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Boy Mauled and Killed by Family Dog

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For this 4-year-old, "man's best friend" was just the opposite.


Over the weekend, a 4-year-old boy in Chicago was mauled to death by the family Rottweiler. The boy was in the backyard playing with the dog when it attacked him. His dad, who had been using a snow blower in the front yard at the time of the attack, discovered his son's lifeless body. The family's three dogs were removed from the home and have been euthanized.

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: Brushing Your Teeth May Prevent Preterm Birth
96 comments so far | Post a comment now
Abby January 13, 2009, 7:22 AM

I am so sick of hearing only certain dogs are aggressive, and to be blamed for stuff. Why don’t parents just watch their children around any/all dogs. Dogs are not babysitters, they should not be left alone with any child, REGARDLESS OF THE BREED. I have always grown up with huskies, and they are the most loving dogs. I now have a husky and a pit bull mix. Both are inside with 8 cats and various other small animals. They never have shown any aggression to any of the other animals.

And since I was bitten by a small peek-a-poo, when i was a toddler and grew up with scarring on my forehead and does that mean that all pekegnise (spelling?) and poodles are aggressive dogs?

cygnet1 January 13, 2009, 7:42 AM

Nobody is saying “only” certain breeds are aggressive. There is no doubt, however, that certain breeds attack seriously with more frequency than other breeds. Pit bulls were BRED for a propensity to attack without provocation and keep on attacking until their adversary is dead. In 2007, out of 35 people killed by dogs, 21 were killed by pit bulls.

ashley January 13, 2009, 7:50 AM

I actually had a friend who was married to this guy who had a son from someone else. Well the mom was neglectful and left the boy alone in a bouncy chair and their chihuahua chewed off some off his toes!! That and the fact that she put the boy in a scalding hot bath tub made her lose custody to my friend and her hubby thank goodness. Anyhow, we had a pit when my son was little. She was smaller than most and loved my son. The would lay on the couch together. She was very protective of him and very wary of strangers around him. She was a very good dog. I am glad we don’t have her anymore though because it’s not worth the risk. And we now have another toddler and who knows how she would’ve reacted to her.

June January 13, 2009, 10:32 AM

Hm, reading the examples you listed, it seems that almost every single one involved a child that was UNSUPERVISED around a dog. Children should NEVER be left alone with a dog, no matter the breed.

How about posting some stories about dogs SAVING lives? I come across those all the time, but they dont quite make the headlines like these stories, wonder why that is?

My old german shepherd mix saved me from being kidnapped when I was a toddler, and he also scared off a guy that tried to break into our house.

Or the dogs that save families from fires, carbon monoxide, or the ones that are brought to hospitals to cheer up children and adults? How about we read some of those stories eh?

Jai Johnson January 13, 2009, 11:10 AM

I agree - boy shouldn’t have been left alone with the dog. I own a German Shepherd - great dog and not aggressive with people at all, but I would NEVER trust him with a young child. Even on-leash, I will not allow a child to approach him unless he is laying down (i.e. in submissive state). I always tell parents with kids wanting to pet him, let me get him to lie down first. He is high strung…children can move fast and unexpectedly and I don’t want to take any chances.

Joyce January 13, 2009, 11:17 AM

This is just an example of PETA trying to get pit bulls banned again. The “leader” of PETA was attacked by a pit bull and now hates them. She wanted Michael Vicks pit bulls automatically euthanized. Look at the SI cover this month.

Yes pit bulls were bred to be aggressive. So was my Great Dane’s ancestors. They were bred to be hunters,and to scare people off in war. When Great Dane’s first went to AKC shows they started dog fights. Today, Great Danes are the biggest lovers out there.

