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Pit bull attack in Bingen puts four in hospital

Unexpected, savage attack

It was a savage, unexpected, and horrible attack: While waiting in her own driveway in Bingen for a ride to work last Friday, a male pit bull charged Rosario Rincon, knocked her down, and began biting her.

Rincon, 42, suffered serious bites to her face and her left arm, and the dog was continuing to attack.

It was about 5:30 a.m., and other family members were in the house, at 116 Alder Street in Bingen, getting ready for work.

Rosario's sister, Graciela Sanchez, heard the commotion and went out to see what was going on. When she saw the dog attacking her sister, she rushed to help.

The dog viciously turned on Graciela, 46.

"The dog charged and dropped her to the ground and bit her head," explained Cesar Sanchez, Graciela's son. "Graciela's finger almost got ripped off when she put her hand behind her head to try to protect herself."

Mayra Sanchez, daughter of Graciela, also went out when she heard the noise.

"We were all getting ready to go to work, and I heard barking and screaming. I never realized it was a dog biting people one by one as we went out," explained Mayra, who is 23.

Mayra shouted to alert the others in the house to call 9-1-1, then tried to help.

"I went out and saw my mom laying down, and a neighbor was holding the dog," Mayra recalled.

The dog is owned by Anna and Argentina Rangel, who live just up the street from the Sanchez residence, and Anna Rangel was trying to hold the dog back.

The agitated dog was too strong for Anna, however, and it kept breaking away from her.

"If the dog had a leash on him, the owner could have grabbed the leash. But there was nothing on his neck. She was trying to hold him back with her legs, but those are pretty strong dogs and you can't hold them back," said Cesar.

"I tried to help my mom up and bring her inside," Mayra said. "The dog charged me before I could get to the house. He got my face and back."

Silviano Sanchez, father of Mayra and husband of Graciela, had been in the basement when the dog began its vicious spree. When he realized what was going on, he rushed out and was also attacked.

"My dad came out and saw the dog on me and started kicking him," Mayra explained. "Dad kicked him a few times and the dog took off, but then he came back and jumped on my dad."

Because he didn't know what was happening until he went outside, Silviano, 57, didn't have an opportunity to grab anything to defend himself with. But he courageously put himself between the dog and his wounded family members in an effort to shield them.

"My first reaction was taking him off my daughter," Silviano said. "I had to face the dog or he'd jump on my back, too."

Silviano started struggling with the dog, and his hand was severely bitten.

At that point, Mariam Sanchez, Mayra's twin sister, hit the dog in the face with a potted plant. The dog ran off, and all the family members were able to get inside, but Silviano grabbed a knife from the kitchen and started to go back outside.

"There was a lot of anger built up in him, but other family members grabbed him because they were afraid he'd be attacked again," said Cesar. "I wish he'd torn that dog apart."

Cesar was at work when the attack occurred.

"I got a call at work that my mom and aunt were attacked by a dog," Cesar said. "I didn't realize how bad it was until I came back, and saw blood on the wall, blood on the steps."

Cesar has a chilling telephone call recording of the incident. One of his family members called him and then dropped the phone to help the others.

"I can hear the screams and shouts, and warnings that `he's charging again!'" said Cesar. "I heard the call and was really frustrated that I wasn't here to do anything about it."

In the aftermath of the attack, the four injured family members spent several hours at Skyline Hospital.

The dog's owner also came to the hospital.

"She felt really bad about what happened," Mayra said.

Rosario later had to be taken to a hospital in Hood River for skin grafts.

"Rosario had surgery -- they had to take tissue from her thigh to replaced ripped tissue on her lip," explained Cesar.

All the injuries were severe, with Graciela's and Rosario's wounds the worst.

Another Bingen resident, Bernadette Panko, said the pit bull had charged her earlier this year.

