Dog Attack Highlights Sheriff’s Office ‘Stretched Thin’ in Outlying Areas
It took multiple hours before a deputy was able to make contact with two men attacked by a dog in Shelter Cove last night. A deputy had to drive down from Eureka through Redway headed towards the seaside community and then, when the patients were transported to Fortuna, turn around and go back to Redwood Memorial Hospital to speak with them. Now, the victims are uncooperative, says the Sheriff’s Office, and, according to worried residents, the dog is still loose.
A little before 11 p.m. Saturday night, two men bleeding from multiple lacerations pleaded for help on the porch of a woman in the Nob Hill area of Shelter Cove. Cheryl Anthony from Shelter Cove Fire reported to the scene to tend the injured men.
“At 10:58 p.m., we got a call–one unconscious person and multiple dog bites,” she told us.
The medical team was originally concerned about showing up at the incident. “We were a little bit leery because we didn’t know if the dog was still there,” Anthony said. Fortunately, the men were not on the scene of the attack but at a neighbor’s porch.
When the team arrived, they found not one but two injured men. “There was blood everywhere,” Anthony said. “One of them in particular had wounds on his head, his hand, and his ear from trying to ward off the dog.”
She said the men told the medical team that “they were walking along in some kind of field [when] they were attacked by a pit bull….They said they ran about a block and a half with wounds to the porch.”
The Shelter Cove team worked to keep the patients from going into shock. “The one guy was so shivery,” Anthony said. “He had the most injuries on his face and hands and arms. We wrapped him in big blankets… . One of them had a head injury and didn’t say much at first.”
An air ambulance was called for but, said Anthony, “We couldn’t do it because it was so foggy.” The Garberville ambulance crew arrived on scene about 45 minutes to an hour following the initial call.
After examining the patients, Anthony said, the ambulance driver indicated he thought the one man would need a plastic surgeon.
Sgt. Jesse Taylor of the Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office said that the deputy who spoke to the dog attack victims last night believed that there might have been more than a dog attack. “The people who were attacked had injuries consistent with an assault as well as a dog attack,” Taylor said. “It looked as if they had been struck with something.”
Interviewing neighbors and witnesses would have required the deputy who had already put many hours into this one case to drive back out to Shelter Cove and then back to Eureka again so as of this afternoon, the dog had not been located by law enforcement.
The victims, he said, had “significant injuries” and were transported to Redwood Memorial Hospital where the deputy interviewed them. The two victims were “uncooperative,” he said. “They wouldn’t say anything.”
When asked about the length of time it took for a deputy to get there. Taylor pointed out that recently the Sheriff’s Department had been “stretched really thin.”
“We lost four deputies to work related injuries in one week,” he said. The deputy sent to Shelter Cove had to come all the way from Eureka which is takes an hour and 45 minutes if the traffic is light and the weather is good. (See Google map below.)
Redheaded Blackbelt is currently working on a story about the Sheriff’s Department staffing levels in Southern Humboldt. Sheriff Mike Downey spoke to us for the article and named several reasons for the current low numbers of deputies in the area. These include what Downey termed the “closing” of the Hoopa Tribal Police program which necessitated more deputies be assigned to that area, the length of time it takes to get the deputies hired with money from Measure Z trained and the number of calls for service coming from different areas. He said, staffing decisions are “based on calls for service and population–I have to make sure I make sure I have staff where there are more calls for service.”
Downey said that he has hopes eventually to hire a resident deputy for Shelter Cove. He said that he wants to be sure that he gets “the right person living there and working there.” He pointed out that he needs to find someone “willing to live in the area and invest themselves in the area.”
Meanwhile, the problems with not having a deputy stationed in the rural community continue. Anthony and another resident say that the dog who attacked the two men is “still loose.” Because it takes hours to drive out there and back, it is difficult for animal control officers to commit the time to get there in the hopes of arriving on scene when the dog is available.
One resident worries that there could be another tragedy. “This dog is in a neighborhood surrounded by families with kids,” she points out.
Already this year there have several dog attacks in Shelter Cove. One of the worst, Anthony said, was when “we had that little girl who was badly mauled by a dog.” The child had to be flown to an out of the area hospital. Residents worry that with a sheriff’s deputy so far away when needed another tragedy could occur.
Earlier Chapter: Men Attacked by Dog, Air Ambulance Requested