An Interview With Pit Bull Attack Victim, Former Burien Mayor Sally Nelson
On Monday morning (July 11), we had a chance to speak with former Burien Mayor and founding councilmember Sally Nelson, one of two victims of a pit bull attack last Thursday (read our extensive previous coverage here) in the 15800 block of Maplewild SW.
Sally lives next door to the dogs’ owners, and she was bitten on the back of her right leg around 1 p.m. on Thursday, July 7th. She told us that she has “eight bite marks” on the back side of her leg, just behind the knee.
In our interview, Sally shares what it was like being attacked by “two terrifying dogs” she knew from next door, as well as how a cloth bag full of mail may have prevented more serious injuries.
While the future of the now-found second pit bull “Bella” (recovered Sunday night and now in quarantine – read our previous coverage here) hinges on whether or not Sally presses charges (she told us she’s not planning to), Sally said “I don’t want any more pit bulls in my neighborhood.”
Sally also shares her concerns about Burien’s new CARES Animal Control – specifically about their lack of response to numerous phone calls, as well as recordings saying their voice mailbox was full.
“A neighbor told me he tried to call animal control about the loose put bulls all morning (Thursday July 7),” she said. “And he couldn’t reach anyone.” Burien CARES “is not giving adequate animal control and safety to the public in Burien,” she added.
Below is a full transcript of our interview:
Q: Tell us in detail what happened?
A: I had been downtown (Seattle) on Thursday, and when I came home at about 12:45pm and as I drove down Maplewild I saw police in front of my house and across the street and I wondered what had happened. So I pulled into my garage, came out and a guy from across the street told me what was going on – that “a woman with a child in a stroller had been attacked by two pit bulls that live next door to you.” He and another neighbor had come out after hearing screaming, and had driven the dogs off and called 911. So I wondered where the dogs were. Burien Police Officer Galusha came over and gave me an update, and told me what was going on. I knew the dogs, they had escaped before and I thought of them as very frightening dogs. The front door of the dog owner’s house was open. So I then decided to walk back up to my house. There are steps and a very dense hedge on the north side. When I got up to that area on my walkway, I could see the dogs, so I started walking more quickly. They ran over at me like 100 miles per hour, barking and nipping at me and I was terrified and I screamed and they bit me on the leg. The officer came up and I got in the house and looked at my wounds and my leg, and shortly after that he shot and killed one dog. I heard just one shot. The whole thing was just awful and terrifying. And what’s interesting about what happened to me is that I had a cloth bag with my mail in it when I walked up to my house, and I dropped it when the dogs started attacking me. A detective found that bag with blood on it and teeth marks from the dogs. And that bag probably saved me from bigger wounds. So that turned out to be a safeguard from a more serious injury. Medics came and looked at my wound, wrapped it up and told me to get a tetanus shot from my doctor. My Doctor looked at it, told me to keep it clean, and it’s now black and blue but it’s healing. There are eight teeth marks on the back of my right leg behind my knee. I’m not sure which dog bit me, or if it was both – it was like it was all in slow motion, it was really terrifying – these dogs are big and powerful, like hunters.
Another neighbor called Animal Control and never got any response – he told me he called them five times, because these dogs had been out for a while by the time I got home.
Q: What was going through your mind when it happened?
A: It was like everything was in slow-motion – it was terrifying.
Q: Have you ever been bitten by a pit bull or other dog before?
A: Never, and I’m a dog lover. I’ve had dogs all my life.
Q: Were these dogs known to you?
A: They were known to me because they belong to my neighbors, and I can see the back door of the house that they rent. I had seen them before, pawing at the doors trying to get out. That’s when I first called, but I never got a call back. Renters have lived there since April or maybe longer. They have two little kids. They came over and apologized to me this weekend, and told me the pit bull was a rescue dog. I said “a pit bull that’s a rescue dog should be put down.”
Q: The future of the found pit bull hinges on whether you plan on pressing charges. Are you planning on doing that?
A: No, I am not going to press charges. But I’ll tell you, if I hadn’t had been carrying that cloth bag full of mail, I would definitely press charges. My leg is recovering fine so I’m not going to do anything.
But I’ll tell you this – I don’t want any more pit bulls in my neighborhood.
According to one of my neighbors, the dogs have escaped before by ripping the back door down. I wasn’t here at the time though so I’m not sure. I called the landlord and told him it was unacceptable to have dogs running in the neighborhood. He basically said “see ya, bye…we’ll take care of it.”
I would hope that the landlords would decide to have “no more animals in that house.” It makes me feel bad, because these were pets to their kids, but with the history of pit bulls being mistreated something should be done.
I don’t know if the city has a policy of putting animals down. And what’s their policy on animal control, what’s their policy? Who’s really manning the store? It’s got to be that someone’s answering the phones, because when citizens call and get a recording that the voice mailbox is full that’s unacceptable.
Q: What’s your stand on pit bulls – should they be banned in Burien?
I don’t know. From my own personal experience I’d say ‘Yes’ because you’re totally vulnerable, it’s terrifying to be attacked. But what we need is responsible pet owners. People should understand that their dog may be dangerous and they need to be educated about their dog’s potential viciousness.
Q: What are you thoughts on CARES, Burien’s new Animal Control Group?
A: I have concerns about their ability to be reached, as well as their ability to respond. A neighbor had trouble finding their phone number, and was told by someone to call Five Corners Veterinary Clinic. Five Corners then told her to call the new animal control; she called, left a message and never heard back from them. I called city hall about this and a woman there said that they were still “in training.” Then I heard someone else tried to call and got a “this mailbox is full” recording. This is not giving adequate animal control and safety to the public in Burien. The city opted out of King County Animal Control because of costs, and decided to create its own animal control unit. Far as I know, Burien was the only city that opted out of an opportunity to negotiate a new contract with the county like other cities did. Other cities made new deals with the county, but not Burien.
CARES, Burien’s new Animal Control, is open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. They can be found online here, or reached via telephone here: (206) 81-CARES (206-812-2737).
And if you haven’t taken it yet, please vote in our Poll below (NOTE: this survey is our own; far as we know, the City of Burien is NOT considering banning pit bulls):