A Riverside County animal control officer was hospitalized Monday after suffering punctures and lacerations to his leg following an attack by two pit bulls, officials said.
Officer Michael Cox responded to a call in the 2500 block of Mount Vernon Avenue in Riverside around 11:20 a.m., regarding a complaint from a property owner claiming four dogs were on his vacant, fenced property, Riverside County Animal Services said in a news release.
The dogs appeared to be friendly at first but then one of them bit Cox’s right leg, according to the agency. A second dog then joined in the attack.
Both dogs involved were described as adult pit bulls.
The officer retreated while using his retractable containment baton and pepper spray, the agency said. Once he reached safety, he contacted an Animal Services dispatcher who informed the Riverside Fire Department.
Firefighters bandaged Cox’s leg and transported him to a local hospital, where he remained in an emergency room late Monday afternoon. Cox was awaiting further treatment and sutures, Animal Services said, and it was likely he would be kept for overnight observation.
“I spoke with Officer Cox and nothing appeared to indicate one of the dogs turning on him so quickly,” Animal Services Lt. James Huffman said in a written statement. “Officer Cox has great dog-behavior instincts and knows when to proceed with caution.”
Three of the four dogs were impounded, according to the agency. The fourth dog – one of the two who had attacked the officer — managed to break through a gate at the back of the property and escape into nearby hills.
The three dogs were scanned for microchips and are all owned by the same woman, who is believed to be homeless, the agency said. Animal Services has previously assisted her with spay and neuter surgeries, sponsored by a nonprofit organization, according to the news release.
The woman has since failed to license her dogs and is currently facing citations for failure to vaccinate and license her pets, the agency said.
Commander Chris Mayer of Animal Services said it’s rare for his officers to be attacked by a dog because they’re well skilled in knowing the warning signs. In fact, Cox teaches canine safety courses to case workers with the county’s Department of Public Social Services, Mayer added.
“We go into dangerous situations all the time, but we’re trained to know the warning signs of aggressive dogs,” Mayer said. “In this incident, Mike didn’t have any time to react. We’re thankful the attacks weren’t worse.”