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Jonesboro toddler in hospital after dog encounter

By Curt Yeomans

cyeomans@news-daily.com

A 3-year-old, Jonesboro boy was in stable condition at Children's Healthcare of Atlanta at Egleston, in Atlanta, on Friday, a day after being bitten by four family dogs at his home, according to Clayton County police.

A neighbor, who witnessed the incident, said the dogs -- including two pit bulls and two German shepherds -- were on top of the boy, dragging him around in the mud, as if he were a toy.

Clayton County Police spokesman, Officer Otis Willis, III, said the incident, which occurred just after 3 p.m., on Thursday, highlights the need for parents to be more cautious with their children when they are around animals of any type, not just dogs.

"We're asking people to watch little toddlers, as well as infants, when they are around any type of animal," Willis said. "With them being so small, they can't defend themselves, if they are attacked."

According to Willis, the dogs are being held by the police department's Animal Control Unit, where they are being quarantined for 10 days, per department policy. The family had only owned the pit bulls for "seven to eight weeks," and the German shepherds had been with the family for "three to four years," he said. No charges have been filed, he added.

Willis said the youth's mother told police her son went into the back yard at their home on Drakes Drive, carrying a stick with him. A neighbor, Frank Harris, said he was driving home on Thursday afternoon, when he heard the young boy, covered in mud, crying as the dogs were on top of him.

"I had my windows rolled halfway down, and all a sudden, I hear this whining, and yelling coming from their backyard," Harris said. "I looked to see what was going on, and, at first, it looked like they [the dogs] were wrestling with a big, black teddy bear."

Harris, who breeds miniature pinschers, said there was a female and male of each breed of dog. He said the females looked like they weighted about 25 to 30 pounds, while the males appeared to weigh approximately 40 pounds each.

He said he pulled over, and went to the fence-gate leading to the back yard, and tried to get a better understanding of what was going on. He said he began to think the dogs may have been on top of another dog because of the whining he was hearing, but then he caught a glimpse of the child's eyes, and realized it was a human being.

"The little boy looked right at me, and we made eye contact," Harris said.

He said he then yelled to some of his neighbors, who were working on a car in their driveway, and told them to call 911. Then, he went through the gate, and tried to get the dogs away from the youth. He picked up a 2-inch-by-2-inch wooden fence picket that was lying in the grass.

"I was swinging and wailing on them, and they dispersed, and then, the little boy got up, and ran inside," Harris said. "He was chewed up pretty bad."

Willis said the mother told police she heard her son scream shortly after he went outside, and when she went to the backdoor, she saw the dogs chasing the boy across the back yard.

"She got him inside, and closed the door before the dogs could get inside," Willis said.

He said he did not have details on the extent of the child's injuries, but Harris said he noticed the skin on back of the youth's right shoulder was "bloody red," as the child ran inside his family's house. He said the injury resembled a rug burn. "It didn't appear to be from the dogs chewing on him," the neighbor said. "I think that was from them dragging him around."

After police and paramedics arrived, the boy was transported to Egleston, according to Willis.

Harris said it appeared to him the dogs saw the incident as an opportunity to play, and he did not believe the animals meant to harm the boy. "They were not growling or anything," he said.