Man recounts attack by pack of pit bulls

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<p>Local resident Terry Dougherty must use a walker as he recovers from a vicious attack by six pit bulls this month. Fire Chief Scott Lewis said the injuries were considered life threatening.</p>

August 2 was a Saturday Terry Dougherty will never forget — he almost died that day.

Dougherty didn’t suffer a medical episode, nor was he involved in a car accident or nearly shot to death.

The local resident was attacked by a pack of pit bulls on that day.

Dougherty is the owner of West Star Ranch Dog Rescue, a nonprofit, no-kill facility on Manse Road.

Like any other day, Dougherty drove to a residence to pick up six dogs for safekeeping until the owner got out of the local hospital.

The dogs were inside a shed on the property, which is enclosed by a six-foot chain link fence.

Additionally, two individuals who were family members of the hospitalized owner were on hand to help.

Dougherty noticed the aggressive nature of the animals when one of the men approached the shed.

That’s the moment Dougherty’s life changed, he said.

“At that time I really didn’t want to get involved because it was something for animal control to deal with. It was well beyond my capability and I didn’t know what kind of dogs they were,” he said.

One of the individuals, an elderly man, decided he would try to reach the dogs.

After opening the door, Dougherty said a dog immediately jumped on the man and began biting him.

“When he tried to stave off the dog, five more came out of the shed and began attacking him too. He tried to run away and they knocked him down and started viciously biting and tearing the man apart. He was losing the fight and the dogs were on him,” he said.

At that moment, Dougherty said he also became a target.

“They were full-grown pit bulls who hadn’t eaten in about five days. I ran to the man who was still on the ground and they came to me, which allowed the man to get on his feet. We were both kicking dogs trying to keep them away from us. It was absolute hell. Two of the dogs were on him and I had four on me,” he said.

Dougherty said the attack lasted about five minutes.

“The elderly man’s face was covered in blood and he was stumbling trying to get out of the yard. He made it to my pickup truck where the other man had taken refuge. I was able to get out of the yard, but I couldn’t stop the dogs from attacking. I was kicking and punching trying to scare them off, but they all came at me at once and knocked me down. I was bitten on my arm and my foot was locked in the dog’s mouth. He was pulling me as the others were trying to get at me,” he said.

During that time, one of the other men began dialing 911 for help.

“It was the closest I have ever come to dying and I thought it was going to happen right there. I fought with everything I had because I knew if I couldn’t get up, I would die,” he recalled.

Dougherty managed to reach his truck while kicking, punching and shouting at the vicious pack of dogs.

“I somehow got to my truck and tried to climb over the side into the bed, but there was so much blood all over the side of the truck, I kept sliding off and the dogs were still attacking me,” he said.

Even while in the truck bed, Dougherty said the attack continued.

“I held the elderly man’s arm in the air because he was bleeding profusely. As I did this, the dogs took his bloody arm as an offering and got even more aggressive. There were six full-grown pit bulls running around the truck trying to jump in. We continued to fight them off the best we could, but blood was everywhere and these dogs were not going to stop,” he said.

Pahrump Valley Fire and Rescue Chief Scott Lewis said once crews arrived on scene they were forced to use unorthodox methods to render aid to the victims.

“The medics arrived before I did and they placed themselves at the back of the vehicle and got a visual of the scenario. There were some dogs within the yard and some were out and they had access to the three men in the pickup truck,” he said.

Once Lewis arrived, he had to use his command vehicle to try and block the dogs from the men in the bed of the truck.

“I placed my vehicle between the pickup truck and the dogs. The medic unit spun around, backed up and opened the rear doors, which allowed the men to basically step into the medic unit,” he said.

Additionally, Lewis said Nye County Sheriff’s deputies and animal control were summoned to the scene and cordoned off the entire block to capture the dogs.

“The animal control officer had the awareness of these dogs probably from a previous incident. They knew of the dangers and created a safe area of a full city block. I dispatched an additional engine company and a medic as animal control and the sheriff’s office corralled the dogs and tranquilized them and removed them from the scene,” Lewis said.

Both Dougherty and the elderly man sustained injuries that prompted Lewis to request Mercy Air to transport them to UMC Trauma in Las Vegas.

At the time, no flights were available, thus the men were transported to Desert View Hospital.

Lewis noted that his crews often respond to service calls where dogs or other animals are on the property.

He said his department has contingency plans if such instances arise.

Dougherty, meanwhile, now uses a walker to get around as he continues to recover.He is undergoing therapy to deal with recurring nightmares he said he experiences almost daily.

“I just keep reliving this whole thing and it’s impossible for me to sleep and get any rest because I wake up in a cold sweat, shaking. This whole scenario has been a very traumatic experience that has shattered my state of well-being. I hope this shock wears off. It’s a horrible feeling that I can’t deal with right now. I just sit here thinking about it over and over, while trying not to. No one should have to experience what it is like to prepare for certain death as you are being ripped apart by dangerous and deadly animals. My life was going to be taken and almost was. I thank God I am still alive,” he said.

The elderly man according to Dougherty is also recuperating.

The dogs are still in the custody of animal control.

Efforts to reach the owner of the dogs was unsuccessful by press time.

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