Alldogsbite.org has an update from the police report. While there is some interesting information in the police report, there is one very compelling piece of information. In the police report, Iwicki notes that she orginally got the dogs when they were three weeks old. Academic research, and information from trainers and good breeders, consistently shows that removing dogs from their litters prior to 8 weeks of age can lead to myriad undesireable behavior traits, including destructiveness, excessive barking, fearfulness, noise reactivity, toy possessiveness, food possessiveness, attention-seeking, aversion to strangers, stranger aggression, owner aggression, play biting, tail chasing and house soiling.
Based on the police report, the dogs may have been exhibiting many of these behaviors in the minutes leading up to the attack and certainly during the attack. They also showed signs of fearfulness around strangers when authorities arrived.
Canine behavior is very complex and includes breed, breeding (within breeds), environment, how animals are cared for, how they are trained, punished, rewarded, spay/neuter status, when they were removed from their litters, etc. All of these factors are intertwined to create a full picture of the dog's behavior and looking at just one factor is always going to lead to failure.
And in this case, there is also the fallacy of relying on newspaper reports to provide you all the information you need to determine causal factors. At best, they provide just a surface level of the situation, at worst, they just provide inaccurate info. When you dig deeper, you can usually find pretty significant causal factors, as appears to be the case here.
Finally a bit more information about this case. According to a report in the Janesville Gazettte last week, the babysitter, Susan Ilwicki, owned two 45 lbs "pit bull terriers". On the afternoon of the event, Iwicki went outside and were reportedly playfully nipping at Iwicki as she held the 14 month old boy. Iwicki then reportedly "yelled at them" and "batted" them away. It was upon that striking that the dogs became frenzied and started pulling at her coat and biting at her hand. Iwicki then lost hold of 14 month old Daxton and the boy fell to the ground and the dogs pounced on the boy.
There is more to the story according to the police report at the link. Essentially it sounds like the dogs were overly excited (either just by being outside, or with the presence of the young toddler). In their over-excitement Iwicki yelled and struck the dogs -- which resulted in an even more heightened level of arrousal.
We talk a lot her about understanding warning signs and understanding canine behavior -- and understanding that if you have highly arroused dogs there are ways to calm that excitement. Yelling and hitting them isn't it.
Even more bizarre is a neighbor's claim that he heard Iwicki's screams but didn't investigate because he'd been "watching too many horror movies lately" - which may be the more bizarre statements I've ever heard.
In a story that I'm sure most of the readers of this blog have heard about already, last week, 14 month old Daxton Borchardt died from injuries sustained in a dog attack. There has been a LOT of media coverage about the incident (50+ news reports), but not a lot of actual causal information that has come out. I've been holding off posting until more info came out but it now seems that that will be less likely for awhile.
So this is what we know:
The young toddler (who was very mobile) was staying with his babysitter, 30 year old Susan Iwicki in the small community of Walworth, WI (population 1,676) . The two dogs involved in the attack (both described as "pit bulls") were owned by Iwicki. The incident apparently happened outdoors, and not in the apartment where Iwicki lived. The apartment is apparently in a remodeled old barn behind another home.
The boy was tragically bitten, and tranported to the hospital where he later died.
Walworth is a tiny community (population 1,676) that is situated about half way between Milwaukee and Chicago right along the Wisconsin/Illinois border.
The dogs were immediately taken to a local veterinarian and euthanized.
Little else is really known about the incident at this point, and the media coverage has been hit or miss with some trying to create unnecessary hysteria, one outlet that used no common sense in stalking the father's facebook page and publishing his despair (I refuse to provide a link) and others noting that this is the third fatal dog attack in Wisconsin in the past 11 years (with three different breeds of dogs involved in those incidents).
I've been in communication with several folks up in Wisconsin and there seem to be a fair amount of speculation as to the cause of the attack, but nothing tangible to date to report. I'll definitely update this as more information comes out.
My heart goes out to the Borchardt family and those close to them as they deal with this tragedy and I hope that as time progresses we can find out more about the circumstances that led up to the attack so that other families can avoid similar situations. Tragedies like this are very rare, but having intelligent dialogue about the circumstances that cause them can help others -- and it's a shame that anonymous breed haters and not real animal behavior experts have flooded comment sections of media outlets spewing mis-information and hatred.