Monday started like any other day for Sandra Parness of Chatsworth. She rose at 6 a.m. to let her three small dogs into the backyard to answer nature’s call. But within 15 minutes, her worst nightmare had come true: At least one coyote had attacked two of her dogs, killing one and leaving the other mortally wounded.
“I heard Squeaky screaming. There were two bouts of screaming,” said Parness, referring to her 15-year-old male Chinese Crested. “I got to the [sliding glass] door, and Squeaky was bolting, and on the ground I saw trails of urine and feces,” she said, scrolling through photos of her dogs on her iPhone and fingering through pictures in her living room.
Parness, a retired graphic artist, never saw the predator. But by the time she rushed to her dogs, Squeaky was lying in his Dogloo paralyzed by shock and her Chihuahua mix, Molly, was dead. Molly had been ripped open, her organs and intestines exposed. Squeaky was later euthanized. The third dog, a 12-year-old Yorkshire terrier, BB, survived unharmed.
Parness’ veterinarian told her, “There’s no doubt it’s a coyote attack. Once you see it, you know it,” she related. Before the attacks, she and her husband, Julian, had found what they called evidence of coyotes, including seed-studded feces and trampled grass near the unoccupied house next door. The Parnesses have lived for 28 years in a two-story house in a quiet residential neighborhood near Devonshire Street and Corbin Avenue.
“We’re in fear of taking our dogs out. We’re in fear for our lives,” she said.
Julian Parness immediately called the authorities about the attacks, but was rebuffed.
“Nobody at any animal agency would take my name or file my report,” said Julian Parness, an art teacher at Granada Hills Charter High School. He called the police, and during the next 90 minutes was transferred to multiple agencies, each of which told him that it does not handle coyotes.
“They pass the buck, infinitum. Does a child have to be attacked and killed before anybody does something?” he asked indignantly.
The Parnesses enlisted the help of NBC 4’s Patrick Healy, who they said again contacted the authorities and local officials, including the California Department of Fish and Game and a local assemblyman. Healy was told coyotes are usually left alone because they help control the rodent population and do not adapt well when relocated, according to the Parnesses. Healy also told the Parnesses that in Los Angeles, it is illegal to kill coyotes, they said.
“I’m not allowed to shoot or kill them, but the coyotes are allowed to kill my pets of 15 years,” Julian Parness said. “Our animals were murdered. They didn’t die of sickness or old age.”
As they decide how to raise awareness about the dangers of coyotes in areas away from the hills, the Parnesses have enclosed a section of their patio with wooden trellises and metal fencing to protect their surviving dog. The custom-built, air-conditioned room adjoining their garage where their Chinese Crested and Chihuahua mix slept remains untouched.
“When no human ... is hurt, they do nothing. Pets don’t count. There needs to be a specific place to report the incident and take action,” said Julian Parness, who said he felt he had lost two family members and vowed to push for legislation through his elected representatives. “The reality of life is it takes one person to get the ball rolling. I want somebody to do something.”