WINDER - A 62-year-old Winder man credits his neighbor David Banner with saving his life when he was mauled by three pit bulldogs Monday.
Kelly Edwards remains hospitalized with more than 100 stitches after a five-hour surgery.
"Had it been even two or three more minutes, he was so weak by the time Mr. Banner got out there, he would have laid in the street and bled to death," said Kathy Westall, Edwards' daughter.
Edwards was attacked at 7:30 a.m. Monday outside his Englewood Road home during his morning walk, he said. Although neighbors have complained about the dogs, it was the first time they had given Edwards any trouble.
"One of the pit bulls started barking, and it ran from the driveway," Edwards said. "The smallest one attacked me first, then all of them jumped on me. I didn't have anything to beat them off with. They bit the shoes clean off my feet."
The three dogs combined weighed about 150 pounds, said Stephen Eades, director of Barrow County Animal Control.
Edwards made it to Banner's driveway two houses down, screaming for help.
"I grabbed my walking stick and ran outside," Banner said. "Three pit bulls had him on the ground mauling him. I beat them with a 6-foot walking stick and broke it in three pieces trying to fight them off. They tried to attack me, but they didn't get to me or Mr. Edwards after I got there."
Banner's son used a .410 bore shotgun to shoot the largest dog, an adult male weighing 50 to 60 pounds, Banner said. The other two dogs ran home and hid under the porch.
The dogs live at a neighboring house owned by Kathy Casper, who visited the hospital and apologized to the family Monday, Westall said. Westall added that the dogs' owner is incarcerated. That information could not be verified by press time.
"They have been off and on trouble for the last few months," Banner said. "They ran my grandchildren up on the porch. I should have called the sheriff, but they always went home and things'd get back to normal. I hate to cause friction with the neighbors, but now I sure wish I had."
The dogs' owners were issued 18 citations on charges of failure to keep animals under control, control and restrain, nuisance/vicious animal and not having proof of rabies vaccinations, Eades said. The owners will face a Barrow County magistrate judge in November, he said.
The names of those issued citations could not be released at press time because the citations had not yet been turned in, Eades said.
The dogs had no record of previous attacks, although the owner had been issued a warning for letting them run loose, Eades said.
"They have the pack instinct," Eades said. "Pit bulls were bred for fighting and hunting, and it is in their nature to attack."
The two dogs are in Barrow County's animal shelter and scheduled for euthanization this morning. The blue-gray 2-year-old female and 9-month-old male were docile Tuesday, although the female showed signs of aggression, Eades said. The results of rabies tests should be ready by Thursday.
All dogs in Barrow County older than 4 months are required to have a rabies vaccination and be maintained on the owners' property on a leash or in a fenced area, Eades said. The dogs' owner is responsible for any damage done by their animals, meaning the owner is responsible for Edwards' medical expenses, he said.
No charges will be filed against the man who shot the dog, he said.
Edwards suffers from lacerations to his arms, legs and feet. He will remain hospitalized another two days, then faces weeks or months of physical therapy, as well as permanent scarring, Westall said. Otherwise, he is recovering well, she said.
Prior to his attack, Edwards played guitar and enjoyed car racing and motorcycles.
"He won't be able to do any of that for awhile," Westall said.
Had it not been a holiday, Banner would have left for work at 5 a.m., more than two hours before the attack.
"He literally saved my life," Edwards said. "I saw my whole life flash in front of me. Three pit bulls had blood in their mouths and it came out of me. It changes the way I look at life and everything."