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His personal superhero saves him from pit bulls

She flew from a car to beat back the dogs, only to be attacked later.

By ABBIE VANSICKLE
Published January 25, 2007


Bandaged, bruised and sore, Dontae Vincent, 9, shows dressings covering wounds on his right leg after being attacked by pit bulls on Tuesday evening.
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[Times photo: Daniel Wallace]
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[Times photo: Daniel Wallace]
Angel Perez, 25, jumped out of her car and started fighting the dogs, spraying a bottle of mace to try to get the dogs off the boy. She was bitten on both legs and one dog took a large chunk of out of her right arm, requiring 20 stitches.

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[Times photo: Skip O'Rourke]
The four pit bulls that attacked Dontae Vincent and Angel Perez are in the custody of Hillsborough County Animal Services. If the owner signs them over to Animal Services they may be euthanized.

TAMPA - Dontae Vincent loves superheroes. The 9-year-old boy's red T-shirt sports Superman's symbol.

Now, he has a hero to call his own.

As the third-grader walked home Tuesday evening from the Boys & Girls Club, a pack of pit bullterriers chased after him, knocked him to the pavement and mauled his abdomen, legs and back.

Angel N. Perez, a petite 25-year-old club dancer, came driving past in rush-hour traffic. She saw the four marauding dogs hovering over the child and jumped out of her car.

Armed only with a can of mace and her fists, the 5-foot, 110-pound woman raced toward the knot of raging animals.

"This woman was truly an angel," said Animal Services spokeswoman Marti Ryan. "She was in the right place at the right time."

Not without cost. Before it was over, both Dontae and Perez suffered several bites. It took 20 stitches to sew up a nasty gash in Perez's right arm. The dogs bit her forearm, buttocks and legs. Bandages dot Dontae's back, right side and abdomen and legs.

Each day, Dontae walks home from basketball practice at the Boys and Girls Club on Gladys Street. Each day, he passes the house where the dogs lived on the way to his family's apartment at 208 E Columbus Drive.

And each day, the boy with the bright smile and love of superheroes crosses to the other side of the street to avoid those barking pit bulls. His mother told him to be careful of them.

Tuesday was no exception.

Dontae and his 12-year-old sister, Shaneka Vincent, were headed east on Euclid when a man opened the gate to let a car inside the chain link fence where the dogs lived, Dontae said. As the gate opened, the dogs barreled at the kids.

Dontae took off running, right into busy traffic on Florida Avenue. His sister followed, but the dogs didn't harm her, said Stephanie Lopez, 31, their mother.

At that moment, Perez and her boyfriend, Donell Howard, 40, were driving north on Florida near Columbus Drive.

Perez heard the boy screaming. Then, she saw the dogs.

She told Howard to stop.

Perez, mother of three including a 9-year-old boy, thought of her son, hoping someone would do the same if he were in trouble.

She ran to Dontae. Howard, too, got out, leaving the car in the middle of the street, he said.

Dontae remembers seeing Perez running to his side, spraying the dogs with a bottle of mace she kept on her key chain.

As Perez sprayed the dogs, Dontae kept running toward home. But he fell in the busy street and blacked out, his mother recalled. Howard scooped up the boy and took him to a nearby hardware store, where he asked Dontae's sister to go find the children's mother.

As Howard helped the kids, Perez followed the dogs, hoping to find their owner.

At first the dogs headed away from her, then they circled back, attacking.

When she ran out of mace, Perez beat them with her fists.

"I just kept swinging until they left," she said.

Plenty of people drove past, came out of their shops and stopped to watch, she said. She estimated 20 to 30 cars passed by during the fight. Only one other man stopped to help them.

"It's horrifying to just be viciously attacked by four pit bulls and no one helps you," she said. "I don't mind about me. No one helped that child."

Dontae's mother, a Head Start teacher's aide, arrived. When he saw her, he burst into tears. He was taken to St. Joseph's Hospital. As he watched cartoons, his mother anxiously waited for word on whether the dogs were diseased. Only two of the four dogs had proper shots.

Howard took Perez to Tampa General Hospital, where doctors stitched up her wounds.

Both Dontae and Perez were released Tuesday night.

Bobby Lee Stewart, the dogs' owner, was home at the time of the attack, according to a police.

He told police he heard screaming and went outside. That's when he noticed the dogs were missing. He said he thought one of the neighborhood kids had opened the gate and let them out.

Animal Services cited Stewart, 33, of 106 E Euclid Ave. with four counts of keeping vicious dogs and four counts of failure to secure the dogs, police said. Stewart also was charged with violating probation for carrying a concealed firearm, jail records show.

He is being held without bail. No one was available to comment at his home Tuesday afternoon. State records show this is Stewart's fifth arrest, including marijuana and narcotics possession, carrying a concealed weapon and fraud charges.

Animal services confiscated the dogs. If Stewart signs over the animals, they will likely be euthanized, Ryan said. The animals - three mature pit bulls and one juvenile - weigh 40 to 60 pounds, Ryan said.

Dontae's mom is still worried about rabies. Dontae is mainly worried about dogs.

When he closed his eyes to sleep Tuesday night, the dogs came at him again, he said. His screams woke his mother.

"I'm scared of dogs," Dontae said Wednesday, his voice quiet.

Perez says she will have her stitches out in a couple of weeks. She still loves pit bulls, always has. It's the dog's owner who raises the dog, who teaches them good or bad behavior, she said.

"They're my favorite dogs - this doesn't change anything," she said.

Animal services officials urge pit bull owners to teach dogs good behavior.

"This is a typical example of what we see in irresponsible pet ownership," Ryan said. "A pit bull is a very, very strong and potentially aggressive breed of dog."

Dontae will likely recover in a couple of weeks. His body ached Wednesday. The Superman shirt covered his wounds.

Times researcher John Martin contributed to this report. Abbie VanSickle can be reached at vansickle@sptimes.com or 813 226-3373.

[Last modified January 25, 2007, 01:18:33]


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