It’s a full house for Melissa and Freddy Patriarca who have five children and three dogs. And it’s what happened to one of their three furry children that remains difficult to discuss.
Video shows the coyote jump over a six-foot wall into the family's backyard before attacking Sadie the Boston terrier. The Patriarcas say their two other dogs saved Sadie's life, chasing off the coyote.
"I was in the kitchen and we heard our poor little baby screaming and I immediately went to run outside and Cody, our larger dog, almost knocked me down. Zoey, our other dog, ran right after Cody," said Freddy Patriarca.
Patriarca said he first thought Sadie was bitten by a rat, but then looked at the surveillance video.
"I checked my surveillance cameras and we saw a coyote just ghost-like come over the wall really quick. It was scary. It happened so quick. Cody did save the day. If Cody wasn't around, she [Sadie] would be gone. If Zoey was taken first, a smaller dog, she would have been totally gone," said Freddy.
Melissa Patriarca said she was not able to watch the surveillance video for a while.
"Hearing her screech was more than enough that I could handle at that point. I finally got the nerve to look at it and it was hard to watch because just to know she was in pain and she felt threatened in her own home [was hard]," said Melissa.
City officials said it’s not uncommon for Orange County residents to get occasional visits for wildlife and advise against leaving cats and small dogs alone outside as they "can easily become coyote prey."
The Patriarca family is among the many residents urging city leaders to invest more resources toward addressing the coyote problem in the area.
"They need to GPS tag them," said Freddy Patriarca. "They need to thin the herd because the herd's pretty big and there are not enough resources."
Just a few months ago in late April, video captured the terrifying moment a coyote attacked a toddler just north of the Huntington Beach Pier. The young victim sustained bite marks to her face but survived the horrific incident.
Other recommendations from officials include keeping pet food indoors at night, removing fruit that has fallen to the ground, and keeping one’s yard tidy to prevent any potential hiding spots for coyotes.
Jennifer Carey, the Public Affairs Manager for City of Huntington Beach, said they are working to curb the problem.
"It [coyotes] is not exclusively a Huntington Beach problem but it is something that we are working hard to combat and manage in our city. We do realize it's an issue," she said.
City leaders urge residents to report sightings on the city's portal. The Patriarcas reported their incident through the portal too.
"We do have an online portal where we're asking residents to report coyote sightings, particularly those that are aggressive in nature. Any time there is an incident where it may involve injury of an animal or another human being, we do ask that they report those incidents so that we can properly manage, properly track and handle in an effective and appropriate manner," she said.
Carey said they are working with other entities.
"We have been working with our partners at Orange County Animal Care and Department of Fish and Wildlife who have large education programs of what they are doing with coyotes," said Carey.
However, Carey said solving the problem comes with challenges.
"The challenge is that coyotes are not easy to trap. They are not easy to track and it is a challenge to deploy resources to track and properly trap, and to relocate. I know there have been talks of spaying or neutering coyotes, but it's not a realistic or feasible approach. They're tracking animals so with relocating them, they will come back. Unfortunately trapping, relocating, killing, and moving all these animals is not a feasible way to handle this issue and the best thing we can do is cut off the food source and by doing that, educate our residents," said Carey.
The Patriarcas said they have done plenty of research already and are enacting other safety measures at their home.
"We do have five kids and they were very scared, very concerned with what happened and we take turns to bring the dogs out to go to the restroom. Now we have a bat, flashlights, and more flood lights to illuminate it like it's day time," said Freddy.