Victim of dog attack tells the court that she thought she was going to die
The owner of two pit bulls that disfigured a Talbot County woman and fatally injured her Siberian Husky on Nov. 23 has agreed to have both of the dogs euthanized.
During a hearing Thursday in Talbot County Probate Court, owner Faye Evans reluctantly agreed to have her female pit bull put down, having already told authorities they could euthanize the male that led the attack on 70-year-old Nellie Ralat and her dog Maggie in front of Evans’ Baker Road home around 1 in the afternoon.
Ralat testified the female pit bull joined in the attack, but acknowledged the male instigated it. A younger pit bull with the pair bit at her legs, following the older dogs’ lead, she said.
The court session was to hear Evans’ appeal of the county’s designating both dogs as “vicious” under Georgia’s “Responsible Dog Ownership Law,” which prohibits owning more than one vicious dog.
“I’m withdrawing everything,” Evans told the court when asked whether she would withdraw her appeal, but she maintained the female dog was not aggressive. “Anyone knows that girl’s not vicious,” she said, adding her son raised the female from a puppy.
Judge John Terry fined Evans $400, in total: $100 on each of four animal control citations, two of the tickets for having no rabies tag on either dog’s collar, and two for letting both dogs run loose.
Those decisions came at the conclusion of a 90-minute hearing during which county officials, Ralat and Evans testified. Andrew Dodgen, Talbot’s outgoing county attorney, questioned the witnesses.
Ralat told the court that Evans’ home is about a 10-minute walk from her house, and she regularly used to pass by there over the 14 years she has lived in the neighborhood. Evans has small dogs that often ran out and barked at her, but they scattered if she stomped her foot and shouted “Go home!”
She more recently avoided Evans’ home after noticing the pit bulls would not scatter like the other dogs, if they came out at the same time, she said. Still she decided to walk by there on Nov. 23 because it was a cold day, and she thought the dogs would be inside.
They were not, and when she stomped and told the dogs to go home, the male pit bull did not run. “The male started looking more fierce,” Ralat said. When she turned to go back home, the dog attacked, knocking her to her knees and going for her throat.
She was wearing a thick coat with a collar and hood that protected her neck, she said. “Since he couldn’t get to my throat, he started on my scalp,” she testified, adding the female dog then joined in the assault: “I was screaming a lot, hoping someone would hear me.”
A truck drove by, and that apparently disrupted the attack, but she wasn’t sure whether the driver stopped. Her scalp was ripped loose, leaving a swath of dislodged skin, and the blood was pouring down her face. She tried to call 911 on her cell phone, but couldn’t: “My phone was all slippery with blood.”
The pit bulls turned on her Husky, Maggie, and Ralat worried she was too far off the road for passersby to see her, so she crawled to the pavement, where a hunter stopped to run the dogs off and call 911.
Neighbors took Maggie to an emergency veterinary hospital. Found to have hundreds of puncture wounds and a torn trachea, the Husky lingered two days before dying in a doctor’s care.
An ambulance rushed Ralat to Piedmont Columbus Regional, which cleaned her wounds and treated her for a broken wrist before transferring her to Grady Memorial Hospital in Atlanta.
“My head wound was too bad for them to treat,” Ralat said of Piedmont. Her scalp became infected, and doctors could not apply a skin graph until they cleared the infection, which took three or four surgeries, she said.
Surgeons fixed her broken wrist by repairing it with screws and plates, she said. They also had to plug holes in her cheeks through which they could see her teeth and tongue. She has been told of a way to grow “a new nostril” to replace the part of her nose that’s gone, she said, but she is too old to have her ears replaced in that same manner.
She began to weep when she spoke of that: “I don’t have any more ears anymore,” she said. “That’s what upsets me the most.” She has to tape her glasses to the bandages on her head. Her doctors told her they later may be able to attach artificial ears, she said.
She still faces more surgeries. “They said it’s going to be a year, at least,” she said of her recovery.
About 30 neighbors attended the hearing to support Ralat and ensure the county took action. Some said they long have complained about Evans’ dogs running loose.
“The dogs had been a problem, according to the neighbors, for quite some time,” said Talbot Sheriff’s Deputy Will Carter, who testified Evans told him she used to rescue pit bulls that no one else wanted.
Carter said he visited Ralat in the hospital Nov. 25, and took photos to document her injuries, but the pictures don’t reflect the pain she was in.
The deputy cited previous incidents in which neighbors complained about the dogs being loose, but said he’d heard no other reports of dogs attacking people in the neighborhood.
Evans’ son had put the dogs in a wooden pen the day Ralat was attacked, but they got out, he said.
Howard Marshall, the county’s animal control officer, testified he was called to Baker Road after the attack and collected both pit bulls from Evans. They have been impounded since.
Evans took the stand to say she arrived home that day at 1:13 p.m., and saw a truck blocking her driveway and her son holding Ralat up, before he helped her into the ambulance.
Ralat acknowledged Evans’ son tried to help. “He was apologizing for what happened,” she said. “He was very sweet.”
Evans said she was “truly sorry” for what happened, but the dogs broke out of a wooden kennel that day, and they had never been so aggressive: “We’ve had babies over there with them.”