Pit bull kills Jarales woman


A 41-year-old Jarales woman is dead after being attacked by one of her own dogs Friday evening.

Valencia County Sheriff Louis Burkhard said officers were dispatched to 57 Crawford on a call about a dog attack. When deputies arrived on the scene, Burkhard said they made contact with Michal Nelson's son.

"He said she had been out in the yard and he left," Burkhard said. "When he came back, the dog was still on her.

The sheriff said the woman's son shot the dog with a handgun.

Calling the situation tragic, Burkhard said everything in the initial investigation of the scene points to the dog attacking Nelson, who weighed about 85 pounds, he said.

"We didn't see any signs of (dog) fighting, any signs that they were emaciated or abused," the sheriff said. "It doesn't appear that any charges will be filed in this case, since she was the owner, unless something comes back really unusual from OMI."

Deputies found a total of 12 dogs at the Jarales property.

Valencia County Animal Control Director Erik Tanner said his department took custody of the dead dog, and Nelson's son asked officers to remove four additional dogs from the property.

Tanner said the dead dog was tested for diseases, including rabies, and tests were negative for the virus. The dog that attacked Nelson and the other four removed by animal control were pit bulls, Tanner said. He said the four were on chains in the yard at the home.

"The ones they had chained and surrendered to us were pit bulls and the remainder mixed breeds," Tanner said.

He described the surrendered dogs as "healthy, but unpleasant."

"If an animal spends its life on chain, you're not going to have a pet. There was no indication these were fighting animals," he said. "They are what we call 'resident dogs.' They are not treated like a part of the family. They are put in the yard and live there. There's not as much contact as a pet would have."

Tanner said he didn't know how much contact the chained dogs had with the family, but said isolation and lack of interaction is unhealthy for all dogs.

"I don't care what kind of dog it is, when they are left on chains and in pens, they kind of lose their marbles and it doesn't take long," he said. "That's why we have volunteers at the shelter who come in and play with, pet and walk the dogs."

The four dogs surrendered to animal control were destroyed, Tanner said.

"If we had gotten them from anywhere else in the county, they wouldn't have been put up for adoption," he said. "I have 101 animals waiting to find homes."

Burkhard said the animals left at the home were turned over to Nelson's house mate, a man he described as a long-time friend of the woman. Her son had only been staying with her for the last few weeks, the sheriff said.

"It's tragic, it really is. I don't know how to explain what occurred. I don't think anyone has answers as to why it attacked her," he said. "It doesn't look like she was a breeder. My understanding is these were dogs she had rescued, taken in."

Tanner said this was the first time his officers had visited the home, and trying to explain what happened was all speculation.

"I have no idea why. If you take an animal, any kind — and I'm not going to defend pit bulls or go against them — but if you take any animal and put them out alone, they can become very unpredictable," he said.

-- Email the author at jdendinger@news-bulletin.com.