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Response to pit bull attack is criticized

The family of a 7-year-old girl who was attacked by a pit bull in Southwest Baltimore expressed outrage yesterday at what they described as an excessive delay between when they called 911 and paramedics arrived.

Despite multiple emergency calls starting about 9 p.m. Friday from family members, neighbors and police, a Fire Department ambulance did not reach the 1400 block of Ramsay St. until 9:30 p.m., according to fire officials.

According to police, Baltimore sheriff's deputies began attempting to pry the dog from the girl at 9 p.m. After two deputies shot and killed the dog which had been latched on to the girl's left leg for about 20 minutes relatives of Kayla Mitchell said they had to wait an additional 15 minutes for the ambulance as a family friend held her on the sidewalk. Blood remained there yesterday.

John Ogden, Kayla's grandfather, said he was grateful for the deputies who saved her life but outraged that none of the police there would take her to a hospital in any of the nine vehicles they had on the scene.

"She could have bled to death," he said. "The whole thing was just a freak accident, but what we couldn't believe was how long it took for the medics to get here."

Chief Kevin Cartwright, a Fire Department spokesman, said the department was notified by police dispatchers at 9:12 p.m. of a dog bite emergency in the 1800 block of Ramsay St. They reported to that address and, finding nothing, deemed it a false call until 9:25 p.m., when police corrected the address to the 1400 block of Ramsay.

An ambulance arrived at the scene at 9:30 p.m., he said.

The Fire Department has an average response time of about 3 1/2 minutes, Cartwright said. Their emergency dispatch system was not notified of the incident before 9:12 p.m., he said, and any emergency call that came before that was not routed to the department.

Calls to 911 in the city go through one emergency center, which routes calls to police or fire dispatchers, based on the short descriptions of callers, Cartwright said. Any calls before 9:12 p.m. might have been routed to police but not to the Fire Department, he said.

A police spokesman did not have information about the 911 calls last night.

Lt. Fred Jackson, a spokesman for the Baltimore City Sheriff's Office, said deputies and police on the scene called for an ambulance immediately upon arrival, about 9 p.m. He called as soon as he arrived and was notified that an ambulance was on the way, he said. Any delay would likely have come from a dispatch problem, he said.

Kayla, who was taken to the Johns Hopkins Hospital's pediatric unit, appeared fine yesterday afternoon, sitting on her porch and playing with a neighbor's baby.

She had just learned to ride her bike and was playing with other kids in the street about a block away from her home, under the supervision of her mother, Brenda Ogden.

Vickie Ogden, her grandmother, said Kayla had asked to play a little later, since she didn't have school until Monday.

The dog ran out from an alley and bit the girl, eventually locking its jaws onto her left leg. Before the deputies arrived, Kayla's mother tried to pull her away.

"I was holding on to her top half, and the dog had the rest of her," Brenda Ogden said. Two other men beat the dog on the head -- one with a cane and the other with a board -- for nearly 15 minutes, but the dog did not let go until the deputies began to shoot it, family members and police said. Even after the dog had been hit several times, it continued to run around the street, lunging at various people, said Jackson, the sheriff's office spokesman.

"It was a pretty horrific scene," he said yesterday.

After the fifth shot, several of which had been to the head, the dog died. Animal control officials seized two other dogs from the home of the owners in the 300 block of Calhoun St.

People sitting outside a home identified by neighbors as that of the owners denied any knowledge of the attack and said they did not own the dog.

John Ogden said the owners had come to the hospital to apologize and that there was "no problem" between the two families. Ogden said the owners told him the dog escaped from the backyard of the home after being let out to relieve itself.

Surrounded by family at her home, Kayla said the attack had been the scariest moment of her life, but she felt a lot better. She couldn't show her wounds because it still scared her to look at them, her mother said.

Her small left shoe, stained with blood, rested on the porch.

Two pit bulls could be seen in the neighborhood, one just a few hundred feet from where Kayla was playing. Both were on a leash.

A woman who witnessed the attack and asked not to be identified for fear of reprisal said the Carroll Park neighborhood was full of such dogs, and that many people used them to protect drug caches in their homes.

"Any place where you have drugs, you have pit bulls," said the woman. "It's all about protecting the drugs."

bradley.olson@baltsun.com

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