From the Republic: the victim's mother has confirmed that the boy, indeed, was riding the dog like a horse just before the bite occurred. She also confirmed that the boy was conscious and talking after the incident and the family thought he would need only minor medical attention. The incident was so minor that according to this report, the family waited 2 1/2 hours before even taking the boy to the hospital.
Seems like one of the questions that needs to be answered is, how did such a minor bite apparently become fatal?
Major dog bite fatalities are extremely rare. There are nearly 75 million owned dogs in this country, and yet, each year, only 30 are involved in incidents that are fatal.
It's not common. And that's why when fatal bites happen, they are big news. While society barely notices commonplace events these days (such as car crash fatalities, which claim 65,000 people each year), it thrives on the obscure. And dog bite fatalities are just that.
Such is the case of of the tragic in San Francisco.
As I get into the details of this, please note that all of the information at this point comes from media reports -- and per usual, piecing together the story is often challenging with misisng pieces and mis-information being commonplace.
However, to the best of what I can discern, 6 year old Nephi Selu was at the home of some relatives in Union City (where the boy is said to be living) on Monday. According to reports, the boy was outside playing with the dog and engaging in some type of "horseplay". While that's a general term, officials seem to speculate that the boy was actually trying to climb onto the dog's back and "ride it like a little horse".
The dog, being described as a "pit bull mix", then spun around and issued what is described as a singular bite on the young child. "It looks like it was a single bite of a large and strong animal and a young child, and that's not a good combination," said police commander Ben Horner.
The boy was taken to the hospital where it was reported that the boy was concious and talking for hours. The boy's uncle, Keala Keanaaina, thought the boy would be fine "after a couple of stitches" and went to work. And later found out the boy died.
It is also worth mentioning that while the area where this happened is not a poverty-stricken area, and Keanaaina has a good job as a police officer in San Mateo, the living arrangement isn't one that is necessarily normal. Based on the media report, the house is shared with Keanaaina and his wife and 7 children, the victim, his parents, and his grandparents -- so 14 people were reportedly living in this home. While the family seems to be from the Pacific Isles, and this may be a cultural difference, it's still a LOT of people living in one home and worth noting.
It's a bizaare story in that the injuries didn't appear to be life-threatening and yet the boy died later at the hospital (which make one wonder). It's also worth noting that the boy did suffer from a mild case of autism. While I've long mentioned that children, as a whole, generally lack good knowledge of canine behavior and the ability to read warning signals, a child with autism (which impairs social and non-verbal communication) would further inhibit the child from being able to read warning signals. This, combined with the possibility of the child physically hurting the animal while trying to climb on its back (where have we seen this before?), and not being able to judge obvious warning signals, may have led the dog to defend itself in the only way it had left.
I'm truly saddened for the victim and his family -- but become increasingly angry when the pit bull hater crowd comes out of the woodwork and hijacks the conversation on these issues.
Let me be clear: unless the media starts letting animal welfare experts and people who understand dog behavior control these conversations, we will not be able to better educate people on the actual causes of these attacks. In this case, it seems fairly clear that in some way, shape or form the child, who was unsupervised and most likely unable to read the dog's body language, hurt the dog, causing it to lash out. We MUST let experts control the conversation and allow people to realize that while attacks like this are rare, this is how they happen.