Local Farmer Mauled by Dogs

Ward's left hand after the attack

Ward’s left hand after the attack

by Alan D. McNarie

Deborah Ward was working on her organic farm near Kurtistown on Monday, July 28, when “I heard some people yelling …I usually know my neighbors, so I went down to say hello.” But when she approached the old railroad right-of-way at the back of  her farm, she encountered a blond woman she didn’t know and two dogs, one white and one red, both of which appeared to be pit-bull mixes. The next few moments would cost her two deep gashes in her leg, a mangled hand and an extended hospital stay.
“I said hello, and next thing I know they [the dogs] were both running at me at about 20 miles per hour. He [the red dog] knocked me down bit my leg, and then bit my hand and started chewing on it…. At the time I thought I was going to die. He was within inches of my neck, and I was on the ground bleeding from both legs and being mauled. When she pulled the dog off, I ran as fast as I could, screaming at the top of my lungs and gushing blood, and got on my tractor and drove back to my house with two gaping wounds in my legs and my hand shredded and all the bones broken in multiple places.”  After she reached her house, she said, “I screamed for a full ten minutes, and my neighbor came over and asked me if he could help me get to the hospital.” The neighbor drove her to meet the ambulance in Kea’au.
Ward’s son, Ben, later confirmed that the dogs belonged to some voluntary ag workers at a neighboring farm.

Ward is the primary caregiver for her partner, retired biologist Fred Stone, who is paraplegic as the result of a recent fall from a ladder. Her son is currently taking care of Stone, and plans are being made for him to stay with relatives on the mainland while Ward recuperates.

The owners of the dogs declined to comment, but we learned from two different sources that the owners had been attempting to contact the Hawaii Police Department to make a statement about the incident, but that so far the police had not contacted them.

The Chronicle has been attempting to contact the Hawaii Police Department today to find out what, if anything has been done about the dogs and why HPD, nearly six days after the attack, still apparently had interviewed neither the victim nor the dog’s owners.  We still haven’t heard back from the police.  But a few minutes after e-mailing HPD spokesperson Chris Loos about the situation, we were talking to Ms. Ward on the phone. She suddenly said, “I’ll have to call you back.  There’s a policeman outside my door.”

We’ll keep you updated.

18 replies
  1. Handyman
    Handyman says:

    Aloha Puna,

    This should never had happen. What if it had been a little boy or girl simply playing in their own yard? The injury could quite possibly had been fatal.

    The owner/s should be held accountable. Charges of at least assault should be filed and at most, attempted manslaughter. Community members should not be living in fear of walking down their own street or traversing their own property. Pet owners must be held accountable for their pets destructive and/or fatal behaviors.

    I look forward to a follow up story. Don’t let this get swept under the rug.


  2. James Weatherford
    James Weatherford says:

    Thank you, Alan, for covering this.

    We visited Deb at Hilo Hospital this morning, as have many other friends.

    All I can say is, if we, as a community, are impotent to bring justice to this, the we must all be very, very ashamed.

  3. foodiesleuth
    foodiesleuth says:

    My son and I visited Debbie on Thursday at Hilo Medical and although she was obviously in a lot of pain, she was trying to be brave…until she heard that she might not be accepted to Hale Anuenue for extended care and therapy because the ‘case is not clear’ and there might be a conflict if Debbie tries to file for retribution.

    Thank you for trying to bring light to this matter, Alan.

  4. fruit farmer
    fruit farmer says:

    the dogs are innocent, because they were bred by humans to fight and kill. still, most dog attacks are from pit bulls. it doesn’t help that we whack off their tails and ears to make them look (and be) more dangerous.

  5. Kaufarmer
    Kaufarmer says:

    Yes the dogs are at fault. But so are the people, of course. Just because the breed was bred for fighting instincts doesn’t translate automatically into aggression towards humans. Plenty of non-fighting breeds will bite. Those dogs need to be controlled by their owners. If owners make no attempt to control them, then the owner is liable.

  6. BadBiker
    BadBiker says:

    I’m sorry, but you cannot allow anyone to have dogs capable of this kind of vicious attack- and I’m a dog lover.

  7. nosake
    nosake says:

    I’m always overwhelmed with the underwhelming attitude toward pit-bulls and other dogs capable of spontaneous aggression. I like Pit-bulls and detest the idea of killing any animal. That said, this type of dog needs to be eliminated.

  8. James Weatherford
    James Weatherford says:

    Hawaii County Code classifies this attack as a “petty misdemeanor” — I ask you to look at the photo of Deb’s hand above and think if that looks like a “petty misdemeanor”…

    In my reading of Hawaii County Code 4-31, there is reference to a “dangerous dog” being “ordered to be humanely destroyed”, however, I do not see where from/how such an “order” would be authorized and made.

    IMO …
    All human acts that result in dogs being able to attack people and attacking, unprovoked, are reprehensible.

