By Bruce Landis, The Providence Journal
The first sign of trouble Monica Sorel saw was when the pit bull being walked about 100 feet away on Mount Pleasant Avenue broke free, dragging its leash and apparently chasing squirrels. "The next thing I knew, the dog was on us," she said, charging up her front steps to attack her diminutive Boston terrier, Pepper.
Sorel, 65, said she fought the pit bull and won, repelling three attacks by the dog and eventually holding it in a headlock until the police arrived.
"I came out on the wrong end of it," she said yesterday, but is certain that without her intervention, her dog would have been torn apart.
Pepper ended up with two sizable puncture wounds in her chest and another one in the left shoulder.
Sorel has two bandaged fingers, both bitten, one ripped open, where the attacking dog chomped down on her hand while she was prying its jaws open to release Pepper.
"It came at me three times," she said, each time apparently in pursuit of Pepper. Once, she grabbed the pit bull and threw it down the porch stairs. On the second attack, she said, she grabbed it by its jowls, putting herself face-to-face with it.
The third time, she said, it got past her. "It managed to get hold of Pepper. I had to pull its jaws apart." She said she locked her arm around the dog's neck and was bounced down the front steps still holding it, and hung on until the police arrived. Along with the bitten fingers, she said, she is sore from the trip down the front steps.
The attack was Thursday evening, and there are still scratches from the pit bull's nails in the paint on the porch floor -- and claw marks on the stone steps.
On Sunday, Sorel matter-of-factly attributed her skill at dog-handling, not to mention her courage and tenacity, to having been brought up with animals on a farm.
What will happen to the pit bull isn't clear. Under state law, a dog can be declared vicious for several reasons, among them unprovoked attacks on humans or domestic animals. Dogs declared vicious "shall" be confined in a locked enclosure that includes a six-foot fence.
Pit bulls are not a distinct breed, but rather a controversial group of related breeds that are strong and, sometimes, highly dangerous. There have been a series of well-publicized incidents involving such dogs, some trained for viciousness and dog-fighting, inflicting injuries and fatalities to humans.
Sorel said the police told her that there will be a hearing about the incident and that, depending on the results, the pit bull may be ordered confined or "put down." That's what Sorel thinks ought to happen. She said that she loves animals, and indeed said she knows of many pit bulls that are friendly and affectionate.
"There're a lot of pit bulls that are very well behaved," she said. "They can be wonderful animals."
But when a dog attacks a person or another animal, she said, it has crossed a critical line should be done away with.
She said nothing of the sort has ever happened in her tidy neighborhood, down Mount Pleasant Avenue from Rhode Island College and Mount Pleasant High School. As though to prove her point, during a conversation on her front steps a series of well-behaved dogs on leashes and their owners walked past.
The owner of the dog that attacked Sorel, said to be a triage nurse at Rhode Island Hospital, couldn't be reached Sunday. Someone else, a woman but not the owner, was walking the pit bull and lost control of it, Sorel said. She said she was disappointed that the owner didn't call her about the incident.
Sorel also she isn't taking Pepper out on the front porch anymore.
Update June 28, 2010 4:02pm - The following article is by Audrey Washington, Turn To 10:
Woman says she was attacked by pit bull
A Providence woman says she was attacked and injured by a pit bull on her front porch.
The dog's owner said her dog is usually well behaved and calm. But the victim's neighbor, who witnessed portions of the attack, said otherwise.
"All I remember hearing was, 'No, no, no. You're going to kill my dog. You're killing my dog,'" said Michelle Charest.
"She says that it came at Pepper three times or so," Charest said.
Charest said she called 911 while Sorel held the pit bull in a head lock.
"She ended up having her fingers ripped open from this. That's how hard it was to restrain the dog," Charest said.
But the pit bull's owner, Lauren Fontaine, said the behavior is completely unlike Frankie.
"He's never been aggressive with me in any way, shape or form," Fountain said. "He's been around young children. He has been around other dogs varying in size ... and there has never, ever been a problem."
Fontaine said her mother was walking Frankie when the pit bull mix began chasing a squirrel. She said Frankie then encountered Sorel and Pepper.
"I know it was a completely unwarranted attack, but if there was any barking he was still in his prey drive mode and would have, essentially, went after him," Fontaine said.
Frankie is being held at a shelter. Under Rhode Island law, if the dog is declared "vicious," Fontaine would have to keep in him a locked enclosure.
