A toddler was killed by two dogs and his grandmother was severely injured while trying to save the boy, who was left in the yard with the dogs Friday morning north of High Springs.
The mauling is the latest in a series of attacks by dogs on people and other animals, but the first recently to occur on the property of the dog owner.
“It was a bad scene,” said Alachua County Sheriff’s Lt. Brett Rhodenizer. “This ties into the greater conversation (of maulings) but this one today is a family tragedy. This was not dogs running amok through a neighborhood. This was dogs in their home with their extended family. And it happened within the confines of their private property.”
Six dogs, including the two that mauled the boy, were taken from the home by Alachua County Animal Services.
The mauling occurred about 10:30 a.m. at 20915 NW 210th Ave., a mobile home down a dirt road off 210th Avenue. The sheriff’s office has not released the names of those involved.
The grandmother’s daughter lives in the home. The child was the son of a second daughter.
The grandmother and the boy had gone to the house to tend to the dogs while the daughter was at work, something the grandmother often does.
Two canines that had lived in the home for a while were let out in the yard. The boy went out to play while the grandmother stayed inside to make a sandwich.
“When she returned outside, there were no dogs and no boy,” Rhodenizer said. “She hears the sound from an outbuilding behind the residence. She goes back there and finds the two dogs actively mauling the 2-year-old. She fights them off with a shovel and sustains injuries herself.”
The woman suffered injuries to her neck. Rhodenizer said her wounds were severe but not life-threatening.
She and the boy were the only people at the home at the time but she managed to call 911 for help, which arrived within minutes.
Emergency responders tried to revive the boy but he died in the house as a result of the attack. The woman was taken to the hospital for treatment.
Members of the Alachua County Crisis Team have responded to assist the family. Family members at the home where the attack occurred and an adjacent home did not want to talk.
“There’s a whole family out here grieving,” one woman said.
Alachua County Animal Services was notified of the attack quickly and responded to the home, Director Ed Williams said. The owner surrendered the two dogs that attacked. They will be held for 10 days under quarantine and then euthanized.
The other four dogs were taken into custody while the investigation is underway.
“The owner told us she had adopted all the dogs from rescue,” Williams said. “All the dogs looked healthy and in good body condition, and were kept in clean crates. They were all sterilized as best I could tell and were current with their vaccines.”
One of the dogs that attacked was described by Williams as an American Staffordshire terrier — a name often used for a pit bull — and the other a lab mix.
The other dogs included to be what appeared to a boxer-pit mix, various mixed breeds and a large dogo Argentino that weighed more than 100 pounds.
Williams said he and county officials are trying to come up with ideas for programs or educational efforts to try to prevent the incidents that have been happening lately, along with the less severe instances of dog bites.
“We typically handle a lot more dog bite cases than people think we do,” Williams said. “We’ve been brainstorming about what — if anything — we can do to address this.”
Staffordshire bull terriers, American pit bull terrier, American bully, and American Staffordshire terriers are closely related dogs and are generally called just called pit bulls.
According to the Pit Bull Rescue Central, “First, it is important to know that Staffordshire Terrier and ‘Pit Bull’ are not official breeds, but rather common terms used to describe a certain type of dog.
“There are actually many dog breeds that can be easily confused and are often mistakenly referred to as Pit Bulls.”
It goes on to list the American pit bull terrier, the American Staffordshire terrier, and Staffordshire bull terrier.
“How can we tell the difference? We can’t, really. We can only try to guess the breed based on subtle characteristics.”
“Note that even experts can’t always tell if a Pit Bull is an APBT, an AST or a SBT. Even with DNA testing, many known purebred dogs come up with results of mixed breed lineage. For the average Pit Bull owner, however, these distinctions are not really relevant. As a general rule, dogs of these breeds tend to have stable and loving temperaments,” the website says.
Image: American Staffordshire dogs playing