By STEPHEN THOMPSON and NATALIE SHEPHERD
Published: September 19, 2009
Her arms were gnawed to the bone after she tried to break up a fight between her pit bull and one of her other dogs in the backyard.
As Patricia Thiel remained in critical condition Friday at Tampa General Hospital, a day after being mauled by the 100-pound dog at her St. Petersburg home, her boyfriend said she was concerned about their other dogs being held responsible for the devastating attack.
"It was just Jake," Robert Jacks, who lives with Thiel, said in an interview at the hospital, where she was taken for emergency vascular surgery. "You can't blame the other dogs."
Jacks said Thiel, a 39-year-old nurse, told him she had just arrived home on Bonita Way South when she decided to let their four dogs out into the backyard. Jake and another dog got into a fight, and when Thiel tried to break it up, Jake turned on her and began mauling her, he said.
"Jake ended up turning on Patty," said Jacks, 43. "He never did that before."
St. Petersburg police said a neighbor heard Thiel's cries and went looking for help. Neighbor Joseph Wharton was summoned to the scene by his daughter and grabbed his 9 mm handgun. He said he fired a shot into the ground, but that didn't stop the attack
Wharton then fired three shots at the dog. Two hit their mark, and the dog was killed.
The couple had three other dogs, two pit bull mixes and a Chow-shepherd mix, and they were taken into custody by Pinellas County Animal Services.
"I'm hoping to get them back," Jacks said, adding that so does Thiel. "That's the first thing she asked about
: 'Where are the other dogs?'"
Jacks said he and Thiel have been together 18 years, and Jake had been with them four to five years. Jacks works at a nearby country club, and Thiel is a nurse at All Children's Hospital.
Jacks said Wharton did the right thing by shooting the dog.
"I'm going to thank him when I see him for that. I'm glad that was done the way it was, to save her life. That's the most important thing."
He said Thiel had surgery to restore blood flow to her hands. He didn't know how much nerve damage she might have but said she has sensation in her fingers, which were very swollen, and can move her thumbs.
Animal Services director Welch Agnew said investigators are trying to determine whether any of the three dogs in custody were involved in the attack. If they were, they need to be quarantined to ensure they do not have rabies, he said. Also, a decision would have to be made as to whether they should be destroyed if they were involved in the attack.
Jake's body is also being tested for rabies.
"We are very hopeful we'll get those dogs back because I've had those dogs since they were puppies," Jacks said. "They don't deserve to be put down."