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Family dog killed by rattlesnake

Safety: Learn how to help keep your residence and yard free of the deadly reptiles

Posted: August 2, 2010 10:40 p.m.
Updated: August 3, 2010 4:55 a.m.

The Mitchell family was relaxing in the back yard of its hillside Canyon Country home when Jazzy, the family’s 6-pound Yorkshire terrier, peeked under a bush and suddenly let out a yelp.

Blood streamed from the little dog’s eye as it took a few steps back toward safety and collapsed.

Jazzy received a fatal bite from a big rattlesnake — just a few feet away from where 3-year-old Sarah Mitchell was playing, said her mother, Denise Mitchell.

“That snake could have popped out and bit her, and it would have had the same results,” Mitchell said of the Saturday attack. “Jazzy is a hero; she really saved my daughter’s life.”

The bite happened right in the middle of prime rattlesnake bite season — between April and October, according to the California Department of Fish and Game. Rattlesnakes slither around in the spring and summer, especially in brushy areas.

“Any time during warm periods you have a little higher activity,” said Harry Morse, spokesman for the department. “The activity periods tend to be later in the day and earlier in the morning.”

Rattlesnakes are not only found in rural areas, though it is important to be particularly cautious in areas where there is a considerable amount of brush, he said.

“In areas where you have wild interfaces and brush lands, you have snakes that may or may not be attracted to people’s residences,” said Morse.

Mitchell said her family had recently cleared the brush around its house and did not see any snakes, so they were not really concerned.

“I don’t think people really think about it,” she said. “We certainly didn’t.”

Jazzy’s death shocked the family, which got the dog as a puppy around the same time Sarah was born. The two were best friends, Mitchell said.

The family found the coiled snake near the scene of the bite and killed it, she said.

After Jazzy’s death, Mitchell said she will be having a snake fence professionally installed next week. She and her family are also making sure that they have some clearance between the ground and their shrubs, so snakes won’t have a place to hide.

“If it could kill a dog in under a minute, it could kill a child,” said Mitchell, who is concerned about more snakes in the area.
“It’s has been the biggest tragedy,” Mitchell said. “I can’t believe this happened in my back yard.”


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