Last Updated: 4:08 p.m.
Note: if anyone would like to help the mother of the children with contributions toward care or other matters–the family’s car was damaged and needed costly clean-ups, for instance–you may reach her at this email address. Please do not contact her for polemical purposes, however.
The girl is 5 years old. Her brother is 3. Their mother is 27. All three were the victims of a vicious, double attack by a pit bull that attacked the children as their waited for their mother in their van, parked at Bunnell’s Second Chance Rescue shelter late Wednesday afternoon. The first time the dog jumped through an open window. The second time the dog jumped in through a door that had been left open, after the children’s mother had attempted to seek help.
When a Flagler County Sheriff’s deputy arrived at Florida Hospital Flagler’s emergency room at 6 p.m. Wednesday, the scene horrific. The 3-year-old boy had blood gushing from his face, which had started to swell and discolor from the bruising. His eye socket appeared to be damaged. His sister was in another bed, blood soaking through bandages that the paramedics had applied. She was crying in pain. The children’s mother had blood leaking down her cheek and neck as she was attempting to calm her children, who appeared to be in shock. Large quantities of blood soaked the blankets which had been used to cover all three victims.
At least the victims were stable, an emergency room doctor told the deputy.
The attack revives a running debate about pit bulls, which are the frequent target of criticism and, in some communities, of outright bans–Miami-Dade County, for example, banned pit bull ownership in 1989, and Miami-Dade voters by a 63 percent margin renewed the ban in 2012. But in an appearance on WNZF’s Free For All Friday this morning, Jeff Hoffman, the sheriff’s chief deputy, said pit bull attacks tend to get more attention than other dog attacks even though other breeds have their share of victims, too. It’s not the dog so much as how the dog is trained and raised, Hoffman said.
Paramedics who’d responded to the attack and transported the three victims to the hospital said the pit bull had left lacerations and puncture wounds on one of the victims’ left temple, behind her left ear and on her arms. Another victim had puncture wounds to the front and rear of her right shoulder and laceration on the same side. The boy was in the worst condition, with a right eye puncture, a tear in the upper and lower parts of his mouth, and a large puncture under his chin. He also had puncture marks and deep lacerations to his right upper eye. He was missing a tooth and had multiple lacerations to his face and upper body.
The 911 Call[media id=366 width=250 height=100]
The children’s mother is a volunteer at the Second Chance Rescue shelter in Bunnell. She told police she’d left the two children in her vehicle while she was doing some work at the shelter. According to the information the volunteer gave police, a black and white pit bull “had broken out of his cage.” The pit bull jumped into the passenger side window, which was down, of the volunteer’s Toyota Sienna minivan. Once the pit bull got inside the vehicle, the children’s mother told police, “it went straight to her son who was sitting in the middle row of the van and latched on to his head, dragging him to the floor of the vehicle,” according to the sheriff’s incident report.
Second Chance Rescue disputes that the dog is a pit bull, calling it a mixed labrador instead. Amy Carotenuto, director of the Flagler Humane Society, where the dog is being quarantined for 10 days before it is euthanized, said that absent a birth certificate–which the dog does not have–it is impossible to say precisely what sort of dog it is. “I bet there’s not a pure-bred bone in him,” Carotenuto said. “Some people might say he is a pit bull,” she said, because of his 40-pound frame and appearance, but “whatever he is, he is a lot of different breeds.”
Carotenuto stressed: “The issue is the same no matter what breed he is. He is a 40-some pound dog that put some hurt on some kids.”
A caller to 911 asked the mother during the call for a description of the dog. She tells him that it’s “a pit.”
The police report continues, referring to the children’s mother: “She stated she attempted to get the dog to let go of her son who kept biting down on his face. She stated that she had to grab the dog’s mouth and pry it open, using her hands to free her son, at which time the dog turned on her, biting her in the face and neck.”
After gaining control of the dog, the children’s mother then dragged the dog back to its cage, securing it there to attempted to run and get help from other workers. But then she said she saw the dog break out of its cage again and run back toward the Toyota. The dog again jumped into the open passenger door window and started to attack the volunteer’s daughter, grabbing her by her shoulder and whipping her to the floor. The children’s mother then dragged the dog out of the van again and put it into another holding area. She then got into her vehicle and drove to the owner’s property, where she and her children called 911.
Later that evening Scott Christopher of Flagler County Animal Control told police that he’d already picked up the dog for quarantine and was headed back to the Flagler County Humane Society. Christopher would be conducting an investigation and would be in contact with all parties involved.
“I then went to the area where the incident had occurred,” the investigative deputy wrote in the incident report, “and inspected the vehicle where the incident had taken place. While looking at the vehicle I observed large scratches and muddy dog prints on the passenger side door and muddy dog prints on the passenger side seat along with dog prints leading to the back of the vehicle. I observed blood splatter on the seats and ceiling along with large pools of blood on the floor and pieces of clothing in the vehicle.”
Second Chance Rescue posted a summary of the incident on its Facebook page Thursday, describing it as “a juicy story that exploits people,” disputing the facts laid out by the sheriff’s report and attacking media for reporting those facts.
“The dog was friendly and vetted so we agreed to take it,” Second Chance Rescue wrote, describing the dog as a “lab boxer” rather than a pit bull. “Last night, one of our volunteers and her children were there, and she was letting him out to potty like she has all week and he bit them. He did NOT break out of his cage like the news said.”
The statement goes on, remarkably, to ascribe blame at great length: “This is not to say that it is not a big deal,” the statement reads, “because we value our volunteers so much and will do whatever we can for them. The fact is though, that if these Humane Societies were not charging a drop off fee, we would not be known as the dumping ground for unwanted animals. People use to not want to drop their pets off there because they did not want them to die and now they dont because they can’t afford it. If so many backyard breeders did not get away with breeding and breeding and breeding, there would not be so many dogs born with their wires crossed liked this one.”
Carotenuto said the Humane Society typically asks for $150 as a surrender fee for a large dog, but that the fee is not set in stone. If an individual can’t pay it, the Human Society asks for a contribution of some kind, because of the expense of maintaining animals. In one case, an individual recently opted to volunteer for two hours in lieu of paying a fee. “We definitely work with people. We don;t turn people away,” Carotenuto said/
The Second Rescue statement concludes by saying that dogs do not attack “for no reason,” that the attack was not its fault, and that media are intent on describing it as a pit bull attack. “Our heart breaks for the mother and child that was involved. However, she knows that when you are at a rescue, with dogs that have been abused and dumped, you can’t assume 100% safety at all times,” the statement concludes.