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Dogs and Kids: A Fatal Mix?

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For these children, "dog's best friend" was just the opposite.

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This weekend, we heard about the 10-year-old boy from Michigan who was forced to get his arm amputated after being severely mauled by his family's pet pit bull. Then two days later, an 8-week-old baby from Oklahoma was mauled and killed by a black lab puppy when he was left unattended in his baby swing.

The CDC estimates that almost 5 million people a year are bitten by dogs in the United States, with as many as 800,000 people, more than half of them children, requiring medical attention for their dog bites. Many of these cases are fatal, or leave kids disfigured for life.

Here are a few cases that sent shivers down our spine:

  • 3-year-old Tony Evans was found dead in front of the doghouse after being attacked by a pit bull. The pit bull was chained to the house, but made its way to the boy.
  • 5-year-old Pablo Hernandez was mauled to death by the family pit bull in their backyard. He was dragged around the backyard, suffering major damage to his face, head and torso and died shortly after from his injuries.
  • 1-year-old Abraham Jonathan Tackett wandered into the neighbor's backyard where several husky mixed breeds were eating. The father found the child as he was being attacked, but could not save him. According to reports, the dog that attacked was protecting his food.
  • 2-year-old Holden Jernigan was attacked and killed by the family's pit bull. While under his grandmother's care, he wandered into the backyard where he was brutally attacked.
  • 6-year-old Sabin Jones-Abbott was attacked by the family's new pit bull/boxer mix as he went to feed it. The boy's father found his lifeless body in their home.
  • 15-month-old Charlotte Blevins was seriously injured when she and her mom, her mom's friend, and another baby on an afternoon walk were attacked by a pit bull when the dog escaped from its leash.
  • 2-year-old Amaya Hess had a pit bull latch on to her head with his mouth for 5 to 8 minutes. The claw end of a hammer was used to open the dog's jaw to release her. Amaya's scalp was missing, her right eye out of its socket and her right ear was torn from the side of her head. After 9 surgeries and 69 days of medically-induced coma, Amaya is facing years of reconstructive surgery. Doctors estimate she'll have somewhere between 30 to 40 surgeries over her lifetime.
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Are dogs safe for kids?

We spoke with Colleen Lynn, founder of DogsBite.org, who said some are -- and some aren't. "There are aggressive breeds of dogs, including pit bulls and rottweillers, that I don't think are appropriate to have around children. They don't have a good safety record, and you are definitely taking a chance."

Lynn, who survived a pit bull attack herself a year ago, says even going to someone's house who has a pit bull or a dangerous breed is a unnecessary risk for your children. "These dogs were bred for violence," she says. "It's in their genes. Even if they have good owners, love is not going to take genetics away. Why take the chance, if it could cost your kid his or her life?"

Of course, some dog owners (particularly pit bull owners) disagree. One mother named Elyse posted the following video of her baby Max with her pit bull on YouTube:

Whether you are pro-dog or anti-dog, everyone agrees you should never leave a baby or small child unattended with a dog under any circumstances (even if it's the family pet). For more dog bite prevention tips, click here.

Do you think dogs are dangerous for kids?


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87 comments so far | Post a comment now
April July 30, 2008, 8:42 AM

Dogs aren’t a danger to kids - parents who leave children left unattended with ANY animal are the real danger.

We have a 6 year old Pit Bull, and she’s as much a part of our family as anyone else. She is well trained, and is very gentle. However, we would never dream of leaving her with her child unattended because she is still an animal. Animals are unpredictable, and children are very good at antagonizing animals (obviously they aren’t aware that they are doing that).

If you have animals, and you have children, you need to be responsible. That’s the bottom line. The solution to this problem isn’t to outlaw certain breeds, or to not have dogs at all - it is to be educated and responsible at all times.

Anonymous July 30, 2008, 10:14 AM

My daughter was attacked by my neighbor’s dog. He was a pit bull who was chained up all day, every day. I have since found out that chained dogs tend to be more aggressive. I do not think pit bulls should be outlawed but I do think dog owners should be more educated. Don’t leave the dog chained up all day if you are going to own a dog, period.

Melissa July 30, 2008, 10:29 AM

I definitely don’t think the answer is to outlaw certain breeds of dogs. However, being an educated pet owner is key. People need to be aware of their surroundings at all times and keep their children supervised. If you have a child or a pet, you are responsible for the safety and well being of both. If you are visiting someone with a pet, you need to take extra precautions as that pet is not used to you or your family. Educating your children about pets is a responsible thing to do as well. Teaching them when and how to or not to touch an animal is probably your best defense.

April July 30, 2008, 10:44 AM

That picture of that little girl just breaks my heart.

