PALMDALE, Calif. (AP) – A pack of dogs remained under quarantine at a Mojave Desert shelter on Friday as investigators tried to determine whether they were involved in a mauling that killed a jogger.
By afternoon, Los Angeles County sheriff’s homicide investigators had not announced any DNA match between the six pit bulls seized Thursday and the four believed to have attacked the woman in the high desert neighborhood of Littlerock earlier in the day, Deputy Guillermina Saldana said.
The county coroner’s office identified her on Friday as Pamela Marie Devitt, 63, a local resident.
A woman in a car saw pit bulls attacking the runner in the area 65 miles northeast of Los Angeles. The driver called 911 and honked her horn to try to get the dogs to stop, sheriff’s Lt. John Corina said.
An arriving deputy saw a single dog still attacking the jogger and tried to chase it off, Corina said.
“The dog ran off into the desert, then turned around and attacked the deputy,” who took a shot at the animal before it ran off, Corina said.
The woman died in an ambulance on the way to a hospital, said Evelina Villa, spokeswoman for the county Department of Animal Care and Control.
Hours later, sheriff’s and animal control officials served a search warrant on a home near the site of the attack and took away eight dogs, six pit bulls and two mixed-breeds. A 29-year-old man from the house was arrested on suspicion of cultivating marijuana.
The owner was cited previously because one of the dogs had attacked a horse, Villa said. She did not immediately have details.
The dogs were being kept under quarantine for rabies observation at a Lancaster shelter, said Marcia Mayeda, the county’s animal control director.
“They’re fine now,” she said of their behavior. “They’re all separated so they’re not able to engage in a pack behavior, where they group up together and may act aggressively.”
Their strange surroundings also may have intimidated them, she said.
Mayeda said the animals, five females and three males, are all adults weighing between 40 and 70 pounds, with the biggest being an overweight female Australian shepherd mix. The other mixed-breed appears to be a Labrador-collie, she said.
Not all of the dogs are licensed, spayed or neutered as required by county and state law, she said.
The agency will seek to have any dogs involved in the attack destroyed, Mayeda said. The others will be licensed, spayed or neutered as required and three of them – the legal limit – will be returned to the owner while the rest will be placed for adoption if they are friendly, Mayeda said.
However, there still was a chance that the attacking animals were strays.
“In these areas, you might have a situation where people dump animals out in rural areas,” said John Mlynar, a spokesman for the nearby city of Palmdale.
People living near the site of the attack said stray dogs constantly roam the area and have attacked people before.
“It’s really scary,” Diane Huffman, of Littlerock, told KABC-TV. “I don’t know what to think. I really think I’m going to be getting a gun to protect myself.”
The jogger’s death was the latest of at least five deadly dog attacks in California in the past two years.
Last month, Claudia Gallardo, 38, of Stockton, was mauled to death by a pit bull in the front yard of a home where the dog lived.
In February, Elsie Grace, 91, of Hemet, was killed by a pair of pit bulls at a motel.
In June 2011, two pit bulls escaped from their yard and mauled a neighbor in her San Diego backyard. Emako Mendoza, 75, suffered arm and leg amputations before dying months later. The dog’s two owners were convicted of involuntary manslaughter.
In June 2012, an 8-month-old boy, Tyzhel Latella McWilliams, was mauled to death by a pit bull at a home in Lemon Grove, near San Diego.
Anyone who spots an aggressive dog, even behind a fence, can contact Los Angeles County animal control officers to investigate, Mayeda said.
If behavior problems are found, the owner will be cited for violations or encouraged to seek dog training.
“They’ll be put on notice that there are people concerned about their animals,” she said.