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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.


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.

Are dogs safe for kids?

We spoke with Colleen Lynn, founder of, 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?

next: Abusive Teacher Calls Student 'Ugly'
87 comments so far | Post a comment now
Denise July 31, 2008, 11:13 AM

If your going to have an animal you should do your research!!!!!!!! Only uneduacted individuals would leave thier child alone with ANY TYPE of animal and what happens after that is that individuals fault and they should be the one to blame. I own an american pit bull terrior and have many friends that come over with children under the age of 10 and I would never let any one leave there children unattended near my dog who has professional obedience training, and is very gentile with all dogs and people I still have an understanding that they are animals and they do not percieve everything the way we do and can get a little to hyper when playing.

In other words educate yourself before buying an animal and be a responsible parent!

Cindy July 31, 2008, 11:50 AM

OMG!!! Where are the parents/guardians during all of these “maulings?”

As a dog trainer - I know that it is imperative to have a trained dog, no matter what breed.

“It is the deed, not the breed” is an old trainers’ adage, and it is true. If your dog does not have an alpha, they will BECOME one - and when that happens, you are in trouble…because an alpha is the boss!

A truly trained dog who respects his/her alpha would not DARE to even cross a threshold without the permission of their alpha…they would not DARE to eat without permission from the alpha and they would NEVER hurt a pack-member, without the permission of the alpha - for fear of retribution. However, if the alpha isn’t there…that is another story.

Why are they blaming a lab PUPPY for killing and 8 WEEK OLD baby left UNATTENDED!!!!!!??????

How stupid can we be - animals are animals and dogs are PREDATORS.

Any person who has a pet should do everything in their power to learn about the species and what it takes to care for them.

From a 2 Dog Household July 31, 2008, 11:55 AM

The general advice here is to “never leave your child unattended with an animal”. Come on! Let’s be realistic. We LIVE with dogs. There is no way you can watch your child 24/7 with a dog living in your house. What happens when the phone rings? Or you step outside to grab your mail?

It only takes a split second for a dog to attack a child. Why would ANYONE keep a pit bull in a house with children?

Yes all dogs DO bite — but not all dogs rip half a child’s face off like a pit bull. I DEFINITELY believe that some breeds are more dangerous than others — and Pit Bulls are at the top of the list!

Concerned July 31, 2008, 12:16 PM

When I was about 3, we had a St. Bernard-German Shepherd Mix. For some unknown reason my parents gave it to a friend of theirs, but the dog found it’s way home. Obviously he missed his family. I think that my mom was worried about having a dog around after I came along, even thought they had not had any problems with him up to that point. This is probably why they waited until they (Thought) they found the right person. After he returned my mom and I went out to feed him and my mom allowed me to put his bowl down. As I let go of the bowl the dog went for my arm. Luckily my mom was a responsible parent and was there to pull me back before he could bite. We found out later that the person that we had given him to had been feeding him gun powder and abusing him. (probably why he found his way home) They found out that the gun powder was being used, along with the abuse, to make him mean. I am not certain, because my parents never told me, but I am pretty sure they had to put him down. To this day we still put his Christmas ornament on the tree every year. I am now 38. He was a wonderful part of our family and would probably never have hurt me under any other circumstances,but my mom just didn’t want to take the chance with her child and I have to respect that. As a mother of three boys, one of whom absolutely loves all animals, especially dogs, I don’t think I would ever own one, and once I was old enough to learn animal safety we always had a dog in our household, all of which I was very attached to and one of which I received as a valentines day gift in High School from my children’s father. Bottom line is that parents have to be responsible, because children can not be expected to be. They are children and they are very unpredictable just like most animals are.

