Local News

Friday, Sep 23 2011 12:41 PM

Woman carrying baby survives dog attack

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    By Casey Christie/ The Californian

    Keri Wolf, right, was attacked by three dogs a few weeks ago in her neighborhood in Bakersfield while on a walk with her daughter, Raewynn. She was bitten in several places, while carrying her daughter, who was unharmed. Keri's husband, Kevin Wolf, is to the left.

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    By Casey Christie / The Californian

    Keri Wolf, who was bitten by several dogs in her neighborhood, holds her daughter, Raewynn, who was with her on the walk at the time of the incident, but was unharmed.

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    By Casey Christie / The Californian

    Kevin, left, and Keri Wolf were thankful their daughter, Raewynn, was unharmed when Keri was attacked by three dogs in their neighborhood two weeks ago while on a walk.

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    By Courtesy Wolf family

    Wounds suffered by Keri Wolf when she was bitten by several dogs in her neighborhood.

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    By Courtesy Wolf family

    Wounds suffered by Keri Wolf when she was bitten by several dogs in her neighborhood.

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BY STEVEN MAYER Californian staff writer smayer@bakersfield.com

Keri Wolf, her husband Kevin and their infant daughter Reawynn are brand new to Bakersfield.

With a new job, a new home in City in the Hills and a new baby, the Wolfs had everything to look forward to.

But the welcome wagon left a lot to be desired.

On Sept. 9, Keri was walking through their well-manicured neighborhood, holding her 3-month-old baby against her chest in a cloth carrier, when she saw two pit bulls and a Labrador retriever-mix running full-bore at her and her daughter.

"In just a split-second I realized they were not friendly dogs," Keri said.

"One got me on the front of my leg, the other two circled around to attack me from behind."

The dogs in back tore through her shorts, their teeth puncturing the skin of her upper thigh and buttocks.

She was screaming, desperate for help, kicking at the dogs, knowing that if she fell, Reawynn could easily be killed by the rampaging dogs.

Debi Sargent was standing outside her home in the 9700 block of Riata Lane when she saw the dogs go after the 30-year-old mom.

"She was holding the baby up, trying to protect her," Sargent recalled.

"I don't want to think about what would have happened if they had knocked her down."

Sargent yelled, "Hey!" as loud as she could, but the dogs ignored her. Two young men came out of a nearby home to help.

Another yell from Sargent seemed to get the dogs' attention. They broke off the attack and ran.

Sargent called 911, and assisted the injured woman. A Bakersfield police officer and Hall Ambulance arrived.

One of the dogs charged a police officer as he approached the home of its owner. The officer had to defend himself with his baton, according to police.

Keri was taken to a hospital emergency room where she was treated for her bite wounds. Her injuries did not require hospitalization and she is now back to work as an associate professor of English at Bakersfield College, a job she says she loves.

But memories of the attack may never go away. Neither will her family's concern that the entire incident could easily have been avoided if the dogs had been contained in a secure enclosure by their owner.

And Kevin Wolf, too, is still struggling with the aftermath.

"I should have been there," Kevin said Thursday.

According to Bakersfield Police, two of the dogs -- a 2-year-old white and tan female pit and a 5-month-old black and white male lab -- are owned by Douglas Lilly, who lives in the 9900 block of Riata Lane.

The third dog, a black pit bull, was believed to be a stray, but had been seen in the neighborhood for some time.

Reached Friday, Lilly said his two dogs had never attacked anyone before the attack on Keri Wolf. He did say it is true the dogs were often out of the yard.

He also was aware that one of the dogs went after a police officer, and said the officer was pretty shaken up.

"We gave up the dogs to Animal Control because of the attack," Lilly said. "We have kids, too, and we're not going to keep a dog around that bites."

Residents in the northeast Bakersfield neighborhood said Lilly's dogs have been running loose for years.

Riley Cannon, who lives just two doors from Lilly, said the dogs were routinely out in front of the house.

And Lilly had to know it.

"They would leave the house and leave the dogs outside," Cannon said. "Their dogs would even chase their car as they drove down the street."

Cannon was annoyed, even concerned, he said, but he didn't want to get into a dispute with a neighbor.

But when Penny, the white and tan pit bull had puppies, she became more aggressive toward him and others in the area.

"After that, I couldn't even let the kids play outside," Cannon said.

It got so bad, he finally broke down and called Bakersfield Animal Control, probably in June, he said. But nothing came of it.

Now that someone in the quiet neighborhood has been attacked, Cannon said, he wishes he had taken stronger action.

"I should have handled it," he said.

According to police, Animal Control has responded to four or five calls since 2010 related to the Lilly property. But each time, the dogs had been secured in the back yard by the time an officer arrived.

This time, the dogs can't be saved. Lilly voluntarily relinquished control of his dogs to Animal Control. All three underwent a 10-day quarantine and will likely be euthanized, police said.

Thousands of dog bites have been documented by animal control services in Bakersfield and Kern County since 2007. That doesn't count attacks on other pets. The worst offenders by far have been pit bulls.

The Wolfs say they are considering civil action. But they are also thankful for the many neighbors who have assisted them following the attack.

"I hate being in this position," Keri said. "We like it here and the people we have met have been so wonderful.

"But I don't want this to happen to someone else."

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