Or in this case, two.
Two little girls, both age 9, were out walking a dog that belonged to an aunt of one of the girls. The woman, it was reported, had recently secured the large Mastiff and was assured the dog was "good with kids."
The reality was anything but. On the evening of April 19th the two children were walking the Mastiff along Maple Street in Kulpmont, Pennsylvania without adult supervision when another dog reportedly began barking at them. According to eyewitnesses at the scene the two girls attempted to hold the Mastiff back from advancing on the other dog.
Instead, the Mastiff turned on them. According to witnesses a woman driving by at the time slowed her car and repeatedly blasted her horn at the Mastiff in an attempt to scare it away, but was unsuccessful. The woman also told the Shamokin News-Item that she didn't exit her car out of fear.
The two children were no match for the large animal. One of the two 9-year-olds, whose aunt owned the dog, sustained facial injuries but was treated at hospital and released. The girl, whose name was not released, is reportedly from Coal Township and was treated at Geisinger Medical Center in Danville after being taken there by land ambulance following the attack.
Her friend, however sustained more serious facial injuries and was rushed to Geisinger by air ambulance. Her injuries were sufficiently severe to warrant sedation. It is not known at this juncture if the girl will require plastic surgery and so far no charges have been laid, but the little girl from Kulpmont remains at the Janet Weis Children's Hospital at Geisinger.
Ironically, the more gravely ill girl's family is reported to have just moved to the area this month, while the aunt of the second girl (who owned the Mastiff) had moved to the area in March. According to a report in the News-Item of Shamokin, Pennsylvania the woman had only owned the Mastiff for 3 weeks, which suggests she would have acquired the dog soon after moving to the area and may not have had the chance to properly check out the previous owner of the dog.
The entire matter is under investigation. The Mastiff is currently being held at the Sunbury Animal Shelter, where it will remain for at least ten days in order to give authorities an opportunity to check the dog's background. It was reported that authorities will be looking for a history of abuse or a violent past—and they'll also be checking for rabies.
While dogs can be perfect pets when well trained and cared-for, they are also animals that can turn on their owners, or other pets when provoked. Some breeds are more prone to violence than others. However, dog trainers will tell you that a dog—any dog—is only as good as the training the dog has encountered, together with ongoing care and a balance of love and firmness.
News reports have confirmed the Assistant District Attorney is involved in the case. The woman who purchased the dog may well wish to pursue legal action against the supplier of the dog, after being assured the animal was appropriate for children.
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"The dog would not impress you as being excessively violent," said Dr. James Temple, senior partner of the Sunbury shelter. "But that's a little like saying a handgun doesn't always look dangerous."
Dog bite law dictates that owners are ultimately responsible for the care, as well as the behavior of their dog in an effort to minimize the risk of dog bite injury. Sadly, all too often the attacking dog is vilified as the lone perpetrator, when the owner's lack of care, compassion and training effectively makes them an accomplice to the crime. Nonetheless, when a dog bites it is often the dog bite lawyer who does the heavy chewing.