Leader Blues

Wednesday, December 31, 2008

TOP STORY > > Toddler survives vicious dog attack

By JONATHAN FELDMAN
Leader staff writer

A 3-year-old girl was almost killed Sunday by a dog her family considered adopting as a pet. According to Jacksonville animal control officers, it is a miracle that the little girl survived. The attack could also have been prevented, officers speculate.
Jennifer Young, the victim’s mother, explained how her daughter, Grace, was mauled by the dog at the family home on Bailey Street in Jacksonville. The Young family was thinking of adopting the dog, an Akita, from a close family friend, Mary Ronnau of Jacksonville
Jennifer’s husband, Richard, let the Akita play with his two daughters and the family’s two dogs with the hope of giving the animal a happy home, but the well-intentioned meeting soon went bad.
The Akita attacked the child in the backyard of her parents’ home, apparently out of view of her father. The attack may have lasted two minutes, according to a family friend who witnessed the attack.
It took three people to free the toddler from the dog. Her father and friends rushed her to North Metro Medical Center, where doctors transferred her to Arkansas Children’s Hospital in Little Rock by ambulance.
Grace underwent reconstructive surgery for more than an hour, according to Jennifer Young. She said Grace may have to have plastic surgery and she fears that scarring will leave the child traumatized.
She wants Jacksonville to categorize Akitas as vicious animals along with pit bulls, “so nobody else has to see what I saw.”
Grace’s mother said the first thing she asked to do when she got home was play with her Lab, Cinco.
“Doctors said that if the bite had been a hair closer to the jugular, she would be dead. This is the worse case I’ve ever handled,” Cheryl Wood, the animal control officer who handled this case said.
The Akita was euthanized Tues-day morning. On Monday night, the dog explored the front offices of the Jacksonville Animal Shelter with the enthusiasm of a puppy, enjoying doggie treats and playing with staff members at the shelter, a mood that Grace did not get to see.
The incident may not have come without warning. Ronnau, the Akita’s owner, claims to have been bitten by her other dog, also an Akita. She went to North Metro to have her wounds treated, but the animal shelter may not have been informed.
“We reported the incident to proper authorities,” said Amy Arnone, North Metro’s public relations spokeswoman. Arnone would not divulge who was informed of the first biting incident.
“We cannot find any record that (Ronnau) was bitten,” said April Kiser, spokeswoman for the Jacksonville Police Department.
“Bite cases have to be reported to the city at all times,” Hedy Limke, director of the Jacksonville Animal Shelter, said.
Notification of the first incident could have alerted animal control to the potential danger posed by Ronnau’s dogs, and Grace may have been spared, she said.
Had the prior incident been investigated, Grace may not have been attacked, said Limke. It would have served as a warning that Ronnau’s dogs posed a risk.
“Forty percent of dogs in the city are not socialized. They don’t know how to act with people and have the potential to bite,” Limke said.
Limke calls these unsocialized dogs “backyard dogs,” animals left alone without proper care and affection and are potentially dangerous.