Saturday, August 11, 2001

Mitsuji Hirata, left, 82, showed his still-healing arms
to Yoshimi Fujihara, 78, and his daughter Lisa Yamamoto
yesterday. Hirata said he was going to get his newspaper
in the carport on July 22 when he was attacked by two
pit bulls. He said the dogs clamped down on his arms
and would not let go. He dragged the dogs, still clamped
on his arms, into his carport where they finally released
him. Fujihara said he was also attacked and bitten on his
arm and legs in his carport on June 7 by the same dogs.

Victims sue
pit bull owners

Two elderly men were attacked
separately by the same dogs

By Gordon Y.K. Pang

Pearl City resident Mitsuji Hirata stepped onto the driveway of his house for his Sunday morning newspaper last month when he was attacked by two gray pit bulls that clung to him until they tore the skin off his arm.

Hirata, an 82-year-old retiree, sustained deep cuts to his arms and a finger and spent three days in the hospital recuperating from his wounds.

Attorney Richard Turbin said the most outrageous part about the attack is that it occurred only a month after Yoshimi Fujihara, Hirata's longtime Noelani Place neighbor, was attacked by the same dogs when he took out the garbage. Fujihara, 78, was treated and released from the hospital after sustaining cuts to his legs and arms.

"Hopefully, the appropriate city and state authorities will do something to curb these vicious attacks," Turbin said.

Yoshimi Fujihara's injuries, shown here, were caused
by the same dogs that attacked his neighbor Mitsuji Hirata.

Turbin is representing both men in lawsuits against the owners of the two dogs, which live across the street. The suits seek damages from the dog owners, claiming negligent conduct.

The dogs are also known to the Hawaiian Humane Society. Spokeswoman Eve Holt said the organization is investigating the attacks and is considering passing its case on to city prosecutors under a city "vicious dog" ordinance that went into effect July 1.

The ordinance imposes a fine of up to $2,000 and 30 days in jail for owners of dogs deemed "dangerous." A "dangerous dog," under the law, is defined as "any dog which, without provocation, attacks a person or domestic animal, causing bodily injury to the person, or serious injury or death to a domestic animal."

Holt said the owners could be prosecuted for both offenses, even though one occurred before July 1.

Turbin said additional legislation may be in order, such as banning or requiring special permits for ownership of certain dog breeds.

Holt said one dog was brought in but was released after it was discovered the owner had brought it in voluntarily.

Members of the Hirata and Fujihara families said they were told one dog was taken to the Humane Society, but do not know the whereabouts of the other animal.

Meanwhile, the families said, the owners of the pit bulls have at least two other dogs inside their house.

Hirata said about the attack: "I dragged (one) dog about halfway up my carport. I couldn't do nothing."

Hirata's son, Gary, said: "These are older people living in the neighborhood, and they're afraid. One of the neighbors told me he brings out pepper spray just to get the mail. They're afraid they might get attacked."

According to Janice Lau, Fujihara's daughter, the two dogs used to be on leashes outside but were taken inside after her father's attack.

The dogs have apparently attacked people in at least three other cases, according to a statement one of their owners gave in a police report filed in connection with Hirata's case.

Family members of the two victims said they know the dogs have also charged at a postal worker.

"They should have known that these dogs were vicious and would randomly attack their neighbors," Turbin said. "This is a situation where these two dogs -- you can't put it any other way -- they were terrorizing the neighborhood."

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