08/22/2012 04:24 EDT | Updated 10/22/2012 05:12 EDT

Rita Phillip Pit Bulls Attack: Sundre Dogs Declared Vicious By Alberta Town Before They Mauled Woman In Home


SUNDRE, Alta. - Two pit-bull-type dogs that mauled a woman at an Alberta home, allegedly on command from their owner, had been declared vicious by town officials last year.

The dogs escaped from their yard at a mobile-home park in Sundre and seriously attacked another dog, a Rottweiler-cross, in its yard last October, said peace officer Kevin Heerema.

The owner was allowed to keep her dogs, but declaring them vicious under the town's bylaw required them to be muzzled and on short leashes when out in public, Heerema explained. They also had to be confined to a pen when in their yard.

There was a second complaint last month that the dogs were not being properly confined in their yard, Heerema said. The owner was cautioned and reminded that the dogs, both four-year-old males, also needed to have their licences renewed for the year.

"However those issues have little or no bearing at all on the attack that happened inside the residence," he said.

A 26-year-old woman visiting the home was mauled by the two dogs on Saturday.

Emergency crews initially thought she was dead, as she had suffered life-threatening wounds to her arms and face. Mounties said she may have lost an entire ear.

RCMP were still searching Wednesday for the dogs' owner, identified as 57-year-old Rita Phillip, who disappeared following the attack.

Investigators said they believe her actions led to the dogs attacking the woman. She has been charged with aggravated assault.

Heerema said he arrived with animal control officers after the victim was rushed to a Calgary hospital. The two dogs were in a room, throwing themselves at a closed door, trying to get out.

When the door was opened, one of the dogs charged at the group of officers and it was shot dead. "It was a fairly confined space. We were all in immediate danger."

Heerema said the other dog remained in the room. It was sedated and placed in quarantine.

No decision has been made on whether it will be destroyed. Heerema said he is waiting for the RCMP to complete its investigation.

"It's really hard to say at this point."

— By Chris Purdy in Edmonton