Anonymous July 30, 2008, 10:52 AM

I agree that it is the rotten parents who are dangerous to children. Irresponsible, stupid, unthinking, people who leave their children alone with any territorial, carnivorous, animal are what needs to be outlawed! Also parents who don’t use car-seats and who leave dangerous chemicles and guns laying around etc. I say outlaw rotten parents!

Amy July 30, 2008, 11:12 AM

I’ve taught my daughters, even as infants, to approach animals with caution and ask an owner’s permission before trying to touch an animal - no owner, no animal, period. A child who is too young to understand that has no business wandering near a dog without parental supervision.

Belinda July 30, 2008, 11:17 AM

A woman on our street was attacked by a rottweiller who escaped his yard where he was chained every day all day. He bit her arm and killed her small dog that she was taking for a walk. I agree pet owners need to be responsible and educated. I believe had the rottweiller received the attention and care that his breed needs, it might have been a different ending.

Lucy July 30, 2008, 12:14 PM

One of the most important things we can do to protect kids from being maimed or killed by dogs is to never, ever, keep our dogs on a chain. As Anonymous points out, chained dogs tend to be more aggressive. That’s because keeping dogs chained deprives them of their needs for exercise, socialization, and mental stimulation, which can literally drive them mad, making them more likely to bite. And since dogs are fight-or-flight animals, chained dogs only have one “option” when a perceived threat—such as a toddler—wanders into their territory: fight. It’s also important to always have our animals spayed or neutered, because unaltered dogs are three times more likely to bite.


Dogowner July 30, 2008, 12:14 PM

Frankly, anyone can form an organization, create a crafty website, read some newspaper articles, and call themselves an expert. Colleen Lynn has done exactly that. HOWEVER, SHE IS NOT AN EXPERT IN CANINE BEHAVIOR. She has no credentials in dog behavior, let alone dog training, and I wonder if she’s even owned a dog. She is a victim of an unfortunate attack by a pit bull-type dog that belonged to someone who did not know any better, does that make her an expert? ABSOLUTELY NOT! Reporters should not be asking for her “expert” opinions, because they are exactly just that OPINIONS, based on media coverage that may or may not have all the facts straight.

Talk to an applied certified animal behaviorist and I guarantee he or she will most likely tell you that pit bulls are no more aggressive than any other dog and it is the owner who plays role in the dog’s behavior and that early and consistent socialization with humans and other dogs is the key to raising a well-behaved dog.

Beth July 30, 2008, 12:25 PM

I am the owner of a Pit Bull mix and a Doberman mix. These animals are a wonderful part of our family, however they are still animals and must be respected as such. People are the danger to pets and small children. I love my pets and trust them with my family only. when my kids have friends over I put the dogs away. They can mistake fun and games as agression and defend there family.

Cindell July 30, 2008, 12:57 PM

When I read this article I came to the comments section prepared to blast everyone here. I was sure all the comments would be about how Pit Bulls are killers and should all be put down. I must say I’m verry impressed by everyones fair thinking and ashamed by my assumptions.

I have a Sheppard/lab mix and Pit/lab mix. Both are calm loving pets who wouldn’t hurt anyone…. well, Chief(my Pit mix) will definately step on your toes, and bruse your leg with his tail :) I feel that it’s the owners responsibility to WALK THEIR DOG DAILY! I agree with exercise, socialization, and a clear understanding of dog behavior you can deter many problems.

Perhaps we should licence the Pet owners before allowing them to purchase a dog. Since they can kill small children and injure adults, they could be considered a weapon just as a gun or a car. Have a potental owner take a 1 or 2 day course on Dog behavor and ownership. If they pass they get a licence to own a dog. Hmmm… just a thought, didn’t say it was a good one ;)

Channell07 July 30, 2008, 1:33 PM

I have a 4 month old baby and agree with the fact that your baby should not be left unattended in the presence of an animal. We have a mini schnauzer and a lab, who is around 110lbs, inside and they are very well behaved and respect the baby’s space. I can lay him down on a blanket in the middle of the floor and Max and Jace will lay on the edge of the blanket but will not dare put a paw on the blanket. From the day we brought our baby home they were taught their boundaries and the distance they must stay unless invited closer under our supervision.

