Pit bull at shelter mauls animal control officer Man has 2 operations since attack Friday

Anne Arundel

March 31, 1998|By Cheryl Lu-Lien Tan | Cheryl Lu-Lien Tan,SUN STAFF

An Anne Arundel animal control officer has undergone two operations since a pit bull named Apache mauled him Friday morning as he was cleaning its kennel in the Glen Burnie Animal Shelter, police said.

Tom Defibaugh, 45, of Severn, a 22-year veteran of Animal Control work, remained in satisfactory condition last night at Union Memorial Hospital after surgery to graft skin and muscle from his thighs onto his right arm. William Defibaugh, 21, said his father had emergency surgery Friday at the same hospital to reattach part of his left thumb, which the dog bit off.

Animal Control spokeswoman Tahira Williams said that as far as she knows, Friday's mauling was the "most severe and traumatic" attack at the shelter.

Doctors "don't know if his [right] arm is going to be like it was before," William Defibaugh said. "The muscle tissue on his arm is gone."

He said his father is considering early retirement.

The pit bull had been at the shelter since March 5, when officers picked it up after it attacked two people in separate incidents, Williams said. She said the dog remained there after a required 10-day quarantine because the shelter was waiting for its owner, David Hall of the 900 block of Deep Creek Ave. in Arnold, to build a secure pen for the animal in his yard.

She said she didn't know of any charges filed in the dog's two previous attacks and that the dog was put to sleep about an hour after it attacked the shelter worker Friday.

Police said Defibaugh was attacked by the 3- or 4-year-old brown and white pit bull about 8: 20 a.m. Friday, as he was cleaning its kennel.

Williams said Defibaugh had started cleaning the cage from the outside but had opened the door to better clean the inside when the dog attacked.

She said staff members had known the dog was at the shelter because of biting attacks but that it spent most of its time "in its pen just sitting. He didn't bark, he didn't do anything."

According to his son, Tom Defibaugh said that while cleaning "he took his eye off the dog for a second and it grabbed onto his arm. He said every time he shook it off, it would jump back up and grab onto him somewhere else. It got him on his leg, too. He said he kept yelling for help."

Williams said a supervisor had to hit the dog twice with pepper spray before it would pry itself away from Defibaugh. She described the officer's arm as "mangled."

"You could see bone," Williams said. "Most other dogs will bite and release, but pit bulls will clamp down, they will hold on and they will not let go."

Police said Defibaugh was first taken to North Arundel Hospital and then to the Baltimore hospital for surgery. He remained there over the weekend.

Hall could not be reached for comment, but Williams said the owner did not oppose his dog's being put to sleep when she called him after the attack.

Gieselle Goodrum, whose 22-year-old son, Curtis Jones, was one of the two earlier victims of Apache, said she was relieved to hear the dog was dead, but that it should have been killed after the initial attacks.

She said her son told her he was sitting in Hall's house when the dog wandered in and attacked his arm, chest and leg. She said he was treated and released from Anne Arundel Medical Center and is recovering.

"When it comes to pit bulls, people should at least keep them on leashes and away from people," she said.

Pub Date: 3/31/98

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