A pair of dog attacks in recent weeks have resulted in the death of a puppy and thousands of dollars in veterinary care and hospital bills, so members of the Santa Monica canine community are urging owners to be responsible when outside with their pets.

The day after Christmas, local resident Peter Chou arrived home in his neighborhood near Santa Monica High School and opened the car door for his little Chihuahua-mix Peanut, who regularly runs inside the house from the car when he goes on trips with Chou and his family.

“My wife was getting our two-year-old toddler out of the car; I had groceries in my hand and it was a relaxing day,” Chou said. Until Peanut barked at two larger dogs across the street who would break free from their leashes.

What resulted was a scene out of a horror movie or “Jurassic Park,” Chou recalled in an interview Friday.

“I was in pure panic mode, playing tug of war to save my dog, and it was crazy because the dogs were just in attack mode, you know. It was nonstop and it was straight out of the documentaries you see about the safaris where a lion is biting on a gazelle,” Chou said, thanking the neighbors who came to his aid with sticks to help while his wife ran inside with their child.

“Despite all of the people there, they were locked in; they were just holding on to her body like an alligator chomped onto her. I had to lay there and stay right next to their faces just so they wouldn’t take a second chomp because it would have been over for (Peanut) because they would’ve been on her neck entirely,” Chou added. “I say I’m lucky because if it was maybe an inch deeper, I would have been telling you that she’s dead.”

It’s been a little more than 2 weeks since Peanut was attacked and Chou said the three-year-old chihuahua is expected to make a full recovery after her recent surgical procedures. However, a separate attack that resulted in the death of a puppy earlier this week has prompted him to speak out about the need for responsible pet ownership and a possible change to the city’s muzzle laws.

The attack on the puppy happened at the intersection of 14th and Arizona on Monday, January 11, at 5:15 p.m.

“It seemed like a dog walker was walking a dog when the puppy and larger dog had met up,” SMPD Lt. Rudy Flores said Friday. “And then at some point during the meet, the larger dog ended up biting the smaller dog. That dog was rushed to the vet,” and it eventually died.

The attack dog’s owner reached out to the victim, so a citation has been issued and Animal Control is currently working on determining the dog as vicious, which would mean the animal would have to be muzzled while in public, according to Santa Monica municipal code.

In Chou’s case, Flores said, Animal Control officers already interviewed both dog owners as well as independent witnesses. Based on the circumstances of the incident, Animal Control decided not to issue a formal order to deem the dog vicious, meaning the dog who put Peanut in surgery will not have to be muzzled in public.

Chou said he and his wife used to foster dogs while they lived in New York so he would never advocate for an animal to be euthanized but he doesn’t think the dog who bit his should be running through the neighborhood when there are children out and other little dogs that could suffer the same fate as Peanut.

“It’s just crazy that the laws in California say it has to happen three times before they even do a muzzle mandate,” Flores said. “I would have been happy if they just said, ‘Okay, we’re gonna keep this dog on a muzzle,’ but that apparently isn’t even an option until they attack two more dogs, which is ridiculous because you can’t take back somebody losing their life or their puppy.”

Animal Control Officers remind the public that pet owners should make sure all dogs are on leashes and to ensure they have full control of the leash when out in public.

Brennon@smdp.com