Two pit bulls mauled a homeless woman to death and injured two men in southeast Houston early Sunday, police said.
The victims were attacked around 2 a.m. on Glen Prairie near Leonora by female pit bulls. One of the dogs, estimated to be 1-year-old and 30 pounds, was caught immediately after the attack, said Chris Glaser, the City of Houston Animal Control manager.
Police did not release the name of the woman killed, but neighbors described her as a petite woman in her 40s who was a regular in the neighborhood. She was seen panhandling around dusk before the attack.
"She looked fine at that time," said Dewayne London, 45, who lives in the area.
Osby Pineles and his friend witnessed the attack on their way to the corner store to buy cigarettes. The woman was already on the ground, two pit bulls pulling at her body, 21-year-old Pineles said.
As the scared friend started knocking on people's doors screaming for help, Pineles tried to get the dogs away from the woman. The dogs instead turned on him, bloodying his legs, hands and arms, he said.
"The dog knocked me down," said Pineles, who was treated at Memorial Hermann Southeast Hospital.
His friend suffered minor injuries.
Neighbors said they often see dogs roaming the neighborhood. Several houses in the area have visible "Beware of dog" signs.
The animal in custody lives in a nearby apartment complex and has a biting history, neighbors said. The dog does not show symptoms of rabies, but is currently under quarantine for further examination.
A municipal hearing will be held to determine its fate, Glaser said.
Authorities were also searching for a second, larger dog and its owner.
Dog attacks killed 32 people in the U.S. in 2013. Pit bulls or pit-bull mixes were blamed for 25 of those deaths, according to DogsBite.org, a national dog bite victim group dedicated to raising awareness of the public health and safety issue.
"When dogs congregate in more than one or two, especially when they are allowed to roam freely, this kind of incident can occur," Glaser said, warning of the "pack mentality" of dogs.
A 52-year-old woman was mauled by 15 mixed-breed stray dogs on a Houston street last July, he said. After the pack of dogs surrounded her and pulled her down to the ground, she suffered a heart attack, but survived.
Last January, 4-year-old Christian Gormanous was killed by a neighbor's pit bull in Conroe.