It saddens me the irresponsibility of these dog owners. I grew up in a household with Rottweilers and Chow Chows from birth and we never had any issues with our dogs being aggressive because they were taught who were the pack leaders and were well exercised. Also, I think that every child should be taught pet saftey, whether you have one or not. Things like don’t go around an animal without permission from parent and owner, don’t look an animal directly in the eyes, don’t run from a dog, and don’t go near an eating animal are important lessons for every child.

legal dog July 30, 2008, 2:13 PM

For the record, although the media loves to push “pitbull” type dogs as all being culprits, it is a fact that many media reports SAY dogs are pitbulls when in fact, they are not. When there are nearly 70 million dogs in the USA and you have 30 bad mauling attacks, and if there are estimated 4million pitbull dogs, you can see that not all pitbull type dogs are attacking. Much of the public believes that “only” pitbull type dogs attack. The bite blogger out of WA is NOT an expert on canines,she does websites for money. but she thinks she knows everything, and she pushes BSL which means you single out dogs by breed to ban them. This has been proven not to work as shown in the Netherlands which had banned pitbull type dogs for 25 years with no results. They gave up and devised a different dangerous dog law.
The Colorado Legislature has outlawed BSL after hearing expert testimony/information. Do not believe most of what you read on the subject, do not believe the CDC stats as they even say themselves, not to consider their stats as reliable in regard to dangerous dogs (they didnt have all the data) The bottom line is that there are bad tempered dogs in any breed, and there are negligent parents everywhere as evidenced by the media sensationalism. Research and realize that more than 50% of fatal attacks by dogs are done by rescued, rehomed and shelter dogs. That should tell you something—because this category of dogs only makes up 15% of all dogs. Get my drift?

Yeah-me July 30, 2008, 4:07 PM

I am both a dog owner and a mother. I love dogs and have always owned them. Unfortunately at one time I owned a pit bull. We lived in the country. The dog was not chained. He slept by my bed at night. I took him riding every day. I would have argued with anyone who told me the dog was dangerous — he wasn’t. Until the one day he attacked a killed a baby goat in the field next to where we were riding. The next day he attacked our Shetland mule. We put him down because we felt he was just too unpredictable and dangerous. I cried for days.

Regarding the comments about the owner of dogsbite.org — I looked at the site. The site owner doesn’t claim to be a dog professional. From what I can tell from the site it seems like the majority of the content is news reports from sources all over the nation about dog attacks. I am pretty sure she didn’t make up those statistics. And where did the photos come from if not from real attacks? I find it interesting that instead of acknowledging that the dogs very likely are dangerous you just say she is wrong or misled.

As a mom I find it amazing that others would defend a dog breed that statistically has maimed and killed so many adults, children, and other pets. I cross the street to the other side of the street when I see a pit bull coming my way – leashed or not. I wish they were not allowed to live in my neighborhood where tons of kids play. Our laws don’t keep rapist and pedophiles off the street – what makes you think laws are going to make all dog owner behave?

Protect your children!

foxymama July 30, 2008, 4:21 PM

I am a mother of three who was bit by a dog and the owner claimed to be responsible with it. my brother is a surgeon and has overseen countless cases of children brought to the ER after having been bitten/attacked by dogs. sure, all dogs aren’t bad. but certain breeds of dogs are known to be more volitale. do not leave a child alone with any animal - except maybe a fish.

Melissa key July 30, 2008, 4:37 PM

Parents need to keep an eye on their children - end of story. Pit Bulls as a breed are not to blame, there are cases of every breed of dog killing or maiming children - often accidentally while “playing.” Did you ever read the news story about the Golden Retriever (one of the most gentle breeds of dogs) who killed a young girl because he was playing and pulled on her scarf that was so tight that she died? It was an accident. It wasn’t the dog, or the child’s fault, it was the adults fault who was not watching the child for long enough that she could be choked with a scarf.
Also, if you see or hear a dog chained outside called animal protection in your city and state. Sitting by and watching (or listening) to an animal who is being abused by being chained up all day is reprehensible and you should speak out. Surely neighbors knew that these animals were chained up? Call someone about it. Even if they get removed from the home, surely it’s better than being confined all day and they breaking loose and injuring someone.

Anonymous July 30, 2008, 4:38 PM

Whether dogs are a danger or not, in my opinion it’s not worth it to have one in my home.

Yeah-me July 30, 2008, 4:51 PM

I am sorry — but accidently choking a child with a scarf is a LONG way from biting them to death. These are not even comparable.

Peanut July 30, 2008, 5:21 PM

Any parent who owns a pit bull and has children in their home is a fool. The are DANGEROUS animals and do not belong in a home with young children.

Dogowner July 30, 2008, 5:45 PM

Dogsbite.org may not claim to be “experts,” however, the website is clearly bias against pit bulls and they have an agenda to eradicate these dogs from the face of the earth.

Pit bulls are dogs and all dogs are capable of display aggressive behavior towards other animals. It’s a very common trait in many of the hunting, terrier, and bulldog breeds.

Dogs are animals and no matter how well behaved your dog is, it should NEVER be left unattended with your child!


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