Update: 10/28/09 - It turns out that the dog did not actually belong to the babysitter -- and that it actually belonged to the sitter's inlaws and she was watching the dog for them while they were in the process of moving. As more information comes out about the attack, it becomes even more clear what a tragedy of errors that occurred to create this fatal attack. A large breed dog that was in a strange envirnoment, with a different handler who was not terribly familiar with the dog's behavior. A child, left unattended in the back yard with the dog. And a sitter who was not watching the child closely enough.
These events are tragic and very preventable. But until we focus on the events that led up to the attack and focus on preventing those -- and not the breed of dog involved (which is still being widely mis-reported), we will make no progress in preventing these tragedies.
This story has now been picked up in over 400 media outlets.
UPDATE: According to a report by KMPH news in Californina, the babysitter left the child alone "for a few moments" and then ran outside when she heard the commotion. I can't stress enough that young kids have a way of poking, pushing, tugging, grabbing, etc dogs and usually don't recognize dog's subtle signals to "get away". Because of this, I don't recommend leaving toddlers alone with any dog, regardless of breed, for any amount of time.
The victim of the attack was named Colton Smith.
A 17 month old toddler was killed yesterday in Merced County, CA -- a victim of a fatal dog attack.
The child was with the babysitter when the 65 lbs 'pit bull'/Akita mix attacked the child in the throat. The babysitter could not get the dog to let go of the child until she stabbed it with a fork.
The circumstances surrounding the attack remain unclear -- whether the dog knew the child well, whether the child and dog were closely supervised, etc. Hopefully some of that information will come out in the coming days.
The child was taken to the Hospital where he died a short time later.
When the media report came out, the dog was originally just called a 'pit bull' (Not a mix like the local media reported)-- which is what the Associated Press called the dog. The article has run in over 260 newspapers around the country (already) with most of the reports not recognizing the dog as a mixed breed. (Update: the number of media outlets that covered this is now over 300).
I'll post more details as they become available -- but my heart goes out to the family and the babysitter as they deal with the tragedy. And it is my hope that the coming days bring conversations about the actual causes of the attack (not focusing on the breed) so people can become more educated about how and why attacks like this happen so future tragedies can be avoided.