LEBANON – Adam Horr was working in his girlfriend’s yard Saturday when he heard a child screaming.

“They were the kind of screams you just knew right away it was something bad,” said Horr, 41, who lives in Dover, N.H. Horr is being credited with saving the life of a 12-year-old girl who was attacked by two pit bulls Saturday afternoon.

Horr said he sprinted 75 yards through the woods that separated him from the house on the opposite side of River Road. At the back of the house, he discovered two dogs mauling a young girl “like they were trying to tear her apart.” A third dog was circling the other two excitedly.

“It was really quite terrifying. I didn’t have time to be scared,” Horr said. “I started punching and kicking those dogs as best I could. They took me down twice.”

Horr’s intervention allowed the girl to escape. Police have said if he had not shown up, the dogs likely would have killed her.

Angel Sargent was taken to Frisbie Memorial Hospital in Rochester, N.H., treated for bites to the neck, legs and shoulder and held overnight. She was released Sunday.

Horr’s arm and leg were bandaged at the scene.

The girl’s mother, Catherine Sargent, declined to be interviewed Monday and ordered a reporter off her property. She did say that Angel was doing well.

“There’s nothing wrong with my daughter. She just wants it to be over,” Sargent said. “She feels like it’s her fault.”

Catherine Sargent is engaged to the dogs’ owner, Rory Downs, police said.

Maine State Police planned to meet with prosecutors from the York County District Attorney’s Office to determine whether charges should be brought against anyone.

State police spokesman Stephen McCausland said no charges have been filed, as far as he knows. He said the Department of Health and Human Services is notified in such cases.

According to McCausland, the pit bulls, named Jager and Meister after a German liqueur, jumped a fence and attacked Angel, who was playing nearby with her sister and another girl. Each dog is 7 months old and weighs between 50 and 60 pounds.

According to dogsbite.org, pit bulls and rottweilers were responsible for 73 percent of fatal dog attacks between 2008 and 2012 and pit bulls accounted for 151 deaths during that period.

Defenders of pit bulls say that a variety of different breeds are often referred to as “pit bull-type dogs,” which increases the number of animals that fall into that category. Others say that pit bull bites get a disproportionate amount of media attention.

The dogs involved in Saturday’s attack had been raised in the family and had not been aggressive in the past, the owners told police.

On Monday, Horr described Saturday’s chaotic scene. When he first heard the yelling, he thought the girl had fallen and broken her leg and nobody was helping her.

“I heard her screaming ‘My leg! My leg! My leg! Ow, my leg!’ ” he said.

As he rounded the mobile home and pounced on the dogs, they turned their attention to him while still snapping at the girl, he said.

“They were focused on both of us. I was trying to take all the focus,” he said. “I was willing to let them tear me apart if she could get away.

“I was almost certain at one point they were going to kill her.”

One of the dogs sank its teeth into the back of Horr’s leg, and he crumpled to the ground.

“I jumped right back on my feet. I knew better than to be on the ground,” he said.

Then another dog latched onto his left forearm.

“I immediately punched it in the eye with my right fist probably 20 times,” he said. At the same time he kicked at another dog to get him off the girl, who was screaming at him to help her.

Horr believes his injuries would have been much worse if he had not been wearing a loose-fitting hooded sweatshirt. The dogs kept getting mouthfuls of his sweatshirt instead of his skin, shredding the sweatshirt but leaving him mostly intact.

After a brief battle, Horr grabbed the nearest weapon, a wooden broom handle. He swung it in a wide arc, cracking one of the dogs in the head. The handle snapped.

“It seemed to make the dog angry. I just kept hitting them” with what was left of the handle, he said. “She was able to get up and ran in the house for safety.”

The dogs became less aggressive after a man stepped out of the home. They were still circling but no longer attacking, Horr said. The man, whom Horr did not identify, explained that he had been asleep and just woke up.

Horr then called 911. He was treated for puncture wounds to his arm and leg.

Horr said he has teenage children of his own.

“I choose to believe if it was them being attacked, someone would help them,” he said.

Neighbors declined to comment about any problems with the family, which is renting the house at 260 River Road. Some of the neighbors said they did not know dogs were being kept on the property. On Monday, no dogs were visible, and there was no sound of barking at the house.

The dogs were taken to the Animal Welfare Society shelter in West Kennebunk, where they are being kept for observation. Authorities said the dogs were not up to date on their shots.

Shelter workers said they were told to refer all questions to the district attorney’s office.

The town’s animal control officer told Horr, who works in construction, that the dogs would be quarantined for 10 days. If they do not exhibit signs of rabies, then neither he nor the girl will need treatment for the potentially fatal disease.

Neighbor Jim Battice lives nearby on Oak Hill Road and has known Horr for years. The neighborhood is generally quiet, he said.

“It’s a little bit loud over there,” he said, gesturing toward the home where the attack took place.

Battice had returned home from a trip to the dump when he saw Horr in his yard after the attack.

“He was visibly upset … distraught,” Battice said, noting that his shirt and pants were shredded. “He took a good little beating from it.”

But Horr was happy to have been able to help the girl, Battice said.

“My wife wants to bake him a cake,” Battice said. “She says he’s the Oak Hill hero.”

Horr, who did not know how badly the girl was hurt, was told Monday she had been released from the hospital and was well enough to attend school.

“That just makes me the happiest guy in the world right there,” he said.

 

David Hench can be contacted at 791-6327 or at:

dhench@mainetoday.com