After last weekend’s dog attack that left a Killeen toddler dead and a young girl injured, everyone is looking for answers, but finding them may not be so easy.
The attack occurred when the children were walking with an 18-year-old man near Iduma Elementary School. The dog, a bull mastiff, charged out of the garage of a nearby home and attacked the girl first, and the teenager pulled the dog off her. The dog then grabbed the toddler and dragged him until someone fired a weapon, causing the dog to retreat to the garage.
It was a tragic incident that was later ruled accidental by the preliminary autopsy report. The dog was euthanized for a rabies test, which came back negative.
For a family that lost their only child, the pain and grief must be unimaginable. For the owner of the dog that perpetrated the attack, the remorse and guilt must be unfathomable.
Sadly, it was the second time in less than a month that a Central Texas child was killed by a dog.
On Feb. 17, a 2-year-old Temple girl was attacked by a pit bull-type dog that was being watched by the girl’s family in their backyard. She later died at a Temple hospital.
Just five days earlier, a Killeen police officer shot and killed a vicious dog after it chased some children and bit one child in a Killeen neighborhood.
The recent incidents have focused public discussion on the issue of dog attacks and what can be done about them.
According to statistics from the American Humane Association, an estimated 4.7 million dog bites occur in the United States each year. Nearly 800,000 of those bites require medical care, and 70 percent of all dog-bite fatalities occurred among children under 10 years old.
Notably, about two-thirds of the bites occurred on or near the victim’s property.
But statistics only illustrate the scope of the problem and do little to solve it.
Killeen’s animal ordinance is very specific about requirements for dog owners, including restraining and tethering the animals.
The ordinance also outlaws ownership of a “dangerous animal,” described in terms of aggression and unprovoked attacks. It also allows for such a classification based on sworn affidavits from other residents or animal control personnel.
But ordinances can only help to reduce the incidence of dog attacks — not entirely prevent them.
Moreover, the dog involved in the latest fatal attack was not considered an aggressive breed, statistically speaking. It’s also unclear what, if anything, might have provoked the attack.
Whatever the cause, a young life has been lost. But should charges be filed in the case, in light of the autopsy findings that the death was accidental? Ultimately it’s up to the authorities to decide.
Moving forward, it’s important that owners properly condition their animals to eliminate aggressive behavior, especially that directed toward children.
It’s also crucial to educate children about how to interact with animals and what behaviors to avoid, in order to minimize the likelihood of an attack.
However, as long as we’re dealing with animals — which can become angry, fearful or aggressive when provoked, even unintentionally — there can never be any guarantees.
What happened last week in Killeen is tragic, both for the families involved and the community at-large. A young life was cut short, another youngster was no doubt traumatized. And the owners of the dog that committed the horrible act lost their pet and must live with the pain it caused.
In response, local communities must re-examine their animal ordinances to ensure that pet owners are held to the highest level of accountability while also protecting the public at-large.
Owning a dog is a responsibility that should be taken seriously, no matter the breed. Whether accidental or not, any dog attack has the potential for major consequences.
Sadly, our community learned that all too well last week.