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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
Lorrie August 12, 2008, 2:58 AM

We have all heard of the “GOOD” dogs and the “BAD” dogs. I had a GREAT dog, that at the age of 15 and 1/2 I had to have her put to sleep because of a stroke. She never once bit anyone, she was 1/2 Chow. Everyone was afraid of her temperment because of her breed. She was only skiddish with a couple of kids in her life, and I could tell right away if she didn’t like someone. The last child she didn’t care for was a twin, she loved the other one. But didn’t want anything to do with what I would come to call the “devil twin”. I got to know the child and to this day he still scares me!!

We have had a shelter dog, that bit my son while they where just lying on the floor watching TV. This was a schnoodle. Sad to say the gate was left open and I was the unfortunate one to see him get hit by a car. He was a loving little dog, after his first and only bite. We had him 4 years, but he was a shelter dog. In terrible condition when we adopted him. What kind of life had he lead before us, his hips seemed out whack, like someone had kicked him before. Who knows? Our next dog we brought home was a sick mini poodle that we nursed back to good health, he bites too. He’ll bite you in the butt if he wants your attention!!!!

We all grow to love our pets, the good the bad and the ugly in them. But when it comes to a serious injury or fatal injury they may inflict on innocent infants, children or adults. We, as responsible owners have to “do the right thing”. Being a responsible owner means you treat your pets right, socialize them, don’t tease them, feed them everyday, discipline them and praise them. Does this kinda sound familiar???? Maybe like parenting????

And, while you raise your pets properly. They will have personalities of their own and they will behave however their own brain is wired. With some breeds, being inbred or breeding with unknown factors can increase the aggressive tendencies. Never knowing when an animal might snap, wouldn’t you say that having a pet that can kill would be devastating to your family, the neighbors, your community??

Pit Bull dogs, are now outlawed in our community. Plus we have an aggressive dog ordinance. It took the severe mauling of a 3 year old little girl in her own back yard to get it passed. Two pit bulls went under her backyard fence to attack her. Her own dog tried to save her, a golden retriever, it survived the attack too. We have had several other dogs in town die at the jaws of these pit bull “attack dogs”. So…..if you want to own a mean attack dog or a sweet little puppy dog do the math!

Read a book, how to train your puppy!!! Also, speak up when your kids,grandkids or neighborhood kids get their first pet, help our next generations raise “Great” pets too!

Jennifer August 13, 2008, 3:42 PM

I had a Rottie for 7 years, 4 of which were with babies/toddlers in the house. He was a dream dog (along with our Golden). Last summer I was dating a guy who has a Springer spaniel. We were all sitting in the living room with my 5 year old sitting on the floor giving/getting kisses when the dog growled and bit her face. She did nothing to him physically or threatning. He just did it. These are the kind of moments you cannot predict. Thankfully we were right there to pull him off her and her away from him. Nonetheless, she will have scars on her face for the rest of her life. Fortunately, they are not too bad. If we weren’t there… who knows.

But the point is, it was not a “dangerous” breed that bit her. It can happen to anyone at anytime without any apparent reason. These are animals with animal instincts. You can train a dog all you want, but in the end, it is still an animal. I will NEVER own another dog.

Anna August 13, 2008, 5:14 PM

the problem is that people get pit bulls and dont exercise them enough or neglect them. If you neglect any animal they will not be trustworthy pets. As with any dog if you dont nip agression in the butt early on then its your own fault. I for one grew up with a german shepherd dog that never, ever tried anything like that. It is also common sense that if you are going to have kids then you shouldn’t get a big dog like a pit bull in the first place because they dont always know their striength and could easily trample or hurt a child in play. Seriously dont blame the dog blame the stupid parents who did not have enough common sense not to let their kids around the neigbors dog or to not purchase such a large animal. Its sad because many of these poor animals get put down because of stupid people like that.

Mom of two and 2 dogs August 13, 2008, 6:49 PM

I have two children, ages 3 & 8, that have been raised with our two dogs. I totally trust one, but so so on the other, due to the fact she is 13 and cranky now. I would never leave food out, and leave the kids unattended with the dogs.
Dogs will be dogs, and kids will be kids. You have to extra cautious when you have a dog. Having a dog is like having a gun in your house. A well trained dog, is like a locked and secure gun. A poorly trained dog is like having a loaded weapon. Both can be equally deadly in the wrong situation.

Parents need to train their children about dogs. I tell my boys, not every dog is like your dog. Do not trust any other dog. Do not go near another dog without me.

My young one was bitten at a party last year, by a dog who was ” a gentile dog”. He just was walking over by the dog, and the dog attacked his hand. Luckily I did not trust this dog and was there as it happened. By trusting my gut, by son escaped with only a small indent in his palm. This was a 95 lb. mixed breed dog, just big, not mixed with anything “aggressive”, he could have been seriously hurt if I believed the owner, who swore he was nice. You would think the dog’s owner would know better.

