Dog With Separation Anxiety Attacks Owner to Keep Her From Leaving: Officials

A dog anxious over the departure of a family member in its New Jersey home attacked its other owners Thursday night because it didn't want one of them to leave, authorities say.

The pit bull bit the 50-year-old mother and her 31-year-old daughter Thursday evening after they attempted to leave their house in South Brunswick, according to police.

The dog had apparently been exhibiting signs of anxiety over the recent departure of her owner's 19-year-old daughter, who had left for college recently, according to animal control officials.

When South Brunswick police officers responded, a police body microphone captured the mother's explanation of what happened when she and her older daughter tried to leave the house.

"He jumped on her, so she's screaming something and he bit her, and he turned around and jumped me," the mother told police. "He doesn't like someone to leave the house, that's the thing." 

Both women were bitten on their arms and legs. 

In a recording of the family's 911 call to police, the anguished father can be heard telling the dispatcher, "My dog just bit my daughter. She's bleeding out of one of her veins."

The dispatcher assures the man, "We've got 'em on the way," but the panicked father repeats, "Please get here quick. Please, please, she's screaming. Please, please, please, oh God, please." 

The father was eventually able to get the dog under control and placed it in the garage until police and animal control authorities arrived to take it away to an animal hospital.

Neighbor Latha Nair said she frequently saw the 19-year-old daughter taking out the family's two dogs, and "they're pretty OK." 

South Brunswick Police Capt. James Ryan says this is the second time in the last two weeks or so that a pit bull attacked its owners, though he was not sure what provoked the first attack.

Ryan called the attack surprising.

"Who ever heard of a dog having separation anxiety?" he said.

Animal behaviorist veterinarian Dr. Emily Levine said that as attached as people are to their dogs, animals can be to their owners.

"They may use their mouth to try to grab the shirt or pants to pull them in, they may put their mouth on them and bit down," she said. 

But with separation anxiety, the injuries are usually not severe.

"The intent the animal has is not really to hurt, to harm, but it's really 'please, please stay with me,'" she said. 

Levine said drugs and therapy can ease separation anxiety in a dog. Warning signs are pacing, whining, property destruction and even relieving itself in the home. 

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