MERCED -- A 49-year-old man who was mauled by a pack of dogs in the Delhi area Wednesday morning is still in pain, but recovering from his injuries.
Authorities are in the midst of an investigation that'll determine what happens to the six dogs and their owners.
The victim of Wednesday's attack is showing some signs of improvement and is expected to fully recover from his injuries, said Sgt. Scott Dover of the Merced County Sheriff's Department.
"I know that yesterday he was kind of up and around, but still in a great deal of pain," Dover said. "He's expected to stay in the hospital at least through the weekend."
The attack happened as the victim was riding his bike near Clausen Road and Griffith Avenue. He was attacked by the dogs, pulled from his bike, dragged to the ground, and bitten in the arms, legs and torso.
The victim was taken to Emanuel Medical Center in Turlock.
About 20 minutes before the attack, the same pack of dogs chased another cyclist in the area, and one of the dogs bit him on the leg, Dover said. That cyclist was able to escape with a minor injury.
Staff from Merced County Animal Control responded to the scene and the dogs were captured. Five of the dogs were pit bulls or pit bull mixes, and one was a black Labrador retriever.
Sheriff's deputies identified three homes on Clausen Road where the dogs came from. Although the dogs had been kept in their respective back yards, they apparently were able to jump the fence, Dover said.
Detectives from the sheriff's department haven't yet spoken with the victim, but animal control personnel talked with him Thursday, Dover said. The joint investigation between the sheriff's department and animal control is ongoing.
Based on the severity of the injuries the victim suffered, Dover said there's "a strong likelihood" that the owners of the dogs will face charges.
Rick Blackwell, animal services manager for Merced County Animal Control, said his department is holding the animals for public safety reasons.
The findings from an investigation will determine what happens to the dogs, and if they are found to be vicious, a court order could be issued to euthanize the dogs.
If the animals are determined not to be vicious, they'd be returned to their owners. But Blackwell classified that result as "highly unlikely."
Dog attacks aren't uncommon in Merced County.
There have been several accounts in the past few years, such as in 2010 when a woman was mauled by a pack of Catahoulas in Hilmar and in 2009 when a toddler was attacked and killed by a pit bull in Delhi.
Usually, when two or more dogs group up and attack, that's when serious injuries occur, Blackwell said.
"It happens occasionally, and unfortunately that pack mentality takes over," he said. "What you're dealing with is instinctual, it's hardwired into dogs. There's just no getting around it."
If anyone sees a pack of dogs roaming the streets unattended, they're encouraged to call animal control at (209) 385-7436, Blackwell noted. "We need the public to advise us when they see these things because we can't be everywhere at once."
Reporter Mike North can be reached at (209) 385-2453 or email@example.com.