    The person(s) who takes responsibility for dogs, referred to in the law as “owner”, should face the same legal consequence as if that person(s) had used a hard sharp object, or their own teeth and nails, to attack another person. Unfortunately, that is not what I see as being the case for Hawaii County or the State of Hawaii.

    As for the dogs, any dog that does to anyone what those dogs did to Deb, must be immediately put down, “humanely destroyed” as described in the law, for purposes of community safety.

    For background:
    Deb, unfortunately, is not the first person I know to be attacked just as ferociously, and the public safety apparatus in our County failed in in those cases, too.
    One was a woman in her 30’s who died as a result of dog attack in HPP (10 years ago). The same dogs attacked another person 10 days later.
    The other was a man in his 30’s attacked in Leilani Estates. In that case (2 years ago), when the man was at the Hilo Hospital ER, he asked how common such attacks were and was told they see at least one per week.

  9. Nelson Ho
    Nelson Ho says:

    Aloha Alan for responsibly reporting on this horrific incident, the mauling by two dogs of a senior citizen, community activist and dear friend.

    I am gratified that Deborah J. Ward is bathed in Love. So much so, that she is exhausted from all her friend’s visits.

    The dog owners, Monica and Mike from Oregon, are not evil people and they want to do the right thing for Debbie’s recovery. Lets not judge them harshly, we are not walking in their moccasins. It is an emotional path they are on and also a long, painful one for Debbie as she heads towards physical rehab.

    With Gratitude,

    Nelson Ho, Sierra Club

  10. Annie Craver
    Annie Craver says:

    I’ve been bitten twice in the last few months while running and biking. The second time the dog also bit a neighbor and tried to bite someone else. Another time a dog wouldn’t let me pass on my run and I yelled for the owner who finally came out and called the dog off. Just yesterday I went running on my new street with my daughter in the jogging stroller and an agressive dog not confined in any way stood in the middle of the road barking and growling. I called police to tell the owners to confine their dog before a mauling happened. Mo

  11. sp
    sp says:

    It’s not the dogs’ fault, but rather irresponsible owners. They should have been on leashes in public. Our neighbor’s 2 pitbulls were inside our farm 3 times within a week and killed 5 of our sheep, AFTER we had sightings of it and notified the owner. One of those times, my husband had a gun on one of the dogs, but could not shoot it as we are dog lovers and understand it was not the dog’s fault, rather, the owner’s fault. The police did come to file a report, but because he only witnessed the actual kill on only 1 of those incidents, there can only be 1 case filed. Although we witnessed the same dogs on our land multiple times, and notified the owner, but if the actual kill was not witnessed, there is no case. There’s something very wrong with this. It’s been 4 months and it’s still sitting on the prosecutor’s desk “waiting to be charged”?

    Great that these dog owners are ‘trying to do the right thing’. Our neighbors did not.

  12. Handyman
    Handyman says:

    Aloha Nelson Ho,

    “Monica and Mike from Oregon” are not thought to be evil, but let me make it perfectly clear what “I” think they are.

    From the actions committed by their dogs, Monica and Mike are “Poor Pet Owners”, criminally neglecting to properly train their dogs and not have them on leashes while in a open public environment. (Particularly attack dog breeds)

    They are, “insincere” in their efforts to make amends. (Six days elapsed without action being given or taken).

    They are “ignorant” for not realizing the potential havoc their dog breed could wreak on another human being in a public environment.

    I got a few more examples of what I believe Monica and Mike are but I think you get the idea. Don’t try to candy coat this heinous neglect of responsibility with here say of good intentions.

    Aloha grrrrr,……

  13. Y.MEE
    Y.MEE says:

    Pit Bull or any other supposedly aggressive dogs only turn aggressive when not raised and trained right. These two dogs must have shown aggressive behavior before and letting them roam free is then irresponsible. Hopefully the owner makes amends and educate themselves, for example through Cesar Milan, the Dog Whisperer, here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yKHznwVTxYg

    Wishing speedy recovery,

  14. Julie
    Julie says:

    The dog owners might be lovely people, but these dogs need to be put down. They should have been leashed. I have no doubt that the owners knew these dogs were aggressive prior to the attack. I also hope the owners offer monetary help for Debbie and Fred as they cope with this horrible traumatic event. That would be the decent thing to do. Thank you for reporting on this, and I hope it spurs the police to impound the dogs. What if Debbie had been a child? Get well Debbie, and aloha from the mainland.

  15. Alan McNarie
    Alan McNarie says:

    Deborah is improving slowly. She has limited motion in her index finger, but her hand, at this point, is still pretty much unusable. I’m working on a full story about the incident, and the issue of dog attacks, for the print edition. If someone else has experienced a dog attack, please contact me.–AM

  16. Handyman
    Handyman says:

    Aloha Allan McNarie,

    There’s an article in today’s Star Advertizer about a California man that got sentenced to at least 15 years in prison for his pit bull dogs mawling a woman.

    Perhaps you could research the reporter to find usable info?

    Just saying.


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