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Originally published Tuesday, September 9, 2008 at 12:00 AM

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Pit bulls maul SeaTac woman

Two pit bulls were killed by police Monday morning in SeaTac after the dogs got loose and attacked an elderly woman.

Seattle Times staff reporter

When Henry Hall went out to get his newspaper from his yard Monday morning, he thought he saw two white pit bulls "ripping up a rag" in his neighbor's yard.

But then he heard a cry for help and saw that it wasn't a rag at all, but the elderly woman who lives across the street.

"She was waving her hat and trying to crawl under the porch to get away from them," Hall said.

Hall immediately called police, then grabbed a pitchfork and headed across South 150th Street to try and fend off the dogs. "But they were so focused on her they didn't pay any attention to me," he said.

When two King County sheriff's deputies arrived within seconds of each other, the dogs were still mauling the 71-year-old woman, police said.

The first deputy fatally shot the smaller pit bull, according to Sgt. John Urquhart, spokesman for the King County Sheriff's Office. The second deputy shot the larger dog.

Charges against the pit bulls' owner for failing to contain or muzzle his dogs as required by a city of Sea-Tac ordinance are being considered, Urquhart said.

He said the investigation is being handled by King County Animal Care and Control but identified the dogs' owner as a 36-year-old man.

The victim, identified as Huong Le, was apparently on her way back from walking her granddaughter to the girl's bus stop when she was attacked around 8:15 a.m.

She suffered severe bite wounds from head to toe, as well as a broken wrist or arm, according to Urquhart.

Le was listed in serious condition Monday night at Harborview Medical Center in Seattle, according to hospital spokeswoman Susan Greg-Hanson.

Her family declined a request for an interview, Greg-Hanson said.

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According to police and Animal Care and Control, the two slain pit bulls were unneutered male dogs owned by a man who lives two blocks from the victim on South 152nd Street. Animal-control officers seized two additional pit bulls owned by the same man.

A man who went into the house where the pit bulls lived refused to comment.

Animal-control spokeswoman Nancy McKenney said the dogs that were killed had no prior history of complaints. But several neighbors said they had seen the dogs running loose before.

Fawzia Latifyar, who lives on South 152nd Street, said she was not surprised by the attack.

She said the dogs often lunged through the fence at her visitors and one time, when they were loose, attacked her adult son. Her son made it into the house uninjured and they elected not to call authorities.

Donna Rogers, who lives on South 150th Street, said she called animal control several weeks ago when the two white pit bulls showed up in her yard.

"They told me to close the fence and keep them in here, which I did, but nobody ever showed up," Rogers said.

Gene Fisher, who lives on South 152nd Street and is also the city's deputy mayor, said he has seen the pit bulls running loose.

"There's a leash law, and they're not supposed to be running wild," he said.

Fisher said that after Monday's attack he would not be surprised to see an effort to ban the breed in SeaTac similar to one that some anti-pit-bull activists are proposing in Seattle. Seattle officials have no plans to enact a law targeting the breed.

"I don't trust [pit bulls]; there's too much evidence against them," Fisher said.

Pit-bull supporters said the breed has been unfairly targeted, arguing that owners, not their dogs, should be held responsible.

According to McKenney, the two white pit bulls that were killed had turned up at animal control's Kent shelter in May after being found wandering on International Boulevard. They weren't neutered, were unlicensed and had no identification on them, she said.

However, their owner showed up three days later and collected the animals, registered them and paid a claim fee, she said.

McKenney said the county has received 893 calls so far this year that were reporting either dog bites or a vicious dog, but the statistics are not separated by breed.

Christine Clarridge: 206-464-8983 or cclarridge@seattletimes.com.

Seattle Times staff reporter Sonia Krishnan contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company

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