Features — 30 June 2018
Looking back at pitbull attacks

Should this breed be kept as pets?

BELIZE, Wed. June 27, 2018– In Tuesday’s Amandala, we reported that a 2-year-old boy, Kyle Carter, was viciously attacked by a pitbull that belonged to a family member who lives in a separate house in the yard in which the boy resides. Kyle’s grandmother expressed surprise about what happened, because, she said, the dogs in the yard were “used to” all the persons who lived there.

Around 7 p.m. on Saturday night, after Carter entered the yard with his mom, the pitbull suddenly rushed at Carter, sunk his teeth into his face, and dragged him around the yard. When the family finally pried the dog off of him, he was bleeding profusely. Later, at the hospital, Carter had to receive over 100 stitches in his face, and treatment for other injuries he suffered.

Pitbulls can be very dangerous animals. According to dogbite.org, 39 Americans died last year due to dog bites, and 29 of these bites (74%) were from pitbulls. During a 13-year period (2005-2017), 433 Americans were killed by dogs; 284 of these attacks were by pitbulls.

Belize has seen a number of attacks by pitbulls. A look at past news articles shows terrifying incidences of dogs freeing themselves from whatever their owners used to restrain them, and attacking adults and children.

One of the most horrifying cases was that of Edmund Spain, a 65-year-old man who was mauled to death by his neighbor’s two pitbulls on May 31, 2010.

Spain resided at 14 ¾ Miles on the George Price Highway, in a house that he was taking care of for relatives who lived abroad. On the day he died, Spain went on a trip to Belize City to pick up his allowance, which was sent by his relatives every two weeks.

When Spain finished his errands, he returned home, and as he was walking towards his house, his neighbor’s pitbulls slid from under the fence and attacked him.

An eyewitness said that he ran to the Hattieville police station for help, but the policemen on duty did not have a vehicle, so they had to ride on bikes to the scene of the attack. When they arrived, the dogs were still attacking Spain.

Spain was transported to the Karl Heusner Memorial Hospital (KHMH), where he died 6 days later.

Spain’s cause of death was determined to be “general sepsis,” which is an infection due to blood poisoning. The doctors told Spain’s family that if he had survived, his injuries were so severe he would not have had proper function in his right arm.

The owner of the dogs was charged with causing death by negligence, but was later acquitted due to lack of evidence.

Lupita Padilla, a 3-year-old girl, was attacked by her neighbor’s pitbull on February 4, 2011. According to her mother, Sarah Padilla, Lupita was playing in the yard with a friend at Antelope Street Extension when she began screaming.

Sarah told Amandala that she and her daughter lived only a few feet away from their neighbor, and although the dog was tied under the house, it still was able to reach baby Lupita.

Sarah also said that the dog did not let go of the little girl until its owner chopped it on the head.

Lupita suffered bites to both sides of her face, stomach, and legs. The  horrifying sight of the bleeding baby even caused her mother to pass out. Fortunately, Lupita survived this incident.

Two years later, on August 26, 2013, another 3-year-old child was bitten by a pitbull. Alicia Guardado and her mother, Maria Guerra, had been living in a rented home at #56 Iguana Street Extension for about two months at the time, when the landlord’s pitbull attacked Alicia, pulling her to the ground and mauling her leg.

The dog also bit the little girl on the shoulder, and then bit Guerra on her leg when she tried to intervene to save her daughter.  Both of them were transported to the KHMH, where Alicia needed to receive stitches.

In July of that same year, a 50-year-old man from Corozal Town, known as Pelón, was attacked by a pitbull while he was walking on 2nd Street North. According to Pelón, he fought the dog as it was biting him.

The dog also bit 14-year-old Jair Tamai, who had assisted Pelón. Tamai was visiting a friend, in whose yard the dog was allegedly tied.

Pelón said that he was unable to work for a while, due to the injuries he suffered.

Belmopan also saw a vicious attack on February 14, 2014, when Deborah Gomez, while on her daily jog in the East Piccini area, was mauled by two pitbulls. According to her, she was jogging in the direction of a car, which had two dogs following it. After the car drove past her, the dogs stopped and attacked her.

Inside the car was Bobby Chin, better known as Jamaican DJ “Black Chiney,” and he stopped to render aid. Another man, Leroy Matura, also stopped to help, pulling out his licensed firearm. He told reporters that the dogs were about to attack a little boy next, and so he shot one of them.

Gomez said the nurse at the hospital counted the bites on her body, and when she got to 27, she stopped, saying it was too much. It was also speculated that the dogs that attacked Gomez had attacked other people before.

A tragic incident occurred in 2014, on June 28, when dogs attacked and killed Jeffrey O’Brien, 23.  Around 10:30 p.m., O’Brien came in from fishing at the lagoon on the public road in Independence. He secured his boat and was riding his bicycle to go home when three dogs, two of which were pitbulls, rushed out of an unfenced yard.

The dogs attacked O’Brien, who tried to fend them off with his paddle, but it broke. The dogs then tore his shirt and bit his face, throat, hands, chest, and other parts of his body.

The dogs belonged to a watchman for then Hon. Senator Joy Grant, who is the current governor of Central Bank. When the watchman arrived home, he saw O’Brien on the ground and rushed him to the Independence Polyclinic. Unfortunately, O’Brien was pronounced dead at 11 p.m.

From 2010 to 2014, there have been at least six known cases of pitbull attacks, including two fatalities. The question has been raised in Belize, as to whether the breed should be outlawed. True, other breeds do attack people, such as in the case of a Rottweiler attacking and killing Dualvin Salinas, a 7-year-old boy, in 2009.  However, many people swear that pitbulls are naturally more ferocious than other breeds of dogs.

Owners of these dogs, however, insist that the dogs can be loving creatures. They say it all depends on how they are brought up. They say if someone trains a pitbull to be aggressive in order to protect their yard, then the dog will view anyone passing as a threat.

Many pitbulls, and other dogs as well, spend most of their lives chained up. An article on Time.com makes note that the problem is not pitbulls, but people who don’t take care of their dogs properly. The article points out that all dogs need training, and to have their behavior socialized. Leaving a dog unattended, or without training, lends to aggressive behavior, it said.

Sometimes, though, it is unknown what triggers these dogs to act so violently, especially in the case of baby Kyle, who lived with the pitbull that attacked him. This is why some people have the strong belief that where children are involved, these animals shouldn’t be kept as pets.

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Deshawn Swasey

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