For about 6 years now I've been covering dog-bite related fatalities on this blog. I don't like covering them -- as I hate focusing on the negative issues of dogs when the reality is that there are tens of millions of dogs in this country that are wonderfully owned pets that add so much to our daily lives in terms of exercise, affection and companionship.
However, it has always seemed that the media, and various haters out there always want to turn fatalities into anti-dog sentiment -- and so I always feel like I need to continue to provide as-accurate-as-possible reports on these cases so that the conversation can continue to focus on the CIRCUMSTANCES that lead up to these tragic cases, as opposed to focusing on non-causal factors like breed. Focusing on the wrong factors only further creates ignorance as to the causal factors so we can prevent future incidents.
While major incidents are EXTREMELY rare (only about 30 of the 72 million dogs in this country are involved in dog bite fatalities annually), they do happen -- and this week they seem to be happening in bunches. So here are three that have happened just over the past week or so:
Debra, a 45 year old female, was killed by both of her owned dogs on Friday in her home in Jefferson County, AR (in a rural area near Pine Bluff). The dogs are both described as "pit bulls", although at least one media outlet said one of the dogs that had to be shot on the scene weighed more than 100 lbs, which would be much larger than any of the 'pit bull' breeds.
The victim's husband apparently came home to find his wife bitten and killed by the dogs. She sustained bite wounds on both of her legs and one of the bites severed one of her main arteries causing her to die of blood loss.
The dogs had actually had a history of attacking people, including previously biting the victim. Animal services had also made previous trips to the home when neighbors complained that the dogs were being abused or neglected. The home where both the victim and the dogs lived was presently without running water. Poverty definitely seems to have played a role in this attack -- and nearly 25% of all residents in Jefferson County live below the poverty line.
Dogs that are not well cared for (as these appeared to not be) and have a history of violence (which these had) are definitely red flags based on their behavior.
The story was picked up by about a half dozen local media outlets.
I'm going to state up-front that there are a LOT of pieces of this story that don't quite add up.
According to the reports, four year old Bryton Cason was killed last week in Donalsonville, GA. Cason apparently left the home on his own accord last Wednesday night and was reported missing by his family. After a search that lasted for several hours, in the dark, the boy's body was found in some tall grass in his own front yard -- dead from apparent dog bites.
There were no witnesses to the boy's death, and none of the evidence led to any of the neighborhood dogs -- so the dog(s) that attacked the boy is completely unknown.
If the facts of the story are true, obviously there are a few key indicators here -- like a) a young boy wandering alone outside of his home after dark with no supervision and b) a free-roaming dog of some sort.
The weirder thing is that the family is saying the boy was gone for only 10 minutes -- and yet called 911 reporting the boy missing and that somehow the boy was killed in their own front yard -- but without enough of a sound (like him yelling for help?) to alert anyone of him being in trouble.
It doesn't add up. At all.
The story was picked up by about a half-dozen news sources.
This one is new -- so we may get a few updates on it. But in this case, a 10 month old toddler was bitten and killed by the family dog. According to the reports, the boy was being watched by his grandmother and was playing on the bed when the dog began to attack the boy.
The boy was taken to the hospital but later died of the injuries.
The dog was a mixed breed dog and while police (and the media) have been calling the dog a "pit bull", officials at the County Shelter are saying the dog is a "Labrador/American Bulldog mix".
Things that would be interesting to know here would be how well-supervised the dog and boy were and whether or not the dog was familiar with the boy. Young toddlers like this are often the victims of these attacks and it often comes from poorly separating the child and dog when not supervised or failure to socialize a toddler with a dog. Although later reports noted that the dog had been aggressive before.
The story was been picked up by about 20 media outlets - and no doubt more information will become available on this one, so I'll keep it updated in this space.
My heart goes out to all the victims' families of these very rare, but tragic cases.