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Advocates say a woman's deadly encounter with a pack of pit bulls is not due to their often-stereotyped breed.
A Utah woman who had her leg amputated after being attacked by a violent pack of pit bulls in her yard has died.
The woman, identified by officials as 63-year-old Sandra Miller, was attacked by a pack of seven pit bulls — including a mother dog, father dog and their five puppies — who belonged to her adult son and lived at her Taylorsville home with her.
Officials initially reported Miller called police on the afternoon of Nov. 1 and said she had been attacked by dogs in the backyard of her home.
When authorities arrived, they used pepper spray to get the dogs away from Miller in order to get her out of the yard.
She was then rushed to the hospital with "extensive" critical injuries to her legs, hands and face. Officials told Scripps News Salt Lake City that Miller died of her injuries on Monday.
In light of the death, her family sent a statement to Scripps News, saying:
"Our family would like to thank the dispatcher for staying on the phone with our mother. The police officers that didn't hesitate to get to her as soon as possible. We'd also like to thank the paramedics, nurses, the doctors, the trauma team and everyone that helped our mother. Thank you for your thoughts and prayers."
Once Miller was out of the yard, officials trying to approach the pack of dogs shot and killed the mother dog, who officials said posed a risk to responding police and animal control officers.
The owner of the pit bulls turned the rest of them over to West Valley City Animal Services. Officials stated they all have been put down due to the violent nature of the incident.
An investigation into the incident and what led up to the attack is ongoing by West Valley City officials.
The pit bull breed has a controversial reputation as being aggressive, though multiple advocacy organizations are trying to change the stereotype, including the Salt Lake Terrier Association.
Aaron Wise is the president of the association. He told Scripps News that attacks like Miller's can come down to responsible or irresponsible ownership.
"You shouldn't let seven dogs just run loose in your backyard, no matter what kind they are," he said. "They turn into a pack mentality and bad things can happen. I wouldn't blame it all on the dogs. It's terrible what happened, but that's not the dog I know."
He and his wife, Deana Dimler-Wise, often spend their free time entering their "intelligent, loyal" dogs into competitions across the country. She wondered whether the dogs involved in Miller's attack were a mixed breed.
"A lot of times 'pit bulls' is a blanket term for any dog with a big head," she said. "It's unfortunate because so many people mislabel 'pit bulls' and really don't even know what the true American Pit Bull Terrier is."
The couple is asking anyone who wants to learn more about pit bulls to reach out to the Salt Lake Terrier Association. The purpose of the group is to educate local owners, encourage responsible ownership, and promote the breed.
This story was originally published by Emily Tencer and Melanie Porter at Scripps News Salt Lake City.
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