Mara H. Gottfried, Pioneer Press, St. Paul, