SANTA ROSA (KPIX 5) — A Santa Rosa woman was attacked and seriously injured by dogs living in a homeless camp that has reportedly existed for more than five years. Residents are starting to ask: When will someone be held accountable?
Santa Rosa has a growing homeless problem, but what happened to Carolyn Teel is testing the limits of the residents’ compassion.
Teel’s friends were helping her prepare for Tuesday’s City Council meeting by creating a photo exhibit to show the injuries she suffered last week when she was attacked as she walked on a path behind Montgomery High School by a pair of dogs living in a homeless camp hidden in the bushes.
“The little white dog first started biting me,” she said, “and the pit bull started biting me immediately on my calf and then my arm and pulled me down and started dragging me.”
The homeless woman who owned the dogs was bitten as well as she tried to pull them off. Teel spent three days in the hospital and underwent emergency surgery.
“Tendons needed to be reattached, nerve damage, broken bones,” she said. “I’m on heavy antibiotics so I don’t get a bone infection because the dog bit through multiple bones.”
But this wasn’t the first time the dogs were aggressive. Craig Murphy’s wife was also on the path back in August when the same dog began snarling at her, trying to break free. He reported it to police and was told the dog had a history of biting people.
“The officer reported that he asked the residents of the encampment to leave, but he didn’t really have any power to make them leave because of the injunction,” Murphy said.
The injunction is a ruling in a Boise, Idaho court case that says people camping on public property cannot be evicted if there is no bed available for them or place to store their property. Now, it’s gone so far that last month, officials posted signs advising residents to avoid the popular Joe Rodota biking trail because the homeless had essentially taken it over.
“Right now, it just feels like they’re allowed to do whatever they want,” Murphy said. “I think the law side of things has gone away with the injunction, at least that’s the excuse we’re hearing.”
So because of attempts to show compassion to the homeless, Teel now sits wondering if the feeling will ever come back to her fingers, knowing that no one is really being held accountable for what happened.
“It feels a little like being victimized over again,” she said, “knowing that something could have been done before this happened to me.”
KPIX got no response from Sonoma County Animal Services, but Teel said she was told the pit bull had been quarantined and was scheduled to be euthanized.