An Austin woman was mauled to death by a pack of dogs on Wednesday, according to a press release from the Travis County sheriff’s office. Erin McCleskey, 36, was a process server and had arrived at a property in northeastern Travis County to serve civil papers during the day on Wednesday.
She entered through the property’s front gate and was met by a pack of dogs. Six dogs were apparently responsible for the attack, although there were also 14 puppies found on the property as well. Animal authorities said in a release that they appeared to be Labrador/Great Pyrenees mixes, and that two of the dogs appear to be a husky/Australian cattle dog mix, according to the Austin Statesman.
The woman’s employer, Casey Cox, is the owner of EZ Messenger. He says she was serving papers for his company as an independent contractor, but didn’t say what type of papers she was serving. McCleskey’s father, Michael Shapiro, was his business partner.
“So it’s definitely hit home for us,” Cox said. The woman lived with her parents and had other relatives in the area. Cox went on to say that process servers are well trained in situational awareness, which includes training on how to deal with violent animals. This isn’t the first server he’s had who was bitten by dogs, but it’s unknown whether the other cases were serious as he failed to elaborate.
Neighbors have apparently had problems with the dogs from that property for several years. One man, Gonzalo Grimaldo, owns a parking lot next to the property. He said he called 911 a few months ago when the pack of dogs got loose and attacked his dog. He said it was frightening, but no one responded to his 911 report. A family down the street from the property has also had some serious concerns. Vernon Ballard said that it was very odd and that most of the time dogs don’t do that. His wife, Melissa Ballard, also voiced concerns about the safety of her own dogs and other children in the neighborhood, including her 10-year-old daughter.
“They do jump on everything. I don’t trust them, they’re scary. I don’t even like my dogs going around the block with us because I’m afraid that they will get attacked over there. They come out and chase them if they are riding their bikes and stuff and even the cars, they chase the cars if we go around the block.”
Wednesday night at around 9 p.m., the dogs’ caretaker went to the home to feed the dogs and found the woman’s body. When he saw that the woman appeared to have been mauled to death by the dogs, he called 911. The owner of the dogs, Terry Swanson, had been out of town for over a month. The owner of the property is listed as Donald Swanson. Donald and Terry Swanson couldn’t be reached for comment as their phone numbers were disconnected.
Another neighbor, Christi Sparks, has also said her family has had “constant problems” with dogs running loose in the neighborhood since as far back as 2005. She doesn’t allow her children to ride their bikes or skateboard outside out of fear of the packs of dogs running loose. It’s likely that this situation will only add to her concerns.
Patricia Fraga, Austin city spokeswoman, said the records from all local animal centers showed no prior complaints involving the dogs on that property. Sheriff’s spokesman Roger Wade said the dogs that mauled the woman to death were running loose on the property, but that the case will most likely be labeled as an accidental death and that the owner of the dogs will not likely face any charges. There was no one home at the time McCleskey entered the property, except for the pack of dogs, according to a report by Fox News.
“If the homeowner’s not there and doesn’t sic the dogs on them, I don’t know what charges would be filed.”
The six dogs that were seized are being checked for rabies. When they are released after a 10-day quarantine, a Travis County judge will decide their fate. Until then, it’s not known if the dogs will be returned to the owners or kept in custody, or even euthanized. It takes the full 10 days to determine their rabies status, and after that, the city can file paperwork to take control of the pack of dogs.
According to the medical examiner, the woman appeared to have been dead for at least five hours, says a report by NBC4. The medical examiner’s investigation will continue in order to determine the exact cause of death, while animal protection authorities will determine for certain if the impounded dogs were the actual cause of her death. McCleskey’s family issued a statement on Thursday night.
“Our family is heart-broken over the tragic passing of our affectionate, fun-loving daughter, Erin. She was an adventurous woman who always lived her life to the fullest and never shied away from a challenge. Erin loved people and had a special affection for animals. Her infectious laughter will be missed by her family and friends. Life will never be the same without her.”
It’s one of many instances of people being mauled to death by dogs, one example noted in a previous post by the Inquisitr.
[Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images]