Update: 3/10/13 - Well, more news about the dogs involved in this attack, and as expected, the backstory gives a lot of indication of problems here well before this attack occurred as the dogs had been involved in at least 4 incidents involving law enforcement in just the past 8 months.
Based on a new story by the Galesburg Register Mail, The dogs were owned by Ashiya Ferguson and Jereme J. Carter. In June, 2012, the dogs were found running at large from their home and police came. The dogs were eventually able to make their way back into their home, and no charges were filed. Two months later, Carter was arrested and charged with the shooting death of Terrell Allen. Later, after the murder, Ferguson was parked in front of Carter's house when subjects opened fire and struck the vehicle with 11 bullets.
Following Carter's sentencing in September, Ferguson and the two dogs moved into the mother's home on Whiting Avenenue (where the recent dog attack took place). Since that time, animal control officers have been to the residence twice, once on Dec 20 and once on Feb 8 about the dogs being left outside in the cold.
Following last week's dog attack, Ferguson insisted the Humane Society take the second pit bull (that wasn't involved in the attack. According to the Knox County Humane Society Director Erin Buckmaster, the second dog was "wasn't aggressive, but it was pretty hungry and its ribs were showing."
The follow-up evidence continues to solidify the reality that dog attack tragedies, such as this one, are not caused by the dogs, but are symptomatic of much larger societal problems which in some cases shows itself in poor parenting, and in this case shows itself in poor care of the dogs. In this case, the dogs seem to have been a part of a very violent past, and often neglected.
It's a shame, and a tragedy, but as usual, as more evidence comes out it becomes clear that the dogs involved in these cases are most often the victims of human negligence and poor care and the circumstances leading up to the attack are far more telling than the types of dogs involved.
Thanks to the Galesburg Register Mail for following up on this story and bringing the incremental details to light.
Over the weekend, 7 year old Ryan Maxwell was killed by a dog in Galesburg, IL.
Information surrounding the event has been slowing being released through the media, but the series of events are still a little unclear.
The boy went out roller skating with a friend Friday night, and stayed the night at the friend's house. On Saturday, the boys were in the backyard playing when Ryan was attacked by one of what sounds like multiple dogs that were kept chained in the back yard. The attacking dog is being called a "pit bull". The boy's mother says the dogs were "starving" in the back yard and that she suspects the boy was trying to feed one of the dogs when the attack occurred. The adults were at home at the time, but not supervising the kids.
Neighbors who were interviewed anonymously, said they feared the dog and had called animal control in the past about the dog but could never prove the dog was dangerous.
Galesburg city officials have been interviewing a lot of people in the community, and have noted that the "common thread" that keeps coming out is about the need for more responsible pet ownership.
It is definitely a tragedy, and a preventable one. It sounds like the dogs were very poorly cared for -- maybe underfed, definitely tethered (which can dramatically impact the behavior of a dog), that neighbors had reported being aggressive in the past -- and then were approached by an unfamiliar young boy.
It's tragic. And preventable. And focusing on responsible pet ownership, and behavior-based dangerous dog laws can help officers identify dangerous-behaving dogs prior to a tragic incident.
Galesburg is a small community of about 36,000 people -- with more than 22% of the population living below the poverty line (about 50% higher than the national average) and 70% higher than the state average.
Dog attacks like this are exceedingly rare. In the United States there are more than 70 million owned dogs, and most never bite and certainly don't attack. When these incidents occur they are always because of a series of circumstances (usually related to irresponsible ownership practices) that lead to the dog being aggressive and acting aggressively. These attacks are the exception, not the norm.
My heart goes out to Ryan's family and friends as they deal with the tragedy and I will update this post if more information becomes available.
The story has been picked up by 30+ media outlets.