In every example they sited, except the for the baby in the stroller, the kids were left alone with dogs. There was no adult supervision. The kids were tiny! That is bad parenting. My son was not left alone with my Dane until we were sure that my son has voice control over the Dane. That my son new how to stand up to a huge puppy.

donna January 13, 2009, 11:33 AM

your stats are skewed. most of the time when there is a report of a dog bite authorities don’t even know what the breed is so they take a guess and usually that guess is pit bull. there are ALOT of breeds that look similar to pits go to and you will see how many times breeds are lumped together. the articles say parents “found the child in the house” or “found the child in the backyard” and my question is where were the parents? i have a pit and my friend has a rot and we take these dogs places together and they are able to play freely with our children and there has never been an agression issue. pits were not bred to be aggressive to PEOPLE those that were aggressive to people were killed because they are undesirable. educate yourself before you speak please.

Lindsey January 13, 2009, 11:40 AM

Honestly, it’s bad DOG parenting. Dogs need to be trained from a young age how they’re supposed to act around people in general, not just children. People don’t research breeds anymore to make sure that breed will be a good fit for their family. Visits prior to taking the dog home and in-home visits are key in ensuring personality meshing and breed compatibility.

Most people will get an energetic breed because “oh, they’re so CUTE!” and expect it to be totally cool sitting at home all day with no exercise while the family is at work or school. That is not the case - those breeds, and larger breeds in general, need lots of attention and lots of exercise, otherwise it does come out as aggression. Especially if the dog becomes possessive of the adults and sees the kids as competition trying to move in on their territory.

That said, it’s insane to blame the dog for the IDIOCY of parents who leave their children unsupervised with a dog of ANY BREED. Smaller breeds are actually more dangerous around children, but the only ones that get the media attention are the pits and the rotts, which make Rott mamas - who take care of our dogs and PROPERLY TRAIN our dogs - like myself look bad.

The focus of this article is WAY off and only serves to further perpetuate fear of certain breeds and Breed Specific Legislation, which has put many a good dog to an undeserving death.

It should not be on the dogs as fearsome predators, waiting for their first available chance to snack on our children. A dog is still an animal with animal instincts. The focus should be on the obvious neglect and incompetency shown by parents who seem to think that a dog is a capable sitter for their children.

For the record, I have a one year old Rottweiler, and a 3 year old and 1 year old daughter. My dog is strictly trained, and NEVER left alone with my children. I love him and I trust him, but he is not a babysitter or another human being. It’s about using common sense, and it seems that is something that is sorely lacking these days.

Sherry January 13, 2009, 11:40 AM

These are all tragic cases but like others have mentioned, any dog can attack and be dangerous to unsupervised children. We have the world’s most loving Beagle who would just about throw herself under a bus if she can just have a belly rub first. I have no fears of her attacking my 3- or 6-year-old, but I still wouldn’t throw them all out in the yard together and then go inside for an hour to do other things.

Kids and dogs need to be supervised, plain and simple.

I, too, would like to see some more positive stories like dogs saving families from danger for a change. These alarmist stories are getting a bit tired.

Janettee January 13, 2009, 11:56 AM

I’ve grown up around dogs and I am sad that a little boy was killed… BUT it is the OWNER who makes the dog, not the BREED!!! I’ve had pit bulls, dobermans, dachsunds, rottweilers, and mixed-breed dogs… I’ve only had a couple of them actually bite people (none deadly), but most of the time that was either because of stupidity or because they were being attacked (I scared a dog that I’d only seen once before when I went to pet him quickly, even though I knew better, and then another dog was being attacked with rocks and bit the child that was throwing them). My mother raised dogs for show… Many people would claim that dobes are vicious, but I’ve NEVER (from the time I was 7 years old until now) seen any of my mothers dobes be vicious… In fact, her dachsunds were the ones that attacked one of our peacocks (they ripped its tailfeathers out and it got an infection and died)… So you see, it really doesn’t matter the breed, it is the circumstances and the owner. I think that if a dog is being harmed, whether by the child or by an adult, or an inanimate object, it should not be punished for protecting itself. I mean, if a child or adult was being attacked and feared for their life… Would you put them to death? You probably wouldn’t even put them in jail!

bas January 13, 2009, 1:26 PM

There are dead and disfigured children, and adults, and most of you are too busy defending the dogs. I am so tired of people saying it’s not the breed, it’s the owner. Any dog should be punished for harming a child, or an adult. Dogs are not people. I have 3 dogs myself, but got rid of one as soon as it showed signs of agression to a neighbor child. It is not worth the risk.

