Dog attacks in Oklahoma City have residents on edge
"They're eating this woman," the caller told the 911 dispatcher. "I mean, they're killing her, and we're trying to stop it. There's blood all over the place."
It was the night of May 5, and Terri Cosby, 54, was walking home in the 700 block of NE 29 when four large pit bull terriers "snuck up on her," she told investigators.
One witness said he tried to stop the dogs by honking his horn and then hitting them with a tree limb, but they kept chewing on her body and dragging her down the street.
When police arrived to the scene, a witness told officers the attack had been going on for about 40 minutes. Officers shot and killed two dogs and wounded a third. The fourth dog ran away. The two living dogs were euthanized afterward.
More than a month after the attack, Cosby remains hospitalized at OU Medical Center in good condition.
The incident was one of 7,165 complaints Oklahoma City received about loose, vicious animals between January 2016 and May 2018, records show.
During the same period, animal welfare received reports of nearly 2,000 animal bites, mostly dogs.
Wayne Franklin, 24, told police that he and his mother, Dawntanya Franklin, 46, owned the dogs that attacked Cosby. Wayne Franklin said the dogs had never gotten out or hurt anyone, but two citations were found inside the house for failure to confine dogs to the owner's property, and a neighbor also reported that two of the dogs had hopped the fence and killed her small dog in December, according to the arrest warrant.
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The Franklins face eight counts of failure to restrain a dangerous dog, but have not been charged in Oklahoma County District Court.
'Why in the world are they still running around?'
Steve Onley was also severely wounded when the Franklins' pit bulls attacked him. A plumber, Onley knocked on the door of 725 NE 29 on May 16, 2017, when he saw a large pit bull terrier inside the house. He was retreating to his pickup when one of the dogs burst through the storm door and attacked him.
He was fending off one of the dogs when a second bit his arm. At that very moment, Dawntanya Franklin yelled and the dogs ran off, but the damage was already done.
The dog's teeth severed two arteries in his arm, and he was losing a lot of blood. Onley said he wrapped his arm with a towel and drove to OU Medical Center where he underwent a three-hour surgery and spent two nights in the hospital. He said an animal welfare officer came to the hospital and met with him again after he was released, but did not realize the citation he was asked to sign was only a leash law violation.
Onley said he's lost some of the strength in his arm, but has been able to get to work.
"If they weren't able to save the two arteries feeding my right hand, I would have lost my arm," he said. "If she hadn't have called them off, I could have lost my life. The first one was dragging me down and the second would have gotten me, no doubt."
Onley said he no idea why the dogs weren't euthanized after his attack.
"I sure feel for that lady that's still in the hospital. This is a matter of seconds where one dog bit me, I can't even imagine a dog chewing me," Onley said. "Why in the world are they still running around? Why have they not been put down to begin with?"
Onley filed a tort claim against Dawntayna Franklin in Oklahoma County District Court on May 10, court records show.
Menacing and dangerous
From 2016 through May 11, 17 citations had been written for menacing dogs in Oklahoma City. A dog is considered menacing if the animal that exhibits behavior that makes people think an attack can or will take place, Animal Welfare Superintendent Jon Gary said.
During that same time period, 133 citations were issued for dangerous dogs, meaning that an attack actually took place, he said.
After two large pit pull terriers killed 82-year-old Cecille Short on April 6, 2017, while she was walking her dog in the 11600 block of Windmill Road, the city changed its municipal code.
As of Aug. 4, 2017, menacing dogs now draw the same fine as dangerous ones, and any dog impounded for being dangerous or menacing must be spayed or neutered, microchipped and registered with the city, Gary said.
Fines run from $177 to $1,200, he said.
Oklahoma City also now has a dangerous dog registry for owners who are cited. Since Aug. 4, 2017, only 11 dogs have been added to the registry, Gary said.
The low number is due to some cases being dismissed and others thrown out by a judge. In many instances, the judge orders the dogs be destroyed after an attack, owners have them put down rather than pay to have them boarded until the court adjudicates the case or owners build a structure for animal welfare officers to inspect after its release, Gary said.
Just because a dog bites someone does not necessarily mean the dog is menacing or dangerous. Often, it's an accident or the animal was startled, Gary said.
Reports and warnings spread on social media
Still, the problem of dog bites is widespread. And with social media, people can share their stories with neighbors who they may otherwise never meet in person.
In one thread on the Nextdoor app, residents in a neighborhood just west of Interstate 235 complained of loose pit bull terriers attacking people and pets on the morning after Cosby's attack.
"My husband, myself and our two Aussies were walking home from breakfast in the Paseo and were attacked by two pit bulls today around 11 a.m. They ran up behind us at 33rd and Shartel and began attacking our larger Aussie," Melissa Beben posted on May 6.
"Four of our wonderful neighbors came to help ... Our dog had some cuts and my husband and I were both bitten in the struggle," she said.
"I've picked up a man who was attacked by these same pit bulls as he was walking to work. He had bite marks on both of his arms and said they chased him for two blocks," Zach Taylor wrote back.
Beben later that day posted a photo of her arm as it continued to bruise from the dog attack.
Two days later, on May 7, Lyndee Stovall reported that she and her boyfriend had just been attacked by the same two pit bull terriers while running near NW 30 and Western Avenue.
One of the dogs bit Stovall's boyfriend on the buttocks, arm and pinkie finger, she said.
"These owners watched us get attacked, did nothing and then allowed their dogs to run loose again the very next day," Melissa Beben wrote on May 7.
Beben and other neighbors discussed tools and tactics for keeping themselves safe while the incident was sorted out by animal welfare officers. On May 11, she reported that she was pressing for a dangerous dog citation on the animals.
But sometimes dangerous dogs, like those belonging to the Franklins, don't make it to their court dates.
Oklahoma City police officers shot and killed 10 dogs in 2016 and again in 2017, and already have shot 7 through May 31. Aside from the Franklins' pit bulls, police also shot two more pit bull terriers — one on May 20 and another on May 21 — after the dogs attacked or charged police.
In 2016, police officers filed 12 total insurance claims over animal attacks, totaling nearly $18,000. In 2017, the number of incidents dropped to five, and through May, three claims have been made over "animal assaults" on police officers, records show.
There's not one surefire way to avoid a dog attack, Gary said, but people can stand still and avoid eye contact.
Putting a barrier between yourself and the animal or climbing atop an object also can help, he said.
A stick or pepper spray can deter some dogs, but those determined to attack will not be dissuaded, Gary said.
If attacked, clench your fists to avoid bites to the fingers and protect vital areas like your face, neck and chest, he said.
And, if possible, call 911. Police officers will be able to respond more quickly than animal control officers, Gary said.