Saturday, August 28, 2004

Florida: Animal Control officer mauled by two pit bulls before another officer manages to shoot and kill one

FLORIDA -- Frank Baldwin could see the blood dripping in front of his left eye as the two pit bulls sank their teeth into his body.

The Martin County Animal Control officer knew he had to get to his feet if he was going to live. He pushed himself up off his stomach, feeling the bite that tore his ear, but using sheer will to continue the fight.

"I just knew that I had to get that dog before it went after somebody else," Baldwin said Friday. "This was a level of viciousness that I had not experienced before."

One dog involved in the Wednesday night attack was shot and killed by a state environmental officer. The second was captured. Authorities are seeking criminal and civil charges against their owners.

Though he sat in pain, with a partly mangled face, the 130-pound, 23-year-old vowed to continue serving.

"I want to go back. I don't have any fears about going back," he said. "I like doing what I do. As soon as I can get back out on the road, I want to be there."

The attack came after Baldwin was called to a home off Dixie Highway and Alicia Street on a report that a jogger and a bicyclist had been bitten by a pit pull.

He arrived to find the animal charging the state officer's vehicle before it turned and charged at his own vehicle. Though the other man was armed, Baldwin knew he had the training and tools to handle the dog, so he got out of his vehicle and went to work.

The noose on the end of Baldwin's catch pole kept getting twisted but he finally had the dog cornered between the house and the back yard fence.

"I just about had the noose around his head when I saw the other pit bull squeeze out of the top half of the gate on the fence," he said. "It got stuck just a little bit and gave me just a second to draw my baton because I knew they were going to come after me."

The attack was on.

"And I hit the ground," he said. "That's when I really felt one of them bite my ear, one of them bite my face," he said. "The only thing I was thinking when I was on the ground was that I had to get back up.

"I pushed up with my hands. ... I could see drops of blood just falling in front of my left eye."

During the attacks, George LeBanc pulled up and opened his door for Baldwin.

Sheriff's deputies and firefighters arrived to help, whisking the officer to the hospital.

"We kind of lost count on the stitches," he said. "I still have my eye, which I'm very thankful for. It could have been a lot worse."

Baldwin credited those who stopped to help with saving his life.

"If it had just been me and those dogs," he said, "I do not believe I would have survived."

(Sun Sentinel - August 28, 2004)