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A woman mauled by loose dogs last week has criticized Charles County Animal Control for not seizing the animals, instead leaving them with the owner. The fate of the three dogs will be decided by the Animal Matters Hearing Board on Nov. 20, according to county spokeswoman Crystal Hunt.

Lynn Strybing was walking her dog, Buddy, near her Cobb Island home the evening of Sept. 27 when the dogs escaped from a neighbor’s fenced yard and set upon the 6-year-old beagle, Strybing said.

“They charged us,” hair erect and teeth bared, Strybing said. “When they reached us, you could hear their toenails on the road where they were trying to stop, they were running so fast.”

The leader of the pack, a Rottweiler mix, took Buddy by the neck in a “death shake,” while two pit bull mixes “were on each side, gnawing on him,” Strybing said.

The attack continued until a relative of the dogs’ owner dashed into the street and pried them away with a pole, Strybing said. Two other neighbors, happening on the scene, told her she was bleeding, escorted her home and called 911. While protecting her pet, Strybing was bitten nine times but didn’t feel it.

Strybing was taken to Civista Medical Center in La Plata by ambulance, where she was treated and released. She returned to work with the county department of public works on Tuesday, she said.

Buddy is recovering at home after surgery to repair the damage from 42 bites, said Strybing and her boyfriend, Lawrence Lee, a Cobb Island volunteer firefighter. With the help of fellow volunteers, he stanched the animal’s bleeding at the firehouse and rushed him to an emergency veterinary clinic in Waldorf. A vet stapled shut a six-inch gash on the dog’s right shoulder.

The couple said they had nothing against the owner, who was away, or his family, who were caring for the dogs. But they were angry that Charles County Animal Control returned the dogs to the family instead of seizing them.

Lee began a campaign of phone calls to county officials, state legislators, Animal Control Supervisor Ed Tucker and Tucker’s superior, appealing for the seizure of the dogs. The dogs were ordered quarantined, at home, for 10 days as a rabies precaution, according to the animal control report and Hunt. The owner, Charles A. Higgs, has moved the dogs out of the county with the permission of animal control and the Charles County Department of Health, Hunt said. The county would not say where they went.

Higgs, who gave animal control a Cobb Island address, declined to comment. Lee said Higgs had visited and apologized for the attack.

“It was an accident. I want to stress that because I don’t want any hard feelings with anybody. It’s like you leaving your house and having a car accident: You didn’t do it intentionally. … My issue was strictly how it was handled. They treated it like it was nothing. This was something,” Lee said.

Higgs was cited three times, one for each dog, for having an animal at large and for having a dangerous or potentially vicious animal, Hunt wrote in an email. He also was cited twice for lacking dog licenses and once for failing to provide proof of rabies vaccinations. The penalty, if any, will be decided by the Animal Matters Hearing Board, which also has the authority to order the dogs euthanized.

Tucker declined to comment on the incident before it is reviewed by the animal board, Hunt said.

emitrano@somdnews.com