Local News

Near-fatal attack on pet dog raises concerns in Wendell

Posted March 13, 2012
Updated March 14, 2012

— A Wendell family whose pet dog was viciously attacked by another animal says they're concerned about what could be lurking in wooded areas near their home and question whether Wake County Animal Control is doing enough to help.

Jessica Watt said Tuesday that she thinks her dog, a 4-year-old chocolate lab named Earnhardt, was mauled by a coyote and worries that a child could be next.

Watt said she contacted Wake County Animal Control about the attack but didn't receive any help. The agency could not be reached for comment Tuesday.

"It's scary because I don't know what's back there (in the woods)," she said. "After seeing what this animal did to my dog, I can't imagine what it would do to a small child."

Watt said she was looking out her window Saturday morning when she noticed Earnhardt was on the ground in her backyard. It was unusual, she said, for a dog that is usually "unbelievably hyper."

"He was clearly in some state of shock," she said. "We tried to get him in the house, and then we realized there was blood all over the underneath side of him."

Dog mauled by wild animal in Wendell Dog mauled by wild animal in Wendell

Her other dog, an 11-year-old black lab named Dale, was missing. 

The family rushed Earnhardt to an emergency animal clinic, where a veterinarian told them that the dog's wounds suggested it was attacked by a large animal. Earnhardt suffered puncture wounds to its legs, a ripped-open tail and broken jaw.

"We have a farm in our backyard and went to talk to (the farmer) to see if he had seen anything," Watt said. "He said he had seen a pack of coyotes in our woods, about five of them."

Watt said she believes whatever mauled Earnhardt jumped into its pen, prompting both dogs to break through the door and escape. Dale returned the next morning unharmed, but Earnhardt got caught in the attack.

"His life-or-death injury is his jaw. It's broken in two places. He can't eat," she said. "We are very blessed that he can drink, or else we'd have to put him on a feeding tube."

Watt's husband has to give the dog 12 pills every eight hours and force food down his throat. When all is said and done, the family expects Earnhardt's vet bills to reach $3,000.

Watt said her son is scared of the possibility of coyotes near their house and has stayed up late at night watching over the backyard.

"He was staring out the window, watching for (coyotes), and asking, 'Can they break through the glass, Mom? Can they come in the house?'" Watt said. 

Wendell police said they've received no reports of coyotes in the area.


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  • scarlett2 Mar 19, 2012

    A small wild animal could have inflicted the wounds on this dog. If you leave food in their kennels at night, raccoons, possums, etc. will come into their pen to eat the food. A raccoon can chew through metal cage wire, can even chew their own leg off when caught in a trap (I have seen this personally, family members used to be trappers). I live in a farming area; coyotes and wild dogs never come into the yard, nor do they climb into small dog kennels but they are seen at a distance in the fields. I have a night vision camera that records what comes into the yard which I use for security. It is usually raccoons, possums, deer, and cats looking to see if there is food left in my dog's bowl. Now I take in the bowl and don't leave it out.
    If you want your dogs safe at night, don't leave any food out, don't lock your dogs into a small kennel or put them on a chain.

  • beaker Mar 16, 2012

    Grammy: I hate that the media misrepresented your views-they really emphasis that you thought it was coyotes. I will say the dogs injuries present a curious case. The gate and jaw injury point to a bear. But the gut injuries point to a large cat. Cats kick out with their back feet, often tearing the belly. If caused by cat claws, the injury should be DEEP, clean slices. There should also be punctures to the shoulder as the cat would dig in with the front paws to get leverage for the kick. If the wounds to the back legs are bites and not claw swipes, this would point more to something in the dog family..as dogs/coyotes attack with the mouth when chasing and cats try to swipe the legs. On the video, it looks like you have a dirt pen..you should be able to see tracks. Cat tracks will not have the "tick" marks in front of the paw pad, as their claws retract. The size and space between claw marks should be able to rule out or in a bear.

  • zoocrew83 Mar 16, 2012

    Barbstillkickin. That's incorrect. Wake a/c does NOT deal with wildlife. You do not pay them to deal with it. You pay NC wildlife enforcement to do that. Wake a/c does not have the authority to trap nor kill wildlife. Again wake a/c deals with domestic animals( dogs, cats, horses, cows, pigs). Things that humans take care/or not take care if.

  • barbstillkickin Mar 15, 2012

    Well coyote or bear or bobcat we pay taxes for animal control so they better step up and do the job we pay them for. Sounds to me like they are more afraid of the animals then they should be. I live in Wendell and have not seen any bear or bobcats but I have seen coyotes. The claw marks however do not look like coyote so maybe we do have a bobcat loose. Either way Animal Control is being paid to fix the problem and if a child gets hurt because they did not do their jobs I see a whole lot of law suit. Just pray it does not come to that. Losing a loved one is tough enough but losing one because no one tried to find the animal is allot different.

  • wtant2001 Mar 15, 2012

    My buddy in Greensboro has seen for his own eyes coyotes attacking his beagles inside a pen late evening. So it is possible that coyotes did this and have heard from other hunters losing dogs the same way. There is a open season on them year round. Animal control always suggest to hire a trapper cause they don't like messing with them.

  • grammy5 Mar 15, 2012

    Beaker: You have your opinion (and that's what it is) You have not seen this dogs wounds. That is a big difference!!!We did not say for sure it was anything but a wild animal and we still stand on that belief. The claw marks under his stomach are that of a bobcat maybe or a bear. These vets have seen a lot of injuries on animals that have been documented what they were from. You are so insistant that it was not a wild animal. You are a very, very, small minority of that opinion so if that makes you happy go for it...we know better..and we are the ones that are having to deal with this tragedy, not you. Personally I have never thought it was a cyote. My husand and I still think it was some type of cat or bear because of the claw marks and teeth marks. Cats can jump into a pen. Bobcats have been seen in the next county in the last two months and that was not heresay. My best friend's son saw it! We are not in Africa, we are in America where things like this don't usually happen so close

  • barbstillkickin Mar 15, 2012

    I don't know what attack this poor dog but I am sure it was not just one animal. If it is coyotes they run in packs and they attack in packs. No large dog of any kind can hold off an entire pack of any animal. I have two dogs and I live in Wendell. I wish they would have said which part because we also have woods behind our home. My husband has told me when we first moved out here he saw five coyotes in our front yard. It was a new sub division at that time so we are getting into their territory. Just be careful and watch your children and animals but no need to worry about every single time your animal or child is outside. I keep my dogs inside at night and day. They are part of my family not just a dog in a pen.

  • beaker Mar 15, 2012

    Actually...I have a zoology degree and did wildlife conservation work in Africa for 4 years with a focus on large predators. As I said, noone has told you that this was, without a doubt, a wild animal-or what that animal was. It may have been a "wild" animal or it may have been something else. You can call me a piece of work all you want...i just don't believe in jumping to conclusions. I don't, and won't, believe a coyote would jump into a pen with two larger predators (in the coyotes eyes) and then be able to break a larger animals jaw. We are talking basic animal behavior here, not hysterical

  • grammy5 Mar 15, 2012

    Beaker....you are a piece of work. We have been told by reliable people that this was a larger wild animal. Do you have a Veteranary Degree???Whe you get it then comment and I am not granny...Unbelieveable!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • beaker Mar 15, 2012

    Granny...No one has proved that this was, in fact, a wild animal. So at this point, your theory is just a theory. Could have just as easily been a domestic dog that got loose. Who knows at this poin. The majority of people do not need their "awareness" raised that animals do exist in the woods, most are intelligent enought to already know that. We dont live in a bubble. Hope the dog gets better soon.