JOAN July 31, 2008, 12:20 PM


Almost a bit victim July 31, 2008, 12:27 PM

When I was about 8 years old I was almost attacked twice in the same day by my friends Pit Bull. This was a dog that I had spent a lot of time with. Her family actually had two of them. The female dog was very gentle and would sleep with us and was very protective of us. I spent a lot of time there. The male dog, however, was very aggressive and could sense fear. I guess I must have been a little more timid of him on this particular day because I was used to him being put in the back yard whenever I was there. As we entered the house he started to lunge at me, but my friend was able to stop him. Later that same day he was in the bathroom with us as we were playing with her step moms makeup and playing “Dress Up”. I was sitting on the toilet seat awaiting my turn, trying very hard not to look him directly in the eyes as I had been taught and he lunged at me again, this time I was able to pull back, but he still caught my chin. I still have a scar 30 years later. Luckily it is just a small one. It could have been so much worse. From then on her parents made sure to put him in the back when ever I was there. As years passed he was a little more calm in his old age and we were able to take him for walks and there even came a time where he was actually protective of me. But that was a very long process, even though I was treated as part of the family and spent most of my time there while my mom was at work.

birdsfly July 31, 2008, 1:26 PM

For those of you interested in banning all dangerous dogs i would just like to point out the breed of dog found most likely to attack and bite: the daschund. Yes, we must ban all of the viscious, evil wiener dogs.

michelle July 31, 2008, 2:34 PM

Did anyone click the link and read more about that poor little baby? The Father and Grandfather put the baby in the swing at 8:30 in the morning when they left, Mom and Grandma were ASLEEP in another part of the house. They found him at 10:30 am, which means that that little baby was unattended in his swing for TWO hours!!! Who does this!! And how did a little puppy get up into a swing? More to the story? As for chained dogs, my dog has to be chained (50 foot chain) when we aren’t outside because she can jump or climb all of my fences except the 10 foot brick one. I love my dog and don’t want her to get hit and killed on my busy street just because she can’t help herself and doesn’t know better. Please don’t paint us all with the same brush. And parents, WATCH your children, many of the tradgedies that befall Americas youth are because they are not properly supervised, at any age. Most dogs aren’t bad, they just don’t reason like people.

sharon hadden July 31, 2008, 11:28 PM

pits are not bad animals. we have 3 that are babies. they are scared of other dogs-big or small. they are like a member of our family. we treat them well, but we also make them mind and respect our home. don’t judge all pits by bad press.

Lisa July 31, 2008, 11:31 PM

It’s extremely unfair to take the absolute most horrific stories and list them out the way you have without also listing some of the most heartwarming, tear-jerking, life-saving stories of dogs and children as well. Why always take the negative? I understand keeping people thinking and being safe … but can’t we also offer the positive as a balance?

rosalie mondacci August 1, 2008, 7:01 AM


Anonymous August 1, 2008, 10:37 AM

The people who say dogs aren’t a danger to kids need to get their head out of the sand! It’s true not all dogs are, but many are, pit bulls are at the top of the list despite efforts of their loyal supporters to talk about how “safe” they are. The facts obviously prove otherwise.

Yes, parents should never leave their children unattended with dogs - even their own pets.

But what do you say to the parent whose child was minding it’s own business on the sidewalk, in the park, whatever and was attacked by surprise by someone else’s dog who isn’t being looked after? Kids shouldn’t leave the house.

Give me a break people! Pit Bulls kill kids. Stop ignoring the evidence.