"We got attacked by the same dog a couple months ago," Panko explained. "My dog and my boyfriend and I were walking home. The dog attacked my dog, and attacked us when we tried to pull it off. My dog survived the attack, but needed stitches on his back. He was jerked around like a rag doll. We were pretty bloody and had to go to the hospital. My hand was swollen from dog bites."

"The dog was declared a potentially dangerous dog in April," said Officer Jim Andring of the Bingen-White Salmon Police Department.

Panko said the city should have acted then.

"The city didn't do anything about the dog," Panko said. "They should not have let that dog go back to the house after that. They quarantined it for 10 days, then let it go, but they shouldn't have."

Cesar pointed out that the pit bull was kept inside a fence that is only three and a half feet tall, and warned that he would take matters into his own hands if he had to.

"Common sense says a dog can jump that fence," he said. "Now there are four people disabled because of one pit bull. Hopefully he's put to sleep. If not, if he comes back here, the next day he'll be dead, and it won't be a pretty sight -- especially after he did this to my mother and sister and aunt and father."

"That fence is too short. Pit bulls can jump six or seven feet," said Hugo Gonzales, a friend of the Sanchez family. "It's a menace. The neighbors sometimes have four kids playing in the yard next door to the pit bull. What if it had been kids that were attacked? They should have taken the dog away."

Tom Fitzgibbons, Bingen's animal control officer, said the case was the most serious dog attack he has seen in his six years in the animal control business -- both in the number of people involved and the level of their injuries.

"This is the worst one I've had to deal with," Fitzgibbons said.

Cesar said the incident was inexcusable.

"I hope the county and City Hall of Bingen can do something about this, and especially about pit bulls. There are a lot of pit bulls in this town," he said.

Andring said Friday's attack was tragic for all concerned, including the owner.

"When something like this happens, it is too late. You can't take it back, and the damage has been done," Andring explained. "People must be responsible for their dogs. Both Bingen and White Salmon have ordinances in place that require dogs to be restrained -- and owners are required to do anything it takes to assure this. Dog owners should also keep in mind they are responsible for all damages done by their dog, and in this case, that could run tens of thousands of dollars."

Andring said the Rangels were cooperating with the investigation.

"The owners have authorized the destruction of the dog at the end of the quarantine period and will be responsible for those costs as well," Andring explained.

In cases of dog bites, the animals are quarantined for 10 days to assure there is no additional health risk to the victims.

Fitzgibbons said he appreciated that the pit bull's owners helped secure the dog when he came to quarantine the animal.

"The owner brought him out and loaded it onto my truck," Fitzgibbons said. "I was prepared to use my snare pole, but rassling that dog up there might not have been a good thing."

According to Andring, the case is still under investigation.

"The Bingen Prosecuting Attorney has been consulted, and it is likely the case will be forwarded to the Klickitat County Prosecutor with a request for felony charges on the dog's owners," Andring said.

Sandi Dickey, a member of the Bingen City Council, said Rosario was on her way to work at her family's business, Dickey Farms, when the attack took place.

Dickey visited the family at the hospital, and said she was horrified at the aftermath of the dog's attack.

"Until you see it for the first time, you have no idea how much power these dogs have -- to attack four people as badly as it did," Dickey said. "I went up to the hospital and was devastated by what I saw."

Mayra said she was disappointed with the attitude they encountered at Skyline.

"I asked the nurse if he could help Graciela first, because she was the one hurt the worst -- and he said he had to do the paperwork first," Mayra said. "They were bleeding and wounded, but he was going to do paperwork first."

"I understand procedures, but people were bleeding," added Gonzales. "There was blood everywhere."

Cesar said that in addition to the trauma and wounds, the family was going to take a financial hit as well.

"We work with our hands in the nurseries and fields. Now we can't work," he explained. "Now we're having to worry about lost income from four people. It's pretty messed up."

On Monday, Mayra said the family was beginning to recover from the terrible incident.

"We're better," Mayra said.

The owners of the dog could not be reached for comment.


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