Saturday, July 2, 2011

Crosby residents charged in boy's dog mauling

By Carol Christian, Houston Chronicle

Two Crosby residents have been charged with failure to secure their dogs after the two pit bull-mix canines mauled a 10-year-old neighbor, according to the Harris County Sheriff's Office.
Kimberly Sheppard, 28, and Michael Haynes, 30, were charged with negligent failure to secure a dog resulting in an attack, Sheriff's Office spokesman Deputy Thomas Gilliland said.
Under a law that took effect in 2007, the offense is a third-degree felony, punishable by two to 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000.
The attack happened about 4:30 p.m. Thursday, when the boy was riding his bicycle in the 500 block of Elk. The dogs, who live next door to the boy, attacked him for no reason, Gilliland wrote in an email.
"The boy was mauled on his upper torso and lower legs," Gilliland wrote. "He was LifeFlighted from the area and is in good condition."
The dogs had been unsecured all day and were taken by Harris County Animal Control officers, Gilliland wrote. No further details were available.

Update July 5, 2011 - The following article is by Brian Rogers, from Beaumont Enterprise:

Pit bull owners 'worried sick' after 10-year-old mauled in Crosby

Lawyers for a Crosby couple accused of failing to secure two dogs that mauled a 10-year-old boy last week said the pair were devastated by the attack.
Michael Hanes, 30, and Kimberly Sheppard, 28, were "shocked" their pit bull mixes dug out from under a newly constructed kennel, their attorney said after the two appeared in court today.
"Their concern right now is with the welfare of that young boy," Michael Turner said. "They thought they had done everything they possibly could have to secure those dogs."
He said the common-law married couple were especially sensitive to what happened to the boy because they have an 18-month-old child.
"They think this could have been their child," Turner said. "And they're just worried sick about this young man."
Sheppard wiped her eyes as she was being arraigned by state District Judge Jim Wallace this morning.
Prosecutor Belinda Smith said the pair face two to 10 years in prison after being charged with negligent failure to secure a dog resulting in an attack.
"There were injuries to the face, arms and legs," Smith said. "There was muscle tearing and severe lacerations."
She said she is waiting on an update on the boy's condition.
The child was taken to the hospital by LifeFlight after being mauled while riding his bicycle in the 500 block of Elk about 4:30 p.m. Thursday.
Smith told the judge the dogs had been in a fight with another dog three days before the attack and had a history of getting out.
Turner confirmed the dog fight, but said it happened after another dog came in to the backyard with the dogs.
He also said the couple built a new kennel last month because the dogs, which are both about 4 years old, had escaped in the past. He said the couple adopted both dogs when they were puppies.
The dogs remain in a 10-day quarantine with Harris County Animal Control, but their future is uncertain.
"They believe their dogs to be the most loving, caring sweet dogs in existence, as most people do believe about their own dogs and this was just a shock to them," Turner said.
But, he continued, he does not expect the couple to ask for the dogs after the quarantine.

Update July 28, 2011 - The following article is by Brian Rogers, from Beaumont Enterprise:
 
Crosby mauling survivor, 10, blames owners, not pit bulls

Mario Lopez, with his face and body stitched, scabbed and bandaged, seems older than his 10 years as he describes being backed into a fence by two dogs intent on killing him.
Grisly photos during weeks of surgeries and skin grafts show where bloody chunks of flesh were torn, like a shark attack, from his arms and legs.
"It was like they were moving up on prey," the boy said about the attack.
Two dogs approached Mario as he walked his bicycle on a road in his rural Crosby subdivision the afternoon of June 30. He described one as a pit bull mix and said the other was part Labrador retriever.
"I saw the lab attacking the pit bull, and I think they were fighting over who was going to kill me," he said. "Then they both started to attack me."
Mario is a big 10-year-old. He played defensive tackle in fourth grade football last year and seems built for it.
"He's big for his age, and he's pretty strong. That's what saved him," said his mom, DeAnn Lopez. "He would have been dead in another minute."

