A Hereford woman injured during an evening walk last year when a bullmastiff attacked her three small dogs has sued two neighbors for damages after they failed to keep the large dog confined to their property.
Sandra Hollett sustained internal injuries and numerous bites during the Sept. 7, 2018 attack which killed her eight-year-old Shihtzu named Molly and 11-year-old Chihuahua named Pepe. A two-year-old Chihuahua named Bruno survived the attack but wasn’t located for some time.
Hollett’s lawsuit contends Christian Olson, 22, and his mother Brandie Declet “carelessly, recklessly and negligently failed to restrain or confine” the female bullmastiff named Mika, allowing it to attack the leashed dogs as they walked by. Hollett, then 76, was bit and scratched while frantically trying to save her dogs and suffered chest injuries that necessitated surgery after the large dog jumped on her.
Public records show Declet owns the fenced property on Veterans Lane. She was inside her residence but didn’t witness the attack, while Olson, who owns the dog, was not home. Deputy Joseph Gilbert of the Cochise County Sheriff’s Office interviewed both and learned the dog was normally let off its chain if someone was home.
“They both say there were no indicators or reasons to suspect aggression or attack,” Gilbert wrote in his report, adding “there was no known issues of attack prior.”
Olson surrendered his unvaccinated dog for a 21-day quarantine after which he reclaimed her. He later paid a $500 fine after pleading guilty to a misdemeanor for failure to contain the bullmastiff, which a judge designated as a vicious animal. The dog continues to live at the Hereford property.
According to Gilbert, he arrived on scene to find a “very distraught” Hollett covered in blood. He was told neighbors tried to help by throwing rocks to keep the large dog at bay and that another deputy used the door of his patrol vehicle to strike the dog after it jumped on his car.
Gilbert’s report notes the bullmastiff moved away from the scene but continued to roam the area, often standing behind bushes. The deputy deployed an AR-15 rifle and was prepared to use shoot the dog if it advanced on paramedics and other deputies at the scene.
Sierra Vista attorney Joel Borowiec filed the lawsuit on Hollett’s behalf under an Arizona statute which holds an owner liable for a dog’s actions, even if there is no prior indication of viciousness.
Declet and Olson are being defended in the case by Anna Ceder, a staff attorney with State Farm Insurance. Ceder filed a formal answer to the lawsuit, admitting “an incident” involving Mika took place but alleges Hollett’s injuries may have been preexisting or that Hollett may have failed to mitigate her damages.
When contacted about the matter, State Farm declined to comment. “We have nothing to share at this time as the matter is in litigation,” the company’s statement stated.
The case has been assigned to Judge Tim Dickerson of the Cochise County Superior Court although no trial date has been set.