriam Seymour