35-year-old Myers Flat woman, Candis Danielson, was attempting to help her neighbor on Thursday, January 28, 2021, when the neighbor’s two pit bulls attacked her, dragged her under a travel trailer, and “feasted on her legs,” resulting in the amputation of her right foot.
Kenneth Swafford, Candis, and their children live together just four doors down from the dogs who attacked her. Swafford described the neighbor as disabled and unable to provide training and discipline to the dogs. According to Swafford, he and his fiancée had always been wary of the dogs and characterized them as “dangerous” knowing they had killed as many as 11 other dogs, including “eating their own puppies.”
On the evening before the attack, Swafford explained that their neighbor was cold after his power had gone out due to the recent storms. Swafford, a firefighter and first responder with the Myers Flat Fire Department, felt compelled to lend the man a generator to stay warm.
The next morning, the man contacted Swafford telling him he was cold again and unable to start the generator. Candis and Swafford insisted the man confine the pit bulls and came over to refill the generator with gas and also reset a tripped breaker, which Candis watched Swafford do.
After setting up the generator, Swafford said he got ready to travel to Weott to help a friend deal with downed trees. Swafford said that as he was leaving, he got a text from the neighbor saying the generator’s circuit breaker was tripped again and he could not get it to function. Knowing his fiancée, Candis, knew how to reset the breaker, he said he called the man insisting the dogs be kept inside and assured him Candis would be right over to address the generator. As Swaffordleft for Weott, Candis was getting ready to go help the neighbor.
Candis proceeded to the man’s trailer to address the generator when, as Swafforddescribed, “for whatever reason, [the neighbor] opened his trailer door, and the dogs got out.” Swafford said the dogs immediately began to attack Candis, and their owner reportedly stood still, not yelling or intervening, and “watched them rip her calf off her leg.”
Swafford said the dog’s owner was wearing boxers, and “instead of going towards my fiancée to help her, he left his yard, and started to walk down the street” to the property Swafford and his brother Kirk share four doors down. Kirk was just returning home and found the dog’s owner, standing in his boxers, saying a woman named “Lisa” had been attacked and had her calf ripped off by his dogs.
Swafford attributes the owner’s misidentification of Candis to him not actually seeing her face when she was being attacked as she was on the ground surrounded by the dogs.
Whatever the reason for the misidentification, Kirk proceeded to the dog owner’s property attempting to help “Lisa” not knowing the actual victim was his future sister-in-law.
Kirk immediately began to intervene in the dogs’ attack, “hitting one in the head with a 4×4.” Swafford said that when Kirk was bit himself, he jumped on top of a utility trailer to escape one dog and was bit on his side when the other lunged for him hanging on the top of his pants. The pants ripped, the dog dropped to the ground, and the dogs returned to under the trailer, seemingly ignoring Kirk, where they had dragged Candis. Underneath the trailer, the dogs continued to “feast on her legs,” Swafford told us.
At some point during the attack, a 6’ 2’’, 300 pounds plus neighbor walked by the incident and was alerted to the attack by the dog owner, who was on the roadside outside the fence of his property not intervening. The passerby entered the property and the two dogs beelined towards him, bit at his ankles, and took him down to the ground. Once again, the owner reportedly did nothing to intervene as the dogs attacked this third person.
Realizing bludgeons were not stopping the attack, Kirk took off running to his other brother’s house to retrieve a firearm one block away. Kirk was unable to obtain a firearm and stopped by Candis’s to check in with her and alert her to the circumstance. Instead, he learned from one of Candis’s children that Candis had gone to the neighbors to assist with the generator. Kirk’s adrenaline-fueled mind did not realize that Don had misidentified Candis and thought that Candis must be hiding somewhere on Don’s property while “Lisa” was being mauled underneath the trailer.
Kirk returned to the neighbor’s property after being gone for approximately ten minutes and found members of the Myers Flat Volunteer Fire Department and California Highway Patrol had responded to the scene and the dogs were detained.
