PEMBROKE — Nine dogs were seized from the home of a 53-year-old woman after they mauled her to death on Tuesday, according to Robeson County Sheriff Kenneth Sealey.
Sealey said he did not want to release the name of the woman, who lived at 17 Sharon Lane, because out-of-state relatives had not been notified; but according to an obituary in today’s The Robesonian, the woman was Mary Jo Hunt. The Robesonian has learned she was the mother of three and worked with a rescue group called Claws and Paws.
Sealey said Hunt had about 10 to 15 dogs in the fenced-in backyard of her brick single-family home, all of which were rescued.
“Some of the dogs were ones she rescued off the street,” he said. “She had been rescuing dogs for a number of years.”
Sealey said a neighbor called 911 at about 12:30 p.m. concerning the attack. When deputies arrived, Hunt was still being attacked. The deputies were able to remove the dogs from the woman, but she was already dead, according to Sealey.
“The deputies were the first ones on the scene,” he said.
Hunt lived with a sister, but she was at work at the time, Sealey said. Hunt had worked with attorney Hugh Rogers at his law firm on and off for about 15 years.
“She was a good-hearted person and a hardworking employee,” Rogers said. “I think it’s a terrible, tragic thing.”
Hunt was a widow and had two sons and a daughter.
Sealey that Hunt was trying to protect a small dog from the larger dogs by using a rake. She was then attacked and knocked down by the larger dogs and mauled.
Sealey said several of the dogs were German shepherds, but Bill Smith, director of the Health Department, said seven pit bulls that attacked Hunt are being held at the Robeson County Animal Shelter. Two terriers that are believed to have been attacked by the pit bulls are also at the shelter. A pit bull that is believed to have been attacked was taking to a veterinarian.
The fate of the dogs hasn’t been determined, but Smith said the shelter’s policy is that if an animal causes life-threatening injuries or kills a person, then the animal is to be euthanized. But the shelter is working with the Sheriff’s Office and holding the animals until the investigation is completed.
The shelter does a general assessment to prevent dangerous animals from being adopted, according to Smith, but he pointed out that the process is not perfect.
“There is a general assessment of the animals, but it’s very difficult because some of them are overwhelmed because of the sounds, but if we find one is overly aggressive we won’t adopt it out,” Smith said. “But that doesn’t mean the animal won’t get aggressive in another setting.”
Smith said his understanding is none of the dogs that were part of the attack came from the county shelter.
“It’s an unfortunate loss and a freak accident,” said Katherine Floyd, a former animal cruelty investigator, who said she had met Hunt when the two worked together at a business downtown. “This is something terrible, and my heart goes out to that family.
“I knew she was an animal lover, and she went the extra mile to help an animal, and she was a fantastic person.”