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When dog bit, she had to bite back to escape

A 20-year-old in Tampa is in good condition Friday after a tangle with a Rottweiler named Roscoe lands her in surgery.

Published September 16, 2006

[Times photo: Justin Cook]
"I could see veins and bone in my arm," Danielle Nelson, 20, said while recovering at her home in Tampa from deep bite wounds from a 100-pound Rottweiler.

TAMPA- Danielle Nelson stepped out of her Hyundai and opened the gate to the high wooden fence.

The 20-year-old had come to pick up her friend Shamika Dorsey, who lived in a tiny blue house in the back yard.

Appliances and playthings cluttered the ground: a Playskool playhouse, a trampoline, a skateboard.

Watching over it all was Roscoe, a huge Rottweiler on a chain.

What happened next would send Nelson to the hospital for surgery. She gave emergency workers the following account:

The dog charged. The chain broke.

Nelson scrambled onto the playhouse, but the dog lunged, sinking its fangs into her arm and pulling her down. The animal lost its grip, but found it again as Nelson tried to run back to the gate.

With the Rottweiler's jaws clamped onto her arm, Nelson fought her way to Dorsey's door.

Shamika's mother, Linda, opened it just enough for Nelson to enter, then slammed it on the animal's head. The dog hung on.

In desperation, Nelson turned and bit the dog. With that, it let her go and Dorsey slammed the door shut.

Fire rescue crews arrived, and reached over the fence with a pole and hook, trying to snag the dog's collar, but it didn't work. Then Animal Services officers showed up and captured the dog, allowing paramedics to enter the yard.

They found Nelson in the bathroom with deep bites on her arms and legs, according to spokesman Bill Wade. In addition, Linda Dorsey, 52, complained that she wasn't feeling well after the panic of the attack.

Both were rushed to St. Joseph's Hospital.

By 9 p.m. Nelson was out of the operating room and in good condition. Dorsey received a medical evaluation, authorities said. No information about her condition was available.

Dennis McCullough, field operations manager for the Hillsborough County Department of Animal Services, said he had received no prior complaints about the dog, but neighbors say the animal had been a problem before.

Animal Services is investigating the incident and will decide whether to bring charges, according to Wade.

The house, at 1511 E 27th Ave., is in a neighborhood where fenced yards and barking dogs are commonplace.

Beverly Brown, who lives across the street from the house, said she was watching her daughter, Susie Blunt, walk toward Orange Grove Middle School a block away about 5 a.m. earlier this year. Blunt is a bus driver for the school.

As Brown turned to go in, she heard a growl.

Turning her head, she recognized the dog in the darkness and took a few careful steps toward the house before bolting inside and slamming the door.

"That dog's like a baby bear, he's so big," Brown said.

The dog is owned by Dorsey's landlord, Robert B. Garrett.

While Brown didn't call Animal Control, her daughter, Anastasia Williams, said she reported the incident to Garrett's son. Garrett reportedly chained the dog back up and fixed the broken gate.

A woman who answered the telephone at Garrett's house identified herself as his wife, but would not give her name. She said the family hopes Nelson is all right, and described the incident as an accident.

The Rottweiler weighed about 100 pounds, McCullough said. The owners turned the dog over to authorities, and it was euthanized.

"An animal like that, I wouldn't want to take a chance of my staff getting hurt," McCullough said.

Under state law, an animal involved in a vicious attack can be put to death, he said.

The dog was kept outside at all times, which meant it had very little contact with people. It's not unusual for a large dog who is kept on a chain to become fiercely territorial, McCullough said.

"Anyone who enters that spot is in a kill zone and the chain just happened to break," he said. The victim was lucky to be alive, he said.

[Last modified September 16, 2006, 10:43:53]

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