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Boyfriend: Woman attacked by pit bull was breaking up dogfight

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Published:   |   Updated: March 23, 2013 at 11:02 AM
ST. PETERSBURG -

Patricia Thiel, the 39-year-old nurse who was badly mauled by one of her boyfriend's four dogs Thursday before a neighbor fatally shot the animal, is in critical condition at Tampa General Hospital, her boyfriend said this morning.

The boyfriend, Robert Jacks, 43, said both of Thiel's arms were gnawed to the bone as she tried to shield herself against an attack by Jake, a 100-pound pit bull, at their home on Coquina Way South. She had to be flown to Tampa General Hospital due to the need for emergency vascular surgery, he said.

Jacks said Thiel told him she had just arrived home when she decided to let their four dogs out into the backyard. Jake and one of the other dogs got into a fight, and when Thiel tried to break it up, Jake turned on her and began mauling her, he said.

"Jake ended up turning on Patty," Jacks said. "He never did that before."

St. Petersburg police said a neighbor heard Thiel's cries for help, and went looking for help. Eventually, Joseph Wharton was summoned to the scene by his daughter and grabbed his 9 mm handgun. He said he looked into the yard and saw the woman being mauled by the pit bull.

"I fired a warning round into the ground. The dog looked at me, went right back to chewing her," Wharton said.

He changed his position to get a better shot. "If I didn't take the shot, she was gonna die," he said.
Wharton ended up firing three shots. Two hit their mark, and the dog was killed.

Jacks said his other dogs are in the custody of Pinellas County Animal Services. Jacks said he and Thiel are concerned that the other dogs will be held responsible for Jake's actions.

"It was just Jake," Jacks said in an interview from Tampa General Hospital. "You can't blame the other dogs."

"I'm hoping to get them back," Jacks said, adding Thiel wants the same. "That's the first thing she asked about, 'Where are the other dogs?'"

Jacks said he and Thiel have been together 18 years, and Jake has been living with them four to five years - longer than the other three canines. Jacks works at a nearby country club, and Thiel is a nurse at All Children's Hospital.

Welch Agnew, director of Pinellas County Animal Services, said today investigators are trying to determine if any of the three dogs now in custody were involved in the attack. If they were, they need to be quarantined to ensure they do not have rabies.

A decision will also have to be made as to whether they should be destroyed if they were involved in the attack. Jake will also be tested to see if he had rabies. Of the three dogs, two are pit bull mixes and the third is a Chow-shepherd mix.


Reporter Peter Bernard contributed to this report. Reporter Stephen Thompson can be reached at (727) 451-2336 or spthompson@tampatrib.com.

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