I wont go in my sister in-laws house unless her dogs are locked away in a secure room. I don’t trust them, and I don’t care if it offends her. My children’s safety comes first.

After a child ids attacked, the owner always says “he’s never done that before” That is one chance I will not take. A child’s face is at the height of a dogs mouth. They do not know the danger they may be literally facing.

Lauren August 13, 2008, 6:54 PM

does anyone realze that small dogs are actually the most aggressive dog breeds? Large dogs breeds make the press just because they are able more likely to cause more serious damage….

Mom2B August 14, 2008, 3:34 PM

The key is never to leave a dog alone with a baby or small child. Dogs are animals, and they sometimes can’t tell the difference between a flailing crying baby and a prey animal like a bird or rabbit—babies don’t always register as humans with them, and even the most trusted family pet shouldn’t be alone with a baby/toddler.

I have two dogs (one is a rottweiler-shepherd mix) and they get along wonderfully with small children and love to play. But I don’t leave them alone with kids or let them run unsupervised where there are children around. It’s simply not worth the risk.

I grew up with dogs and horses, and every large animal can be dangerous if it is not handled correctly. But these animals can also serve as loving and devoted friends and protectors.

I don’t believe in breed based banning of dogs—a well trained animal of any breed is usually safe (under supervision), and a poorly trained or abused one is often dangerous.

PARENTS SHOULD PAY August 23, 2008, 6:54 PM

DID ANYONE NOTICE THAT IN EVERY STORY HERE THE CHILD WAS LEFT ALONE..NOT BEING WATCHED THE PARENT OR GUARDIAN SHOULD HAVE TO GO TO JAIL FOR NOT WATCHING THEM. some of those people are so lazy and stupid they probably left the dog to baby sit. i have 9 husky mixes 100 lbs +. before any of my children came i had my dogs andthey are spoiled beyond. then the kids came, 10 years later STILL never even a snap but most importantly never LEFT ALONE

Karti September 8, 2008, 4:49 PM

I think there should also be an article about the number of lives SAVED by animals (in this case specifically dogs). Many a dog has alerted its family to gas leaks, carbon monoxide, and fires.

When I was´little (very early 90s), we owned a german shepard mix. I was playing in our fenced (with a privacy fence) in yard while my mom washed dishes watching me from the window (many moms in our neighborhood did this, it was normal).

A family friend was supposed to be coming over around that time to fix something on our fence, so when my mom saw a guy climbing the fence that looked like him she thought it was him and yelled hello to him.

My dog immediately was staring out the door growling with his hair standing on end, which my mom had never seen him do. She quickly opened the door and my dog shot off immediately, racing to the fence and lunging at the guy.

He immediately retreated and escaped along with a woman that was waiting for him with a car. According to a police investigation, neighbors had seen the couple looking through our fence for weeks, apparently watching my sister and I. The neighbors thought they were looking at our new landscaping we were doing. If we hadnt had our dog I may not be here today. From that day on my mom was terrified and brought our dog with her everywhere when my dad wasnt around.

Our dog alerted us a few years later to people trying to break in as well and scared them off.

However, my aunt’s dog Nikki (some poofy black dog) bit my sister in the face when she was little (in front of the whole family, she was just stroking the dog’s back softly).

My family’s experience aggressive and very sweet passive dogs, and we prefer to have dogs (they must be well socialized and trained though).

Emily Mayger October 1, 2008, 10:31 PM

Below is a list of 15 different victims of a dog attack along with the description of the fatal wounds as listed on the autopsy report. Each victim was attacked and killed by a single dog. Each victim was killed by a different breed of dog (for a total of 15 different breeds*). Only one victim was killed by a Pit bull (or any type of bully breed).

Victim 1: Multiple penetrating wounds to the abdomen
Victim 2: Collapsed lungs, multiple wounds to the chest, partial devourment
Victim 3: Massive head and neck injuries
Victim 4: Multiple bite wounds, dismemberment
Victim 5: Extensive scalp and neck injuries
Victim 6: Multiple lacerations of scalp and neck, depressed skull fracture
Victim 7: Exsanguination from multiple bite wounds
Victim 8: Skull fracture and severe bites to upper back and face
Victim 9: Multiple penetrating wounds to back and chest
Victim 10: Severe bite wounds to the head
Victim 11: Severe bites, massive bleeding, broken facial & neck bones
Victim 12: Massive head injuries
Victim 13: Severe, multiple penetrating injuries to head and neck
Victim 14: Massive bite injuries to lower extremities, dismemberment
Victim 15: Severe scalp, facial wounds, laceration of jugular
Fifteen different breeds inflicted the fatal wounds listed above. The breeds were:

Siberian husky
Chow chow
Pit bull
Sheepdog-type dog
Labrador Retriever
Chesapeake Bay Retriever
St. Bernard
German Shepherd dog
Golden Retriever
Mixed breed (no discernable breed visible)
It is virtually impossible for anyone to match the breed of dog with the fatal injuries listed above - as such - claims that one breed of dog inflicts injuries unlike other breeds have no merit.

