Tuesday, March 25, 2008
Peter Strauss Injured In Pit Bull Attack
By Bret Bradigan
Ojai actor and citrus rancher Peter Strauss spent nearly half an hour in a dance of life and death with a raging pit bull.
Strauss survived. But the outcome was very much in doubt.
Interviewed Tuesday, his voice hoarse from shouting for help, Strauss was making a routine inspection of his orchards on Sunday at noon, when he saw the brown pit bull mix scrabbling against the boards that blocked him into the neighbor’s yard on Avenida Del Recreo.
“I could see him pull his head through, and thought, ‘My God, this dog is going come for me,’” Strauss said. The dog charged the 32-foot distance in seconds, but left the orchard owner — armed only with clipboard — plenty of time to imagine his peril. “He leapt at me, and I hit him with the clipboard, as I moved back toward a tree.”
The dog grabbed Strauss’ leg, furiously shaking his head and tearing and puncturing the calf. “I knew if I went down to the ground, I was dead. I thought, ‘I’m going to die on my own farm like this.’”
Strauss was able to grab a piece of wood to swing at the dog and fend him off. “I hit the dog as hard as I could, and it just wasn’t enough. I would hit him, and he would just shake his head.”
He broke off one chunk of wood on the dog’s head, but was able to pick up another piece, as the tense and brutal dance continued for 20 minutes. “He would either try to jump up, or go for my leg.”
Strauss alternated between shouting for help, and yelling at the dog to go home. Neither strategy brought results, though he later learned that his pleas were heard, and that people attempted to come to his rescue.
After the standoff, the dog eventually backed off, and Strauss was able to get to Soule Park and make the call for help. The Animal Control officer, Mark Wisma, arrived 25 minutes later and the pair went searching the Siete Robles neighborhood for the errant dog. “The dog flew out of a different corner of my property,” Strauss said. As the dog continued its vicious lunging and snarling, both Strauss and Wisma, he said, felt vulnerable. “I was terrified. The dog couldn’t be caught.”
The dog eventually ended back at its owner’s house on Avenida Del Recreo. Wisma ordered the owner to collar and leash the dog, which he did. Strauss described the dog’s owner as remorseful and cooperative.
Kathy Jenks, director of Ventura County Department of Animal Regulation, said the owner signed a release and the dog would be euthanized this morning. Its brain will be removed and sent to a lab to check for diseases, though it reportedly has had its rabies shots.
The dog, a neutered male adopted from a Los Angeles County Shelter, had no previous record of attacks, though Jenks reported that it bit someone else that day.
“Dogs like this don’t belong in this community,” Strauss said.
He found a card in his mailbox the next day from neighbors, who have their names as Dennis and David. They had heard his shouts for help, but were unable to pinpoint his location.
Strauss said he was ably treated and released from Ojai Valley Community Hospital’s emergency room with lots of stitches and a course of antibiotics. He said he was determined to keep an appointment to make a presentation to the Ojai City Council Tuesday night.