An extensive pit bull attack in August on a Salem woman led city adminstration to take a harder look at a developing aggressive dog problem within city limits.
Sheila Cochran, 49, walked the same route in Salem for nine years. During the summertime she walked later in the day to avoid the heat, she said.
She did not expect to be mauled by a pit bull on Pine Street in Salem at 8 p.m. on Aug. 4.
"I was so blindsided," Cochran said. "He was attached to me before I knew what hit me." Cochran was bitten in the chest, stomach, arm and the back of her neck by a pit bull. The dog was obviously showing signs of aggression "growling the whole time," she said.
After the attack, she was able to run to the front door of a nearby home on Pine Street and knocked on the door. The dog pursued her to the front door of the home. Cochran was able to pin herself between the screen door and the main door of the home. One of the home's residents opened the door soon after her knocking and she entered without being attacked further, Cochran said.
"If this would have been a child ― with as many children that play on that street ― or an elderly person, the outcome would not have been as good as it was," Cochran said. "I'm fortunate and thankful ... I hate to even think about what could have happened."
Later examination uncovered bruising, puncture holes, skin tears and hematomas in the afflicted areas.
The most extreme damage Cochran incurred was from the dog's bite to the chest area. She was treated initially at Fulton County Hospital. After a month a half of doctor visits, Cochran continues to seek consultation for hematomas in and around her breast area, she said.
"These are big, powerful, dangerous dogs," Cochran said. "If they are in a residential setting, there needs to be some constraints."
Pit bull problems are known and recurrent within Salem city limits. Cochran referenced two other walkers that she knew had been attacked or chased by a pit bull in Salem.
"It's been an ongoing problem for some time but this is the straw that broke the camel's back," said Al Roork, Salem Police Chief. "We have a dog problem, a pit bull problem." The Salem Police Department responds to calls related to pit bulls when they attack other animals on a more regular basis. "We've had some incidences in the last few years where a pit bull has attempted or bitten someone, but we have not had an attack of this severity ever," Roork said.
In September 2008, five fatal dog attacks occurred in the United States, three of the five attacks were from pit bulls, according to reports from Kenneth Phillips, attorney and author of the Web site DogBitelaw.com. Phillips practices law in California and pursues dog-bite cases across the country.
The American Pit Bull Terrier was bred first to bait bulls and bears. When baiting bulls was deemed inhumane, dog fighting became more popular, and the pit bull was used in the sport. The term pit bull today is used to refer to the specific breed as well as the Boxer, English Bulldog, Olde English Bulldogge, American Bulldog, French Bulldog, Alapaha Blue Blood Bulldog, Valley Bulldog, Boston Terrier and Bull Mastiff.