Woman who almost lost hands in pit bull attack Don’t blame the breed’

Just last year, Michelle Thomas thought she might lose her arms after she was mauled by two pit bulls in her neighborhood in Mecklenburg County.

“This actually helped with opening door knobs because I couldn’t even do that at first,” Thomas said, while using a weight machine at the VCU Health Hand Management Clinic.

After 17 surgeries and extensive work with occupational therapists, she can now cook and bake again.

“Simple things in life, brushing your hair things you don’t think about on a daily basis that are just everyday things, you think about them after you can’t do them for a while,” Thomas said.

Thomas still thinks about what happened on Jan. 28, 2017, when she and her then 7-year-old son Mel went to pick up trash in a ditch near their home in Mecklenburg.

“We were just about done…two dogs came up out of the yard,” Thomas said

She said Mel got scared when the dogs started jumping up and nipping at him, so he screamed and buried his head in his mother’s stomach.

“The dogs started attacking me and everything, he was able to get away,” Thomas said. “Chewing in my arms eating and everything.”

Michelle Thomas going through physical therapy

She said the dogs, two pit bulls that lived nearby, might have killed her, if the landlord had not come upon the scene and fired a gun into the air, chasing them off.

“I did pray that I would be saved,” Thomas said.

Thomas was airlifted to the VCU Medical Center, where the trauma team stabilized her and brought in hand surgeon, Dr. Ilvy Cotterell.

“Both arms had essentially been completely mangled by the dogs to the point where it was barely recognizable,” Cotterell said.

Dr. Cotterell took an artery from Thomas’ leg to replace the damaged arteries in her arms.

“It was like they literally had her and were tearing at her,” Cotterell said.

Cotterell said most of the serious dog bite wounds they see at the hospital are caused by pit bulls.

Michelle Thomas has gone through extensive surgeries.

“Once they’ve latched on, they don’t let go, and that causes severe muscle and soft tissue damage. Sometimes they can even bite through the bone,” Cotterell said.

According to the numbers on the website dogsbite.org, roughly two-thirds of people who died due to the dog bites between 2005 and 2017, were bitten by pit bulls.

And, the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) said pit bull-type dogs are more frequently identified in cases that resulted in severe injuries or fatalities.

But, Will Lowrey, a volunteer with Gracie’s Guardians, a group devoted to pit bull welfare and awareness, discounts dogsbite.org.

“I don’t think there’s a lot of credible studies that are coming out from respected research scientists.” Lowrey said. “This person has a clear agenda she stated on her website her intention is to get rid of pit bull-type dogs.”

He said pit bull-type dogs, like his Ripley who was rescued from a dog fighting situation, make wonderful pets.

“They’re very malleable dogs, they want to be with their owner, they want to be with the person they want to please, and they’re very affectionate dogs,” Lowrey said.

Lowrey cites factors the AVMA mentions on its website that might explain why pit bulls are more frequently involved in serious attacks, including the popularity of the breed in certain rural and urban areas.

“There’s a high prevalence of pit bulls in this area,” Lowrey said.

Comments

Laura Smith says:

Its really bad what happened to this lady and yes I thing the dogs should have been put down, but not because they were pit bulls, they were dogs that were badley treated, or trained to be aggressive or to kill and that's the sad part, because of humans who like to hurt animals and train them for dog fighting, pit bulls have a bad name and not right, people who own dogs that have done this, they need to be investigated to see if they were the cause of these dogs doing this, these dogs are no different than any other dog, all dogs jaws are extremely hard to open when they've decided to bite down on something and I've tried it to a 10 pound dog and it wasn't easy for me to get her mouth open, my family adopted a lab mix from our local shelter and his name was kilo, his collar reaked of gasoline and he ended up tearing apart my daughters kitten, rammed right thru a bunch of children to kill that cat, he didn't care who was in his way, a child was holding the cat but when it saw the dog running towards it, it jumped out of the kids arms and got torn apart, that dog was out for blood, it was out to kill that cat and from what I've learned some people will feed dogs gunpowder and gasoline in their dog food to make them mean and they use cats to get the dog riled up before a dog fight and his name was kilo, like a kilo of heroin or some other drug, and he was such a great dog till five minutes after we has him, we took him back to the shelter along with the dead cat to show them what happened and the guy looked at me like I had two heads when I told hum what the dog had done. My point is proven, all dogs can be dangerous given the right circumstances and how they were treated, treat them like a part of the family and they will pay you back with love, loyalty, gentleness and security, so don't tell me how bad pit bulls are, I've seen other types of dogs do way worse than most pit bulls!!!!!

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