NJ animal control officer mauled by pit bulls

WILLINGBORO, N.J. - December 10, 2009

"She just kept screaming 'Help me, help me, help me," said neighbor Jeanne Critz. "By the time I got out here the police were coming down the street with their guns out."

It was lunchtime Wednesday afternoon at a house on Pickwick Drive when Willingboro Animal Control Officer Michelle Hamilton, 62, was savagely attacked by two loose pit bulls. Police say the dogs dragged her around the yard like a rag doll, inflicting at least 32 separate wounds.

"The wounds go from punctures to tears to the skin being shredded," said Lt. Joseph Dey of the Willingboro Police.

For the third time since 2005, responding officers were forced to shoot and kill attacking pit bulls at this address.

"I heard two shots, and then five. I didn't konw what they were shooting at," said neighbor Thelma Harcum.

Police say Hamilton, a nine year veteran with Willingboro Animal control, had gone to the house to investigate reports that pit bulls from the house were running around the neighborhood after escaping through a ramshackle fence.

"It's a hole back there, and they can dig and they can get under that hole. When they do, they're just roaming all around," said Yusuf Young, the grandson of a neighbor.

Authorities say Hamilton, who is a Florence resident, tried to defend herself with a metal stick and was saved when she crawled into a fetal position and hit the red emergency alert button on her police radio.

"She's sore, she's very sore," said Peg Steele, Hamilton's co-worker. "If it were me, I don't know if it would have sunk in yet. You know, you're still injured and being worked on. The attack is pretty devastating."

Hamilton spoke by phone with Action News, saying "I'm really sore. It's unbelievable."

The owner of the pit bulls, Kevin Frink, says he is 'extremely sorry' about what happened to Hamilton. He says his dogs have never bitten anyone before, and he describes the police shooting of his animals as an 'execution.'

No charges have been filed, but the investigation continues.

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