On Sunday night, a 3 or 4 day old toddler (reports are conflicting) was killed by the family pet.
The new parents had just recently brought the child home, and apparently left the child alone in a room together with the family's pet 'pit bull' for "just a few seconds" and the dog bit the newborn and the child later died at the hospital. The child has been identified as Justin Valentin.
This is obviously an awful tragedy for the family who went from having such joyous time in their lives turn into likely the most tragic.
Having a newborn brought into the family home is tough for a dog -- and takes a lot of diligence for the dog's owner to be sure to manage the newborn and the dog, understand the dog's behavior to avoid such tragedies. In fact, the fear over dog bites on children is a leading cause of dogs getting relinquished to shelters.
Most homes never have an incident like this -- and seldom are they so tragic to be fatal. Since January 2008, there have been 11 fatalities involving newborn infants (less than 1 month old) in North America . While some will use this incident to try to create hysteria about the breed of dog involved, it should be pointed out that there were 7 different breeds of dogs involved in those 12 fatalities -- including a Jack Russell Terrier, a Labrador Retriever and a German Shepherd. In fact, Huskies have been responsible for 5 of those deaths.
Real progress can be made if, instead of looking at this as a breed-issue, we have an honest conversation with parents about dos and don'ts with a newborn infant and the family dog. If we can help people to understand dog body language, understand to never, even for a moment, leave their child alone with the family dog -- regardless of the breed of dog, and how to properly integrate the newborn into the family.
A couple of years ago I did an interview with Jennifer Shyrock of Dogs & Storks. Jennifer founded Dogs & Storks -- which is a national dog training program designed for parents to teach them how to integrate their dog with children coming into the home. Programs like Dogs and Storks help educate dog owners/parents and focus on REAL solutions to helping prevent tragedies like this one and should be the first sources we go to for education about the causes of these tragedies (vs people with no canine experience who want to do nothing else except spread hysteria).
Speaking of the Dogs & Storks -- they have a great overview today of why dogs should not be left with infants even for just a moment in A Baby, A Dog and a "Moment".
This story has been picked up by well over 200 media outlets -- including national outlets like CNN and Fox News.