Family member speaks out after aunt mauled by dogs

By Alisha Laventure - bio | email

DILLON, SC (WMBF) – A Dillon man spoke out after authorities said two dogs attacked and killed his aunt and left his cousin in the hospital.

Billy Odom discovered the body of his aunt, 66-year-old Sirlinda Hayes, on Thursday afternoon. The Dillon County Sheriff's office said two Rottweilers from a neighboring yard attacked she at her home at 1556 West Main Street.

"I couldn't find her and when I rolled out, she was lying on the ground flat-faced," Odom recalls. He phoned EMS and 911 after discovering his aunt's body. He said she knew the dogs were loose in the yard.

"That's why I don't understand why she would go out there, because she's a afraid of dogs anyway," Odom explained.

Odom said Hayes had a garden hoe in her hand to protect herself when she went outside. He said it is possible that seeing the hoe caused the dogs to respond the way they did.

Deputies say the attack started at Hayes' home and ended in her next-door neighbor's yard. The dogs' owner, Shawn Samuel, was also attacked when attempting to return the dogs to their cage.

"He was distraught by what he saw and what had happened," Odom said in reference to Samuel, who is also his cousin. Odom said Samuel's reaction was the determining factor in understanding why the dogs then attacked Samuel.

"He snapped, you know. He was trying to get them in and he wasn't as friendly as he normally would be in putting them back in the cage."

Dillon County Coroner Donnie Grimsley said the autopsy results show Hayes died as a result of the injuries she sustained. Samuel's leg was amputated as a result of the injuries he sustained.

He is recovering in a Florence hospital.

Douglas Pernell with Dillon County Animal Control said Samuel's dogs had no reported history of aggression or violence. They removed three other Rottweilers that were caged on Samuel's property. Pernell said they showed no aggression when transported and taken to animal control the shelter.

"It's not like it's an everyday occurrence. Unfortunately when you have one, that's too many," Capt. Cliff Arnette with the Dillon County Sheriff's Office said. Deputies, along with SLED, are still investigating how the dogs escaped.

Arnette said dog owners have a responsibility to properly secure their animals, especially when considered dangerous. It is up to the owner to acknowledge and if his or her dog falls under that category.

Odom insists the dogs were not raised to attack, and were properly cared for by their owner. He suspects wandering dogs in the neighborhood occasionally provoke the caged Rottweilers, causing them to behave in a territorial manner when faced with a trespasser.

No changes have been filed against Samuel at present. Odom says no one is at fault.

"I don't think in this situation, there should be anyone punished severely for what happened because it was a tragic accident."

The funeral service for Hayes is scheduled for next Tuesday at New Spring Hill AME Church in Dillon.

Copyright 2011 WMBF News. All rights reserved.