Woman Near Death After Encounter With Dogs

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A Payson woman who suffered head injuries when two loose dogs knocked her to the ground was taken off life support Monday.

"Two dogs at large will result in the death of an elderly woman," Animal Control Officer Don Tanner said.

The incident occurred Nov. 7, when Naomi Walton, 78, was leaving her home on North Vista Drive with a companion. Two dogs came from behind her, jumped up on her and knocked her to the concrete driveway, Tanner said.

Walton was taken to Payson Regional Medical Center where she was stabilized and transported to Scottsdale Osborn Healthcare. She was diagnosed with a fractured leg, but began to have seizures and went into a coma. By Nov. 12, Walton was placed on life support, Tanner said.

"At first they thought it was a heart attack, but later they found that she was going into seizures, so apparently she must have bumped her head also," Tanner said.

Walton is not expected to recover from her injuries.

"As of Monday, they removed her from the life support machine and they are waiting for a hospice room to become available," Tanner said. "When a room is available, they are going to remove her feeding tube and allow her to die."

Walton was scheduled to move to a new home in California the following week, Tanner said.

The dogs -- a pit bull and a rottweiler -- both less than a year old, were taken to the humane society immediately following the incident.

"I did cite the owner for dogs at large causing injury," Tanner said.

The owner was cited with a violation of a town ordinance which is a class one misdemeanor.

Tanner said there would not be criminal charges but Police Chief Gordon Gartner said the department will be investigating the matter further.

"We're going to turn that case over to our investigations unit and then we will forward it to the county attorney," Gartner said.

Gartner said as far as the misdemeanor charge is concerned, it's up to the judge to determine what the consequences are.

"Theoretically, it could be six months in jail, but that's usually not the case," Gartner said. "It could be a fine."

For a criminal case, a prosecutor would have to show that the owner knew her dogs would kill someone.

"For any type of negligence or recklessness, there has to be some kind of understanding on the part of the suspect that there is a reasonable belief that their actions will lead to this result," Gartner said.

The woman's severe injury is an example of the danger of dogs at large, Gartner said.

"It points out an issue of loose dogs," Gartner said. "We think they are just running loose, but bad things happen. Cars swerve to miss them and you have an accident. Then you have an incident like this one."

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