Wounds are apparent

Sitting in the family's front yard, Mario plays with Phoebe, his 9-year-old Staffordshire bull terrier. His legs are wrapped in bandages. His broken arm is healing in a splint. The exposed parts of his legs and arms are peppered with dozens of scabs where his skin was punctured.
He scratches at the itchy scabs while petting his dog. The family also has a pit bull mix that, they say, would never hurt someone.
"Toby is a chicken," Mario said.
His dogs, he said, would never strike the way he was attacked.
Mario said he used his bike, branches and fists to fight off the dogs before being bloodied by two sets of jaws.
"I was hitting them with my bike, and I got one in the snout with the fist," he said.
The dogs backed him through a ditch and into a fence, then tore into his calves until he fell. He picked up branches to beat back the pair while they snatched at his arms and torso, fracturing his right arm and taking a chunk of his bicep.
His right ear was left dangling, saved later by a surgeon's stitching. The dogs' teeth ripped open the flesh on the right side of his chest.
He ended up lying facedown on the ground being bitten and clawed.
"They were scratching me in the back, and one of them bit me on the shoulder," Mario said.

Two came to his aid

Two women in the neighborhood heard the clamor and ran in to help fight off the dogs, eventually chasing them away.
Jodie Green, who was able to hold one of the dogs by its collar as Mario ran to safety, said the snarling assault lasted about five minutes. She agreed the boy would have been killed if the attack had continued much longer.
"It was horrific," Green said. "I was doing what I could to get the dogs off him, but it didn't feel like I could do anything fast enough."
The 37-year-old mother's voice cracked as she imagined her two daughters, 9 and 12, being attacked.
"I try not to think about it, but I can't convince myself that they would have survived what he went through," she said. "They just were not letting up at all."
She said the ferocity reminded her of "wild animals going after something on the Nature channel."
Mario's mother, who calls her son "Man," said he will recover. She is glad another child was not hurt or killed.
"I can't even imagine if any other kid would have been attacked; it would have been really bad," Lopez said.
The boy's dark brown eyes narrow in the sunlight when asked about the dogs that attacked him.
"I'm not mad at the dogs; I'm mad at the owners," Mario said. "It's the owners' fault the dogs are like that."
Michael Hanes, 30, and Kimberly Sheppard, 28, live on property that backs up to the Lopez family's lot. They were shocked their dogs dug out from a new kennel and remain worried about the child's recovery, their attorney, Michael Turner, said.

Owners face charges

The couple face up to 10 years in prison, accused of negligent failure to secure a dog resulting in an attack.
When the pair were arraigned, Assistant Harris County District Attorney Belinda Smith said the dogs had been in a fight with another dog three days before the attack. She said they had a history of getting out.
The dogs' fates were sealed when Hanes and Sheppard decided not to ask officials to return their pets after a 10-day quarantine.
It is little solace to Mario's family or to the neighbors who witnessed the attack. Mario said he will recover and put the assault in the past. In the hospital, he was plagued by nightmares, which have gone away.
During an interview last week, he was moving slowly but smiled broadly as he talked about the gore that 10-year-old boys seem to love. He wants to see what he imagines to be gruesome photos of his arrival at the emergency room.
"The original pictures show where I was completely, completely bloody," he says with satisfaction. "I want to see those pictures for myself!"
This is the second time he has survived a dog attack, he said, pointing out a faded scar below his right eye and one on his jaw.
When Mario was a toddler, he surprised his grandfather's Chow by leaping on the dog without warning.
"That was my fault," the boy said. He said he misses the dog.
His mother is less forgiving of dogs, especially pit bulls. Despite owning one that she says could not hurt anyone, DeAnn Lopez has begun to advocate for ending the breed.
"If we can save one child, wipe them out," the mother said. "Even ours."

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