North Texas

Cleburne Woman Loses Part of Finger in Pit Bull Attack

Dog's owner says it is not vicious and was protecting its turf

A small hole in a fence is raising big legal questions after a Cleburne woman was attacked by a pit bull and lost part of her finger.

Donna Collum, 65, said she was trying to put a small broken piece of her wooden fence back together when her neighbor's dog jumped up from nowhere.

"That dog came straight up, and 'Bam!'" she said. "And his mouth popped right through the fence and got my finger. I mean, just snapped the bones in my finger. I was in shock."

The dog bit off the top segment of the middle finger on her right hand.

Collum spent four days in the hospital. In two surgeries, doctors had to remove more of her finger — down to the first knuckle.

The retired insurance agent and her husband, Rick, think the animal should be euthanized.

"What really bothers me more than anything else is the laxness of some of the laws," Rick Collum said.

The dog's owner, Juan Tellez, said Tuesday that he apologizes for what happened but believes that the dog was just protecting its turf.

"I told them I'm sorry for what happened," Tellez said. "I hope she gets better."

Tellez said his family has owned the dog for 11 years and it has never been aggressive before.

"She's like an angel," he said. "She takes care of her own. She minds her own business. She doesn't look for any trouble."

Tallez also said Collum could have avoided the incident by simply not putting her hand near the hole or calling him to make sure the dog was inside.

The city of Cleburne investigated but said the vicious dog law doesn't apply because the animal never actually left its yard.

The pit bull is under quarantine at the city's animal shelter until Friday to check for rabies but after that can be returned to its owners.

"It's a terrible thing. I hate it when anybody gets bitten by an animal," said Cleburne Police Lt. Shane Wickson.

Still, he said the city must follow the law.

"That's the key part — that the dog was in its own back yard when this occurred," Wickson said.

The Collums argue the dog did, in effect, leave its property.

"If somebody is bit through a fence, then the dog has now come outside of his domain and has crossed over," Rick Collum said. "If we are going to split hairs here, let's split hairs."

The couple said they may talk to a lawyer but have more doctor appointments first.

"I just don't want this to happen to anyone else," Donna Collum said.

Police said Tallez may be cited for not vaccinating the animal.

This story has been updated with the comments of the dog's owner Tuesday morning.

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