workswithdogs December 20, 2008, 10:11 AM

as someone who has worked with dogs and lived with and raised them, i can tell you i have had more issues and bites from those purse dogs/small dogs b/c owners think it’s “cute” for them to growl and lunge and snarl — thereby reinforcing bad behavior. i would work with large dogs of any breed before a small dog, and of those large breeds, i’d gladly work with the bully breeds.
my opinion:
1) parents need to know where your kids are at ALL times, especially if animals are around.
2) dogs are just that - dogs. ppl need to learn their animals’ body language. dogs cannot talk and tell your kid that they’re having a bad day or they don’t feel good. all they have are teeth if avoidance doesn’t work.
3) unaltered, unsocialized and chained dogs are what constitutes a majority of dog/children incidents. so REPORT IT IF YOU SEE IT!!!
4) ANY dog of ANY size can and has been involved in a mauling or death of a child/person; from pomeranians to presa canarios. it all boils down to unsupervised kids, untrained or unsocialized animals and uneducated ppl.

kayla February 20, 2009, 3:18 AM

to one of the yeah-me posts, you were dead wrong in puting your dog down! pitbulls have a high prey drive and once started it needs hard training to stop! its NOT your dogs fault! they kill to survive and when animals run, its what they do. training could have fixed it very simply! killing your dog for doing what nature tells it was wrong and cruel. I have been attacked by 2 labs my brother was attacked by a border collie, had to have surgery, where was the news reports? the dogs did not look like pitbulls nor did we say they were! so the news didnt care! they only care of they can bad name pitbulls! its a real shame how people pick out one breed of an entire race and band them! there ALL dogs! they ALL come from the same place!

hannah February 24, 2009, 8:45 PM

If you got have a dog and child, never leave the child unattended with the dog. If somehow your dog attacts one of your children and you dont want it enymore, take it to a humane susiety. The bottom line is that you never leave a child and dog unsupervised with a dog. The solution to the problom is NOT to outlaw certain breeds of dogs. If you get a pit bull, rotrialer, or doverman, start training at a early age, that wont pervent him or her from attaking someone, but it will help it to not attack someone.

pit parent December 8, 2009, 9:07 PM

i have a four year old Pitbull, and a eleven month son,and they are best friends, so all you parents that thank you are good caus you read how to keep your kid safe in your coffe shop groups can bite me….or wait my pitbull should do that…….i forgot

Lilly March 10, 2010, 2:37 AM

I am a child. I have been unlucky enough to have been bitten by a German Shepered; The dog was my Aunties. The dog pounced up at me, and tore both my top and bottem eyelid of my now long-sited left eye. This dog is named; Horris. He also went for my dad, But luckily, didnt do much damage. I had to have 5-7 stiches, and couldnt attend school for 2 weeks, 1 week of which, i was in a childrens hospital in london. They performed 3 4-5 hour surgery’s on my eye. I said that it was the dogs claw that did the damage, however, i knew it was the mouth and razor shapr teeth, as for the teeth marks under my chin. My eye was bleeding, and i couldnt see for a while. It was terrifying. I lost most of, if not all of my eye lashes. I had to under-go several eye tests, and monthly visits to the hospital. I have no scars, and no disformation of my face, luckily. My eye could have been on the end of that dogs tooth had he been just 1 cm taller! or, if i were 2 cm shorter, i would now have 1 eye. I advise any parent questioning recent dog attacks, to not leave there child with a dog they know can be potentialy viciouce. I knew this dog, and so did my whole family, i did nothing rong, the owner was there, and my 2 cuzzy’s, as i walked into the house were i was ment to stay the night, the dog bit me. A dog can go for children at any time, mostly small children, as they are short and an easy target for a dog to unleash his/her agression. I have been left emotionally scared, and i will NOT EVER go near a german shepered again. Even if i know the dog, and i know i can trust it, i will still shake. Do not let you child go through what i went through. You may think its unlikley, so did i, before i nearly lost my eye. So dont sit there and say “this could never happen to my child, i wouldnt let it” A dog doesnt think ‘ohh i wont bite her, her mum/dad doesnt want me to as they dont think i can’ Thats the exact layed back attitude that gets your child bitten. Be careful, and make sure you can definatly absolutly trust a dog, and even then, be careful and take some prechationary mesures! Thanks for reading! :)

Lilly March 10, 2010, 2:50 AM

However, i do agree, dogs are no danger, despite what one did to me. Its the owner, the dog should get its needed exercise, food, water; and i WILL not should be FINE!… When i was little, my grandad had an english bullterior, there was nothing closer to me than that dog! My nan had several german shepereds, who i LOVED to peices! They were calm dogs, as they were owened, c o r e c t l y! The dog is no danger, it may be the one with the teeth, but its the owner that bites.

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