2007-07-13 Trouver le sens d'une attaque choquante (EN)

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LOCKPORT: Making sense of a shocking attack

By April Amadon/[email protected]

Lockport Union-Sun & Journal

Many unanswered questions remain in the wake of Sunday’s bizarre pit bull attack on a Washburn Street boy.

Police say a 2-year-old boy was alone with the family’s pit bull for only minutes when he was attacked and sodomized by the dog, a family pet that had never before shown any signs of aggression.

Lockport Police Detective Capt. Larry Eggert said the toddler had removed his own soiled diaper and asked to be changed just before the attack. His mother sent him into the living room to get a new diaper, Eggert said.

The boy was alone with the dog for only a brief time, Eggert said.

When the mother heard the boy scream, she walked into the living room and found the dog had mounted the child, Eggert said. The mother reportedly began yelling at the dog, which spooked it, causing it to run out the door and onto the porch, still attached to the boy.

Neighbors saw what was happening and helped the mother beat the dog to get it off the boy, Eggert said.

The pit bull, a 2-year-old named Bear, was impounded this week at the Niagara County SPCA and was said to be going to the Erie County shelter.

Niagara County SPCA Executive Director Al Chille said he’s fielded dozens of calls about the dog, many from out-of-state, and the overwhelming sentiment has been in favor of the dog.

“It’s been, ‘Save the dog, investigate the family,’ ” Chille said.

Eggert said the family has been “very open, very cooperative” with police.

Investigators have conducted several interviews and are working in conjunction with the Niagara County District Attorney’s office to determine if charges will eventually be pressed, but nothing has been determined yet.

The boy continues to recover at Women’s and Children’s Hospital in Buffalo, where he underwent surgery earlier in the week. Eggert said he’s heard the boy is doing better.

The dog, which had been with the family since it was a puppy, was up-to-date on all its shots, including rabies, Eggert said.

Now, investigators are looking at the question on everyone’s mind: What would motivate a family dog with no history of aggression to do something like this?

Behavioral specialists will be brought in to study the dog and try to figure out what triggered the attack.

“Because of the shocking nature of the case, you just want to make sure there’s nothing left unturned,” Eggert said.


Holly Hackmer, a veterinary technician at Brighton-Eggert Animal Clinic in Tonawanda, said she believes the dog may have smelled something in the air that triggered the attack.

“Maybe this dog smelled a female going into heat in the area,” she said. “We see dogs jump through windows, go through doors. They become overly aggressive. It’s the testosterone running through their system.”

Madeline Friedman, owner of Innovative Reality Dog Training and Behavior Consulting in New York City, said the dog could have even smelled something on the child.

Friedman — who prefers to call the incident an “anomaly” instead of a “sexual attack” — said dogs have over 250 million scent detectors in their noses, while humans have only 5 million. Several things could have contributed to the smells in the air that day, including the early-afternoon humidity and the fact that the boy had just removed a dirty diaper.

“Human bodies are always giving off scents,” she said. “For all we know, (the child) may have had some kind of urinary tract infection, which would cause the smell of the child to be really kind of motivating to the dog to explore the scent.”

Friedman said it’s difficult to pin down the dog’s motivation, but it was likely not malicious.

“It appears to be more a misunderstanding of dogs’ senses,” she said. “It is highly unlikely that the dog was motivated by sex-seeking from this child in any way whatsoever.”

The behavior could have even been unconsciously encouraged by the child’s family.

“Maybe the dog sniffed the diaper before, and maybe the parents thought it was funny,” she said.

Bad for the breed

The incident has sparked furious debate about pit bulls, a breed notorious for aggressive behavior.

A study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released in 2000 named pit bulls and rottweilers as the two breeds most often involved in bite-related fatalities.

Sunday’s incident was one of two that day in the city involving pit bulls; a pit bull attacked a Labrador in a Willow Street backyard that same afternoon. In that case, the lab’s owner reportedly had to beat the pit bull will a hockey stick to get it to break the hold it had on his dog’s neck.

On May 24, the Niagara County Drug Task Force was executing a search warrant on a North Transit Street home when the homeowner’s pit bull reportedly lunged at a task force member, prompting the member to shoot the pit bull in his own defense.

In February, a Fox Hunt Drive woman told sheriff’s deputies a neighbor’s pit bull ran out of its hard and bit her dog on the neck.

Though several groups have called for a ban on pit bulls, New York State law prohibits breed-specific legislation.

Chille said people have a natural fear of the breed as it has gained notoriety in recent years. In the last three decades, other dog breeds such as spaniels, rottweilers and German shepherds have received the same attention, he said.

Chille has said the family of the young boy attacked on Sunday wants the dog to be euthanized, but that has not been decided yet.

Friedman said it would be “a shame” if the dog were euthanized.

“It sounds to me like the dog had very little training. If the family doesn’t want to keep the dog, I think the dog could be successfully re-homed,” she said. “It is not my belief this dog is a danger.”

In the meantime, the dog will remain at the SPCA until its fate is decided.

“Unfortunately this happened to be a pit bull,” Friedman said. “I’m wondering, if this had been a goofy yellow Lab, if the outcry would have been the same.”

Contact reporter April Amadon at 439-9222, ext. 6251.