"He's not vicious by any means, and I know it was very hard for Mrs. Sorel. It's a very, very horrible thing to go through, and I wouldn't wish it on anyone," Fontaine said.
Sorel said she's not angry with Fontaine and that the attack is not reflective of all pit bulls as a whole.
Update June 28, 2010 7:46pm - The following article is by Bruce Landis, Providence Journal:
Panel will rule on fate of pit bull after attack
Frankie the pit bull could be in big trouble.
Frankie, who attacked a Boston terrier and its 65-year-old owner last week while they were sitting on their front porch on Mount Pleasant Avenue, is being quarantined at the city Animal Control Center to make sure he does not have rabies.
Providence Animal Control Director Dave Holden said that after the quarantine, there will be a hearing to determine whether Frankie is a vicious dog.
The hearing will amount to “a little trial,” Holden said, with the panel comprising three members — one city representative, often a police sergeant or lieutenant; a representative of the Rhode Island Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals; and a third member selected by the other two. The witnesses and participants in the incident will be able to present their cases.
If Frankie is found to be vicious, the possible penalties include permanent confinement, a whopping big insurance policy required of the owner, or euthanasia.
If the outcome includes mandatory insurance, it would have to cover at least $100,000 and could be much higher, Holden said. He said the premiums are likely to cost about $2,000 per year for $100,000 in coverage. Owners can appeal their dogs’ penalties to state District Court. Frankie’s owner, Lauren Fontaine, a nurse who lives on Chalkstone Avenue, declined to comment yesterday.
Among the criteria in state law for establishing viciousness is: “Any dog that bites, inflicts injury, assaults, or otherwise attacks a human being or domestic animal without provocation.” Holden said that the panel will have to hear all sides of the incident before making a decision.
Monica Sorel said Frankie charged three times up onto her front porch, where she was sitting with her small Boston terrier, Pepper. She said she grappled with the pit bull to keep it from killing her dog. In the process, the pit bull injured two of her fingers, one of them ripped open, when it bit her. Her dog also suffered several bite wounds.
Sorel said she used her hands to pry the pit bull’s jaws apart to save her dog, was dragged down her concrete front steps, and ultimately held the pit bull by the neck until the police arrived.
“Mrs. Sorel certainly put herself in peril” by tackling the pit bull, Holden said.
He added, though, that if she had not acted, “I’m pretty sure her dog would be dead.”
All dogs are supposed to be licensed, but Holden said, “We don‘t see that pit bull in our licensing system.”
Holden said that pit bulls are distinguished from other dogs by their intensity and persistence in repeatedly attacking other animals and by their strength. Also distinguishing pit bulls, he said, is that once their jaws are locked onto another animal or a human, unlike most dogs, they don’t let go. Then, they shake their victims, something that does much of the damage in a pit bull attack, he said.
A woman who was not the owner was walking the pit bull past Sorel’s house and lost control of it, apparently because it wanted to chase squirrels, Sorel said. Then, it fixed its attention on her small dog on the porch and attacked.
Update August 12, 2010 2:22pm - The following article is by Bruce Landis, The Providence Journal:
Frankie the pit bull determined to be vicious dog
Frankie, the pit bull who attacked a woman and her dog on her front porch in June, was declared a vicious dog Thursday.
Joseph Warzycha, the Rhode Island Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals official who chaired the hearing on the matter, said Frankie will have to be kept in a fenced enclosure when he's outside and be restrained with a leash and muzzle when he's off his owner's Chalkstone Avenue property.
The panel also ordered that his owner, Lauren Fontaine, buy $100,000 worth of insurance to cover damage the dog might do. That could cost from $2,000 to $2,500 per year, officials estimated.
Frankie attacked a Boston Terrier named Pepper, but Pepper's owner, Monica Sorel, 65, fought him off and held him in a headlock in her Mount Pleasant Avenue front yard until dog officers arrived. She was bitten severely on her right hand. She testified that she received several stitches at Rhode Island Hospital and is to visit a hand surgeon.
Sorel said she thinks that the hearing outcome was fair. However, she said, "I think eventually, Frankie is going to have to be put down."
Frankie was apparently chasing a squirrel on the evening of June 24 when his attention shifted to Pepper. He charged up Sorel's front steps to get the terrier, attacking three times before Sorel subdued him.