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Steeler Star's Pit Bull Attacks 1-Year-Old Son

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WTAE: Steelers linebacker James Harrison's toddler son remained at Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh with a severe leg wound Friday after being badly bitten by a family dog one day earlier.

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WTAE Channel 4 Action News broke the story that Patron, a 4-year-old pit bull, went after 1-year-old James Harrison III in the back yard of his father's Franklin Park home.

"I thought he was kind of just like playing, jumping on him," family friend Lisa Ripi said. "But he started to grab at the baby, and then I saw the blood, and the mom fell on top of him and she was screaming for me to take her baby and the dog was biting her."

Officer Ray Fate, from McKees Rocks-based Triangle Pet Control Services, told Channel 4 Action News that the dog is being kept there and will have to be put down. Harrison does not want the animal back in the house, and a dog that attacked a child cannot be adopted.

Fate described Harrison as a "concerned father. He wanted to get to the hospital. Little aggravated about the dog, mad at the dog."

Ripi told Channel 4 Action News reporter Ari Hait that she was with Harrison's child and the boy's mother, Beth Tibbot, on Thursday afternoon when young James started crying and the dog attacked.

"I picked up the baby from her and ran about 40 yards and dropped him over a fence about two feet, and the dog then went to go for the baby through the fence, which then gave me a moment to get around him, and I picked up the baby and called 911," Ripi said.

James III was rushed to the hospital, and Tibbot spent the night in a hospital with multiple bites, while Ripi required stitches in her leg. James III is said to be doing well at the hospital.

Patron had always been good with James III until the attack happened on Thursday, according to Ripi.

"I feel bad for the dog. He was a great dog, and not in his character," Ripi said.

A Children's Hospital representative declined to comment on WTAE Channel 4 Action News' report.

"We are aware of the situation, but this is a personal matter for James," Steelers spokesman Burt Lauten said in a statement.

Harrison also declined to comment when he arrived home Friday, telling Hait, "No trespassing."

Franklin Park Police Chief Donald Dorsch is out of the office until next week, and he instructed police officers not to talk to the media about any ongoing police matters. The department wouldn't even confirm if anything was being investigated concerning Harrison.

The dog attack happened while the Super Bowl champion Steelers were in Washington to meet President Barack Obama at the White House.

Harrison, the NFL's defensive player of the year, made national headlines when he told WTAE Channel 4 that he declined to make that trip with the rest of his teammates.

"Other teammates call Harrison 'Pit Bull' for his ferocious and relentless style on the football field. Harrison, coincidentally, owns such a dog," said a Pittsburgh Tribune-Review story that profiled Harrison in 2005.

That same report noted Harrison's distrust of the media, quoting him as saying, "Everything in the newspaper, half of it is B.S."

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2 comments so far | Post a comment now
Sara May 24, 2009, 1:47 PM

My heart goes out to the whole family. So scary and sad for them to all go through. It sounds like the mom and friend involved were true heroes in saving James’s life. I highly doubt he’d be here if they hadn’t acted quickly like they did.

Another reminder that you just never know what could trigger a dog, especially one as strong as a pitbull to attack. Very sad and scary. I’m so happy that it sounds like overall he’ll be okay. ;;

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