QueenBee August 1, 2008, 1:29 PM

The difference between a Pit Bull and a Dauchsand is the Pit Bull will maul and maim and the Dauchsand is a smaller less tragic bite.
All dogs can bite but the larger more aggressive ones severely injure its victim. You can tell me until you are blue in the face that YOUR dog is so gentle and loving because it has never been abused or chained and that you are such a responsible breeder/owner but Pit Bull/Rottweiler dogs are aggressive and protective by nature. Good for the owners, bad for everyone else. It doesnt matter how good you treat that dog, if that dog sees someone else as a threat at all his NATURAL instinct is to protect its property/owner.
If you have to put the dog up when company comes over because you don’t “trust the dog around strangers” then you admit that the dog can pose a danger to others.
I can fight off a Dauchsand, I can’t fight off a 85 pound Pit Bull. So, since I don’t really know who are the responsible dog owners I have to assume that your dog is dangerous.
I agree that there should be limitations in ownership for certain breeds. I would feel more comfortable walking my own dogs or 10 month old son past our neighbors down the street that walk their 2 Rottwielers every night. Am I suppose to feel comfortable and “assume” that this neighbor who weighs like 130 pounds can contain his 2 85 pound Rotts against 110 pound me as I walk with my Border Collie and Wire Fox Terrier or my 10 month old son if we pose a protective threat against them?
I do not blame the breed. I just don’t trust the breed. I look at the responsibility of the owner. Unfortunately I don’t trust you either.

tonia August 2, 2008, 2:31 AM

Do you notice that in the majority of these cases these children “wandered off” where were the parents or sitters when this happened? They could have just as easily been hit by a car or kidnapped. Were these parents charged with child endangerment/neglect for them being left unattended? I’ve been a Vet Tech. for over 15 yrs, and have NEVER been bitten by ANY so-called “aggressive” breeds, I have however gotten it by many small “cute” breeds. I’m also a proud owner of 3 pits, all were rescues and are wonderful dogs- Pits in fact score higher on temprament tests than Goldens and Cockers. The point being that ANY dog can bite, regardless of the breed- Parents should teach their children the proper way to approach and handle ANY animal that they come into contact with!I hold the parents more at fault then the dogs-

Angie The Average August 2, 2008, 8:16 AM

I have had dogs all my life. I can’t imagine having children without one. What everyone needs to remember is that dogs of any breed can be very territorial. Sure your dog is nice to you, but someone else that comes in is a potential threat. Pit Bulls became very popular and alot of inbreeding took place which makes them even more unstable. They are also a breed that can do alot of damage with just one bite. Small dogs are the worst biters of all because most of them are not trained properly, but the damage inficted is rarely fatel. The point is never trust a dog or that the owner is responsible. Any dog can make a great pet or in the same token a great threat.

Connie August 2, 2008, 2:08 PM

I’m sorry for these children and the picture of the child but i had two sons and were raised among pitt bulls, rottweillers, and doberman pinchers , And numerous stray dogs and a cur dog was the meanest dog i ever had. What I’m reading is people who don’t watch their kids or take precautions to let the new dog and the baby or child get to know one another for awhile. If you get one that has been taught to be aggressive, then you may have trouble for awhile. But these dogs treated and babied like any other dog are just as sweet as they can be and get a bad rep
and that’s not fair.

Brittany August 2, 2008, 8:11 PM

I personally dislike this article for several reasons. First off, American Pit Bull Terriers are targeted which is completely bias. It doesn’t matter what breed the dog is, I’ve seen plenty of toy dogs more aggressive than larger dogs. Sure, they can’t do as much damage but it’s the fact of the matter. Sure pit bulls were bred to fight even way back in the day but the article neglects to say that they were also bred to guard and to help with farm work. Assuming what this article says is true than how come Petey off of The Rascals never hurt those children? I believe that this article is full of bias and is not factual. Always, always bringing out the bad and never the good.

Brandie August 3, 2008, 10:01 PM

It is our responsibility as a pet owner and as a parent to teach our children how to “greet” an animal and respect an animal. We must also teach our pets how to respect our children, always remembering that they are still an animal and will react on some basic surving instincts. This doesn’t make the animal bad - it makes them an animal. It is our responsibility to keep an eye on our children at ALL times.

I worry about the many frantic parents that reads these sorts of articles and decide to take their dogs to the shelter know that they have a change in the family dynamic. It happens too often.

