WILSON’S LOCAL PRINT AND DIGITAL COMMUNITY INSTITUTION SINCE 1896

2 injured in Rottweiler attack at For the Love of Dogs rescue

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Two Rottweilers who attacked a volunteer and her young son at For the Love of Dogs in April turned on the organization’s co-founder in a Wednesday mauling that sent her to a Greenville hospital.

Della Fitz-Gerald came to the aid of a teenage volunteer who was being attacked by the dogs, who were in the care of the rescue group on Quaker Road.

She and the volunteer have since been released from Vidant Medical Center.

THE INCIDENT

Sheriff’s officials said Max Fitz-Gerald, Della’s husband and co-founder of the no-kill shelter, told another volunteer to let the dogs out to take a break.

That same volunteer allegedly told him that she hadn’t been around the Rottweilers since their prior attack in April and questioned the instruction, said Wanda Samuel, sheriff’s office chief of staff.

Max Fitz-Gerald called another volunteer and said the gate was locked and told his wife to let the dogs out, Samuel said. That volunteer and the 17-year-old volunteer were out at the picnic table brushing a collie when they were approached by the two Rottweilers, officials said. The volunteer told officials that she started to brush one of the dogs’ hair and the other one jumped on the 17-year-old volunteer.

The teenager took off running and screaming and the dog took her to the ground and started attacking her, according to Samuel.

Della Fitz-Gerald and the other volunteer tried to get the dog off the teenager while at the same time attempting to keep the second Rottweiler from joining in the attack, Samuel said.

Another volunteer ran out to assist the victims and the dog was still attacking Della Fitz-Gerald. One of the volunteers was able to get a leash around the dog’s neck and remove it, sheriff’s officials said.

The 17-year-old suffered from large lacerations and puncture wounds throughout her body, Samuel said. Della Fitz-Gerald also suffered severe injuries to her arms.

Max Fitz-Gerald got emotional Thursday afternoon when he discussed the incident involving Della and his decision to surrender the dogs to Wilson County Animal Enforcement.

“They are going to be put to sleep,” Max Fitz-Gerald said. “The lieutenant is going to give me the bodies. I’m going to bury them on our property.”

‘I COULDN’T BELIEVE IT’

Max Fitz-Gerald wasn’t on the property when the attacks happened. He had gone to pick up lunch. Ambulances had already arrived by the time he returned, he said.

“I couldn’t believe it,” he said. “Della was in shock. She was all bloody. She was in a daze.”

The teenage volunteer was released from the hospital Wednesday, he said. Della was released Thursday afternoon.

Max Fitz-Gerald said his wife was attacked on her arms and legs.

“She’s having to use a cane to walk,” he said.

Max Fitz-Gerald said he talked with the mother of the teenage volunteer while they were at the hospital and offered to pay for the medical expenses.

“It’s devastating,” he said about it all.

The dogs will be quarantined for 10 days, as required by state law, and will not be available for adoption or released to a rescue group for fostering, Samuel said. She said deputies will allow the dogs’ remains to be returned to Max Fitz-Gerald for proper burial.

‘DANGEROUS DOG AGREEMENT’

Max Fitz-Gerald was subsequently charged with failure to keep a vicious, fierce or dangerous domestic animal confined within a secure building or secure enclosures or to maintain the animal by means of a leash in hand under control at all times, Samuel said.

He was also charged for allowing two Rottweilers to attack a volunteer who received hospitalization as a result of her injuries, she added.

When the first incident happened in April, a volunteer and her young son were hospitalized after the same Rottweillers attacked and bit them. The dogs approached the volunteer’s two children, who were seated at a picnic table on the property. The dogs went to the children, who began to pet them, officials said. The volunteer was bitten when she came to the aid of her children, deputies said at the time.

The dogs were quarantined after the April incident, but were returned to For the Love of Dogs.

In April, the sheriff’s office deemed the dogs to be dangerous. Max Fitz-Gerald decided not to appeal that designation. Instead, he signed an agreement with the sheriff’s office stating if the dogs got loose or attacked again, he would have to surrender them. The charges stem from violating county ordinances regarding protocol when keeping “dangerous dogs.”

Samuel said Max Fitz-Gerald surrendered both dogs involved in Wednesday’s incident to Animal Enforcement pursuant to a dangerous dog agreement.

‘IT HURTS’

Wednesday’s incident is an example of what can happen when you are dealing with rescued animals, Max Fitz-Gerald said.

“It can happen with any animal,” he said. “I don’t know what kind of dog I’m getting. It’s reality when you are in the rescue world.”

Max Fitz-Gerald is also broken-hearted the dogs will be euthanized.

“It’s hurts,” he said. “I loved the dogs. Rotties are not bad dogs. They are really good dogs. And I’m sorry they are going to die.”

olivia@wilsontimes.com | 265-7879

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