2 plead not guilty in dog attack on older SD woman

The owners of two pit bulls that mauled a 75-year-old San Diego woman and forced the partial amputation of her leg pleaded not guilty Thursday.

Alba Cornelio, 39, and her daughter Carla Cornelio, 19, face two felony counts of having a mischievous animal that causes serious bodily injury and six misdemeanor code violations, said Tanya Sierra, a spokeswoman for the county district attorney's office.

Both were arrested Wednesday by officers with the San Diego County Department of Animal Services. They remained jailed Thursday, and a call to their home seeking comment was not returned.

The Cornelios bred and sold pit bull puppies, animal control Lt. Dan DeSousa said.

Two of their dogs mauled Emako Mendoza of the Paradise Hills neighborhood on June 18 as she was bringing a newspaper to place on a backyard table for her husband to read, DeSousa said.

The dogs lived next door and got into the yard through a gap in the fence, he said.

Mendoza was severely bitten, and her mangled left leg was amputated below the knee. She remained hospitalized Thursday, DeSousa said, but he did not know her condition.

The 6-year-old female dogs, Estrella and Paloma, were turned over to animal control officers and euthanized at the owners' request. Eleven puppies born to one of the dogs also were killed at the owners' request, DeSousa said.

One of the pit bulls involved in the attack had bitten a poodle and the poodle's owner Dec. 25, but the bites were minor and the poodle's owner declined to press charges, DeSousa said.

It was unclear why the dogs attacked Mendoza but they were kept outside and may have lacked the social skills that indoor dogs often develop, DeSousa said.

"Responsible owners would have their dogs well-socialized with other dogs and people," DeSousa said. "Mrs. Mendoza paid a horrific price for the owners' irresponsibility."