Pit Bull Bloodies Animal Control Officer : Hand, Chest Bitten in Effort to Investigate Injuries to Neighbor, Child

Times Staff Writers

A pit bull raced out of a duplex in Glassell Park and attacked a city animal control officer Monday, savaging her hand in its jaw as she approached to investigate an incident in which two people were badly bitten, officials said.

The officer, Florence Crowell, 33, was able to get away from the dog with the help of its owner. But the dog attacked again, biting Crowell’s chest before the officer was able to call for help.

Neighbors called paramedics, who took Crowell to Glendale Memorial Hospital, where officials said she was being treated for wounds on both hands, wrists and chest.


Meanwhile, other animal control officers arrived, and the dog’s owner, Joy Hauser, assisted them in subduing the pit bull and placing it in the truck’s cage, said Michael E. Burns, Los Angeles animal control district supervisor.

The dog, Benjamin, which Hauser also calls Baby, was sedated and impounded at the Animal Control Center downtown, pending completion of the investigation.

‘Seek a Death Warrant’

“We will seek a death warrant against the dog and may file felony charges against the owner,” Burns said.

Officials said the dog had been impounded once before in late 1985 or early 1986 after attacking someone, but no charges were filed because of insufficient evidence.

Burns noted that there have been a rash of reports of pit bull attacks across the country in recent months, including a recent death in Northern California, and some people have called for banning the popular breed.

He also noted that the Los Angeles City Council is considering a tougher animal ordinance which would allow officers to impound dogs that are confined to property if they are considered a threat to public health and safety. Under current law, dogs must be running loose before officers can pick them up.

City Councilman Hal Bernson, author of the pending ordinance, called the attack on Crowell quite shocking and said he would ask the city attorney “to prosecute to the fullest extent of the law.”

Crowell was at the duplex to investigate an incident that occurred Sunday evening. Juan Volpe, his wife and young daughter, who live in the rear unit, had returned home about 10 p.m. when, according to Volpe, the dog rushed out and attacked the girl, biting her leg.

Volpe told reporters that he hoisted his daughter, Brisa, 7, on top of the car and tried to fend the animal off but that he was bitten on his right hand, right forearm, right leg and face before Hauser pulled the animal away.

Volpe and his daughter were treated at a local hospital and released.

Hauser, who lives alone with the dog, said Monday that the 5-year-old pit bull attacked only because it thought she was being threatened.

“He only wanted to protect me,” she said, weeping. “Now they want to kill my baby for that.

“Benjamin thought they were coming after me. He didn’t know what all the noise was about. It was dark outside, and he couldn’t see that well.”

Hauser and neighbors, who declined to be identified, said Volpe knew the dog well and sometimes fed and played with it.

Other neighbors said that the pit bull had attacked other dogs in the neighborhood and that everyone was frightened of it.

Interviewed again late Monday, Hauser said she feared that authorities would show up to take the dog away after Sunday’s attack, so she had planned to hide the animal at a friend’s house. Crowell arrived just before 7:30 a.m.

“I did not sic Benjamin on her,” Hauser said. “She (the animal control officer) was standing at the edge of the driveway, crunched over and waving a stick. I told her that she better be careful because Benjamin would attack if she kept waving the stick.”

A KCBS film crew, which was at the house for a report on Sunday’s incident, videotaped the attack. The tape shows Hauser yelling at Crowell:

“Benjamin is coming out. So if you don’t want to get bitten, you better get out of here.”

The dog then burst out of the house and latched its jaws onto the officer’s hand.

“I agree this was a terrible thing, and I can’t tell you how sorry I am that this happened. But I’ve raised Benjamin since the day he was born,” Hauser said, pointing to a blanket she wrapped him in every night. “He’s all I have, and now they’re going to kill him.”