That incident, in which a
41-year-old man's arm was bitten, was considered minor, Santa Clara County administrator Michele Ribardo said. Afterward, the dog's owner, identified Monday as Lourdes Martinez, was required only to license the dog Tazz, an unneutered, 70-pound, 4-yearold boxer-pit bull to avoid any penalties.
"The owner was given the warning about a potentially dangerous dog," Ribardo said. "Her dog could be deemed dangerous if something like this happened again."
But Monday, in the wake of the most recent attack, Tazz was euthanized. The girl whose lip and face were torn apart after her grandmother apparently saved her life was recovering from surgery. The dog's owner was left explaining to authorities how a family visit at her unincorporated San Jose home turned tragic.
Martinez told animal control officers investigating the incident that people were coming into and out of her house, a "granny unit" tucked behind a larger home on the 3800 block of Quimby Road.
After she fed Tazz about
7:30 p.m., Cinco, Martinez's sister, came in carrying Anna. When the door opened, Martinez told officials, Tazz growled protectively.
Tazz jumped up and bit Cinco on the arm. Martinez told authorities that Cinco then threw Anna onto a couch to get her away from Tazz, according to Greg Van Wassenhove, the county's director of animal care and control.
But Tazz followed the tossed child, attacking Anna on the couch.
Cinco jumped in to fight off the dog, San Jose fire Capt. Barry Stallard said. Martinez's son then pulled Tazz off the pair, Van Wassenhove said.
But before they tore Tazz away, he ripped away flesh from Anna's lip to her jawline, exposing her skeletal structure, Stallard said. Tazz also bit Cinco's ears, face and legs as she tried to separate the dog from her granddaughter.
Cinco moved to save her granddaughter. She attempted to drive herself and the girl to the hospital. But the injuries to both were too severe and Cinco pulled over at a shopping center on Tully Road near a Starbucks and called 9-1-1.
Paramedics, who rushed to the scene, saved a piece of the flesh around Anna's face.
Now she is recovering after a successful reconstructive surgery at the Buncke Clinic, a specialty facility. Stallard said Monday night.
Blanca Martinez, another of Cinco's sisters, lives in San Jose and said the toddler was stable and "in pretty good spirits." She declined to discuss details of the attack.
Cinco was treated and released late Sunday from Santa Clara Valley Medical Center.
And Tazz is dead, euthanized Monday morning after the dog's owner agreed to sign him over to the county.
Had Martinez not agreed to have the dog euthanized, the animal-control office would have likely declared the dog "potentially dangerous," Van Wassenhove said.
When dogs are labeled either "potentially dangerous" or "vicious," he said, there are several options in determining their fate. Owners can contest the designation, for starters, and request an administrative hearing. Last year's incident wasn't considered severe enough to classify the dog as "potentially dangerous," but it did prompt the warning.
If the owner loses that hearing, animal control authorities can order the dog euthanized, or they can allow it to live but require a double enclosure, an insurance bond of $50,000 or more, higher permit fees, signs to warn neighbors, or other precautions. The dog's fate usually hinges on the severity of the victim's wounds and history of attack, he said.
In one of the handful of serious dog attacks Van Wassenhove came across this year in unincorporated parts of Santa Clara County, he said, the dog owner did what Tazz's owner did, and requested euthanasia.
Dogs bite more than 4.7 million people a year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Each year, the CDC reports, 800,000 Americans seek medical attention for dog bites half of these are children. Of those injured, 386,000 require treatment in an emergency department and about a dozen die.
While the investigation into Sunday's attack is ongoing, Van Wassenhove said that in cases where dogs are present at family gatherings, small children sometimes are viewed as "threatening their territories."
"That is the most likely scenario," Van Wassenhove said. "We don't expect a 20-month-old child to provoke a dog."
MediaNews staff writers Deborah Lohse, Joshua Molina and Dana Hull contributed to this report. Contact Mark Gomez at 408-920-5869 or firstname.lastname@example.org.