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Lawton man recovers after vicious dog attack

LAWTON, Okla._A Lawton man is on the mend after he was attacked by a neighbor's dog in an east Lawton neighborhood.

"I looked and the dog was charging," Robert Whigham said as he recalled the attack when he was out for his daily jog.

Whigham says in an instant, the dog had him by the arm before taking a hold of his leg. After wrestling with the animal for what he says seemed like an eternity, he was able to break free. Left bloody and bruised, he was taken by ambulance to the hospital where he received more than a dozen stitches.

The dog has since been put down, but Whigham says the attack could have been prevented. He said neighbors told him afterward that the dog had been loose before, and even displayed signs of aggression toward them and their animals. He's now warning others to keep a lookout, even when in the comforts of your own neighborhood.

Whigham’s daily jog is about one mile. He says he was unaware of the dangers just around the corner.

"I noticed there was a dog with the owner in the yard, but it seemed okay," Whigham said.

Whigham says like he had done so many times before, he continued to press on.

"I thought the dog was under control, even though it kind of grunted at me. I just kept running, and before I knew it, I heard the owner yell, 'Hey get back here,'" Whigham said.

That's when he says things took a turn for the worse. By now, the dog was in full charge. Instead of running away, Whigham stood his ground.

"And at that point, I paused because I didn't want to provoke it or anything like that, and I thought it was going to listen to the owner or stop," Whigham said.

When he realized that wasn't going to happen, he ran. But with the dog hot on his heels, Whigham hit a dip in the road and fell to the ground.

"When I rolled over, he was there. And all I could do is offer up my arm and he took it. I think that's a fair trade for my face," Whigham said. "When I looked, the owner wasn't coming across the street to kick or push or knock the dog off of me or anything."

Whigham was left fighting for his life.

"It was an all-out scrap. We were just going at it, and I was hitting, punching, trying to get him off of me. I was kicking, maneuvering on my back. I was still in the street," Whigham said.

Once the animal let go, Whigham was taken to the hospital.

He's now recovering from deep wounds and nerve damage. Once able, he says he plans to do things a little differently when venturing out, and encourages others to do the same.

"One, take a cell phone with you. Two, carry a good solid stick. The stick will give you stand-off distance from the animal, buy you some time. Third, if you have family members at home, let them know where you are going. ‘I'm going for a run, I'm leaving right now,’ make sure they know your route. That's what I recommend," Whigham said.

Lawton Animal Welfare responded to the attack and took control of the animal on site. They say animal attacks are easily avoided as long as pet owners follow some basic rules: simply restraining your animal, teaching it basic commands and always making sure your fence is secured. They also say regardless of the animal's size, if you're not being a responsible pet owner by taking these steps, you inevitably place the public and yourself at risk.

"Just because you are good with your dog and your dog is good with your pack, which means your family and your friends, doesn't mean it's going to be good with someone's kid or another person. It only takes seconds for a dog bite to happen," Russel Anderson, Lawton Animal Welfare superintendent, said.  

"You have to ask yourself as a pet owner, what if this was my child, what if this was my wife or husband, how would I feel if someone's pet was running at large, unregistered or unlicensed? I consider myself very lucky, no marks or wounds on the face or the head, no vital organs or head. I consider myself extremely lucky," Whigham said.

From July 2014 to June 2015, 191 bite reports were recorded by Lawton Animal Welfare, and 101 animals were reported at large or running loose.

Since July 1, the number of bites stands at 70.

Animal control says they expect the number of loose animals to increase as people's fences get knocked down from winter’s gusty winds. They encourage everyone to walk their fence line to make sure they are secure. They also encourage residents to report any animals running loose.

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