SMartypants January 13, 2009, 2:52 PM

hmmm..5 of the 7 victims mentioned above were attacked by pit bulls. Anyone seeing a pattern? And don’t get on here (pit bull fanatics) and defend your vicious dog. They are built for attacks. Don’t believe me, see the examples above.

Alison January 13, 2009, 2:56 PM

It’s not right to say a certaindog will attack or is always violent. I won’t lie I am a little nervous around Pitt Bulls, but that is because what I am fed by the media. I also don’t understand why there is a picture of a pitbull attached to this story and the story reported a Rotweiler was the attacker. That is pointing the finger at Pitbulls for all attacks.

Mary January 13, 2009, 4:00 PM

As usual the full story is not being told. In the first example, the child was a foster child that had a history of being violent. The dogs were outside dogs (in the middle of Chicago winter no less!!!) that were not permitted to be around the child. Hardly “family” dogs.
What ever happened to the attitude that an unsupervised child volunteers to be killed or seriouosly injured? What would the headlines be if the child wondered outside in just his underware and died of exposure? Who would people blame? Or out in the street to be hit by a car? The winter weather, the car, or the parents for not supervising the child and keeping him from harm? Is there a difference between being killed by essentially strange dogs, car or by exposure? NO, there isn’t. It is the (foster) parents fault and ONLY the (foster) parents fault that this boy is dead. Dogs just happened to be the reason that day. Any other day, it could have been drowning in the bath tub or hit by a car or a thousand other things that can happen when irresponsible parents neglect their children.

Martha January 13, 2009, 5:40 PM

I have an American Bulldog(85 PD) and I would NEVER leave him alone with my 3 yr old. Dogs are animals and no matter how long you have had them, can never be fully trusted. Even more so with small children. NO one really knows what happened with the people in these stories but as a word of caution, dont leave your children alone with any animal.

anon January 13, 2009, 7:15 PM

Even if you have the sweetest lab puppy a child should NOT be left unattended with a dog. Ever. I have a boxer mix and puggle, both are very well trained and great with kids. I also have a baby on the way and it will not be left alone with the dogs for any amount of time.

Kat January 13, 2009, 9:38 PM

The ones I think need training the most are those children that run at my dog expecting to pet her. People, train your children, please! She is an animal, she sees you running at her as a possible attack and gets nervous for her safety and mine. You tell the child, “Stop! Let her come to you and sniff you first then you may pet her. Otherwise you will scare her. I don’t care how well you think she knows you. All dogs will bite if they become fearful.

And yet… I supposedly have the vicious Lab. Several mind what I say, but many more of those children give me lip and attitude for trying to teach them how to act around a dog. There use to be a day children were taught to mind their neighbors to at least some degree. In cases like this, they need to.

Denise January 13, 2009, 9:42 PM

I read back in like the spring or summer that it is the smaller dogs, #1 being the dachsund, that are the most aggressive but since they are so small their attacks dont really get reported. I have so much to say on this subject because it makes me mad.

Dan January 13, 2009, 10:00 PM

Anyone that thinks breeding has nothing to do with the behaviour of a dog knows nothing about dog breeding. A breeder selects a sire and a dam to produce offspring. The sire and dam are chosen based on whatever criteria a breeder wants to see in the puppies. Dogfighters, gang bangers, etc. breed the most aggressive dogs so they can get aggressive prospects for the fighting pit or protecting the drug house or whatever. This leads to major problems. It’s not a question of nature vs. nurture, because it really comes down to both.

t. January 14, 2009, 6:46 AM

REGARDLESS of breed, dogs should always be properly supervised. I have a St.Bernard- I do not allow my children’s friends to come over wihtout me present, he is never off lead or in the yard alone. I adore him and nothing I wouldn’t do for him. So if it means standing in the freezing cold, wet weather or sweltering heat while he does his business, I’ll do it. The discomfort is nothing to ensure an accident does not happen.

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