Anom August 4, 2008, 10:16 PM

As a mother and someone who has had dogs and been bit herself by a dog I DO PERSONALLY think that there are more aggressive breeds than others. My neighbor has a pit bull and the dog is chained. He went on vacation for his son to watch the dog and the dog was out the entire 2 weeks chasing cars, threatening myself and my child in our own yards (literally coming onto our property which is about 1/2 acre away) to just growl and show he is boss.

I do think dog owners of agressive breeds should be watched more carefully. Sadly enough, I did have a lab who was wonderful with my son and literally while he was dying let him hug his neck (not even 1 yr old at time), but I never left my lab’s facial area nor my son’s body to get him from harm.

I am not an animal hater, but many of these dogs in shelters should just be put down instead of letting them continue to be aggressive as they are.

If people do not believe many of these pound dogs are aggressive, take a day out and go visiting w/your children and see how they react when you are ‘trying to pick one of them to go home w/u’ .. you’ll be amazed on the temperments they have .. not so good.

Well, all in all .. I think parent(s)should not let their children be alone w/a dog (or even cat/bird/etc) but there are more aggressive breeds than others.

**One more note .. many of the attacks come from dogs hoping over fences, running out of their yards, etc .. so it isn’t necessarily the child going into their territory .. so something needs to be said about that too.

Final words .. Be smart, protect your child!

GSD owner August 7, 2008, 10:52 PM

you know, dogs are just like children, they have to be watched. we have a rule in my house. if you can’t watch the dogs, they go in their kennels.

There is a responsibility of both the parent and the dog owners. Parents should teach their children good “dog” manners. Ask the owner if you can pet the dog, and then you ask the dog. you slowly walk up to them, and hold your closed fist out for them to sniff. if at any time they growl or their fur stands up, or they run away, the child should back off. Some dogs are intimidated by children, some feel the need to “protect” their owners. if the dog sniffs the child and licks them, or seems otherwise ok, then its ok to pet. another thing a lot of people don’t know is that it freaks dogs out to have a stranger go for the top of their heads. the eyes follow the hand, and the mouth follows the eyes, putting little fingers close to big teeth. try rubbing the dog’s chest instead. most dogs LOVE it.

NOTE: back off slowly. running away can be seen as cause to chase.

Pet owners should take responsibility. I don’t believe in having outside dogs. My dogs are part of the family. I own a German Shepard, an shepard/lab mix, and a Pomeranian. Honestly, the pom’s probably bitten more than the GSD, but how much damage can a 7 lb dog do?

My shep, Max,loves his family very much. he’ll let me practically lay on him. we can poke him, prod him, examine his teeth, and he just lies there. baths, no problem. give him a treat? he’ll let you take it away. He looks kinda pathetic…but he won’t snap. he can be very protective though. That translates to aggressive with strangers.

We take responsibility for that. My dogs don’t go outside by themselves. One of the adults or older children must go out with them at all times. We have an electric fence, due to neighborhood restrictions. if a dog looks like they are wandering too far away, we grab them. if the neighbors come out, or a golfer comes up, we take the dogs in. i have no problem chasing down my shep and dragging his butt in the house if necessary. normally, he’s the best behaved. the pom’s the brat.

when people come over, we kennel the dogs. If people want to meet max, we’ve worked out various ways of calming him down. We used to rely on a muzzle, but as he’s aged, its less of a problem. now we just use a leash and a squirt bottle.

when we go on walks, the whole family goes. we check collars and leashes before we go, so no one slips free. if another dog comes up and seems aggressive, the three dog walkers calmly turn around and walk away. those not walking dogs take the rear and prepare to help. and guess what! it works!

if my dog were to go after a child, i would be right there, separating Max and the child. if that meant taking the bite, so be it.if that means yanking my 110 lb Shepard off the ground by his leash and collar, then i will. and yes, and 120 lbs,i can do it. if i have to yank him back by the scruff of his neck, i will.

and that is why my dog has NEVER bitten anyone. and thats why he is unlikely to ever bite someone. unless, of course, i tell him too.

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