Dog attack survivor shares his story

AUSTIN, Texas — There’s a certain amount of courage that Bella Rangel shows just by continuing with her day job.

She started a pet care business for three years and has worked part-time at a Central Texas animal shelter for the past year. Despite the scars covering her arms and legs, she wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.

What do you want to know

  • Bella Rangel, a pet care advocate, was attacked by a client’s newly adopted dog during a routine visit
  • The dog was an American Bully who showed no signs of aggression
  • Experts say aggression is situational, not a breed-specific personality trait
  • Experts advise checking medical and behavioral histories before bringing a new dog home and learning to understand a dog’s body language

“About two seconds or a second, I don’t know, as I reached the door, he turned around and gave me like this very first puncture wound,” Rangel said, pointing to his forearm. right.

In August, she was preparing to take a client’s dog on a routine walk when the dog, an American Bully, lunged at her arm.

“When I jumped back, he bit my inner thigh,” Rangel said. “I twisted his collar and put him in the bedroom and closed the door.”

Rangel was mutilated for 30 minutes until she was able to escape on her own. She suffered nearly 50 puncture wounds, spent five days in hospital and two more weeks with home nurses.

What’s odd for Rangel is that she not only learned to understand the dog’s body language and signals, she also walked that specific dog every other day for two weeks prior. As part of her normal routine, she spent 30 minutes cuddling, playing and relaxing with the dog before getting ready for the walk.

Rangel says she has also worked with dogs who showed signs of aggression at the shelter. The dog that attacked her showed no signs of what was about to happen.

As pet adoptions spike over the holidays and Texas animal shelters continue to struggle with capacity, Rangel has chosen to speak out about what happened to him to raise awareness of the responsibilities of owning a dog.

“If only I had had more information about the dog. It could have been the leash I used,” Rangel said. “It could have been the way I stood up for something to stir up an emotion like that towards me or something from his past that made him react the way he did.”

This is where Rangel says learning about a dog’s background and history can make a difference.

“The owner, as I understand it, didn’t have the dog for too long, so information about his upbringing was unknown to the new owner and then unknown to me,” Rangel said.

Rangel initially reached out to help the owner because he was looking for someone to walk the dog while he was working long hours. Like many times before, Rangel offered him extra services and supplies to help the dog get used to his new home.

The dog’s owner confirmed to Spectrum News 1 that he received the dog from a family who tried to use him for breeding purposes. It was given to the owner after the family planned to leave Texas. The owner says he was trying to get information about the breeder to prevent the animal from being euthanized, but was unsuccessful.

Rangel has a soft spot for the Pitbull and Bully breeds, but felt the dog that attacked her might hurt someone else.

“I can’t bear to risk someone else’s life for this dog,” Rangel wrote in a GoFundMe post. “Please don’t spread hate towards this dog. May he rest in a cloud of love and treats.

Lorraine Martinez, Ph.D, is also a dog behavior specialist and pit bull lover.

“There are no specific breeds that are more aggressive than another. Aggression is not a personality trait,” Dr. Martinez said. “What we’re looking for are the specific situations in which this dog might show aggression.”

Dr. Martinez directs Loma’s behavior and training in San Antonio. His team focuses on fearless or reward-based training. Without knowing much about Rangel’s attack, Martinez says there’s a chance the dog was trained at some point using negative reinforcement or aversives like a shock collar.

“I know from my own personal experience that sometimes dogs that have a history of using an electronic collar (electronic collar) can be a bit of the most unpredictable dogs because that electronic collar can accidentally suppress some of the signals that we normally get. tell us this dog is uncomfortable,” Dr. Martinez said.

She adds that the dog could also have had a hidden medical issue that made him irritable or restless. Her advice matches Rangel’s, which is that if you’re looking to bring a new dog home for the holidays, go into adoption with a plan and check the dog’s history.

“The important thing is not to expect this dog to be like any other dog you might have had. This dog has its own experiences and personality and you are going to be like a detective to see what are situations that are comfortable for that dog,” Dr. Martinez said.

The owner of the dog who attacked Rangel told Spectrum News 1 that she did everything she could to make the dog comfortable with her, acknowledging that he should have sought out a professional trainer when adopting the dog.

Rangel slowly gets back to work as she continues her physical therapy.

“My goal was to really try to understand, to keep working, to think about what I can do differently now and what I can show others,” Rangel said.