Swafford claims the Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office’s press release stating the pit bulls’ owner was able to detain the dogs inside of a vehicle is inaccurate. According to Swafford’s conversation with Myers Flat Fire Department Chief Aaron Merriman, first responders were actually the ones that coaxed the attacking dogs into a nearby vehicle.
It is unclear how long the pit bulls had torn at Candis’ legs, but Swafford said the dogs had eaten the flesh “of her whole right leg.” The dogs also ate the flesh out of the back of her left knee and other areas of her left leg. Swafford was told that Candis was in shock and unresponsive when medics put her on a gurney, loaded her in an ambulance, and took her to Garberville Hospital.
Kirk loaded up Swaffordand Candis’s children into his car and followed the ambulance. He also called to tell his brother that Candis had been attacked by the pit bulls and she was being transported to the hospital. Swafford had just finished helping his friend in Weott clear the fallen trees and as soon as he heard about Candis, he rushed to get to her side.
At the Garberville Hospital, the enormity of the situation became clear to Swafford when he demanded to see Candis and Chief Merriman pulled him aside and told him Candis had lost a lot of blood and he needed to give the doctors space to treat her. Swafford said he asked Chief Merriman, “How bad is it?” and the Chief responded, “I haven’t seen anything like this since I was in the Marines.”
When the doctors told Swafford that Candis could very likely require amputations, he said he collapsed and his brother caught him before he hit the concrete.
Now, Swafford and Candis’s children are at a motel in Eureka unable to visit her as she undergoes intensive surgeries to save what doctors can of her legs.
As of Friday afternoon, Swafford said doctors have amputated her right foot four inches below the knee and doctors will know Sunday whether she will be able to keep her right knee.
As to Candis’s left leg, puncture wounds and lacerations cover both her calf and thigh. Doctors worked hard to thoroughly clean the leg to stave off infection. Swafford said doctors expect to be able to save the left leg but warn it will most likely not be fully functional.
Swafford said the two pit bulls responsible for his wife’s maiming were known in the neighborhood for their viciousness. He said, “These dogs have killed their own puppies. I’ve heard they killed a total of 11 other dogs. They’ve also bitten a couple of people that I know of.”
According to Swafford, a nearby neighbor had seen the aftermath of the dogs killing several puppies and described it as a “murder scene.” The pit bulls actually attacked two men who tried to intervene when they killed the puppies.
Swafford said both law enforcement and animal control have made contact previously with the pit bulls’ owner regarding their behavior.
Samantha Kargas, the Public Information Office for the Humboldt County Sheriff’s Department, confirmed, “The dogs’ owner does have a history of contacts with Humboldt County Animal Control and that will be taken into consideration in this investigation.”
Swafford wanted to make clear that he is “not a pitbull hater.” He said, “A blue-nosed pit has sat by me for 10 years and never been dangerous. Our family has another red-nosed pit that is safe.” He emphasized that “the dogs that attacked Candis are vicious and need put down.”
As to the current status of the pit bulls, Kargas said, “One dog has been surrendered to our Animal Shelter and the owner has expressed interest in getting the other dog back.” Based on protocols, Karagas explained, “The surrendered dog is required to undergo a 10-day quarantine and then can be euthanized on the 11th day, per county code. That is likely the fate of this dog due to the severity of this incident and the dog’s behavior.”
As to the dog the owner wants to be returned, Kargas said, “County code requires that we hold a hearing regarding whether this dog is vicious or potentially dangerous. The possible outcomes of such hearings are outlined in County Code 547-17 and 547-18.”
Candis’s sister Shiann Davis organized a GoFundMe to support Candis’s medical expenses as she faces multiple surgeries, rehabilitation, and prosthetics.
Reflecting on what happened to Candis, Swafford said he and his finance had gone over to their neighbor’s home “out of the kindness of our hearts to help the guy.” Now, Swafford and his children are praying for the day that Candis heals and their family can rebuild.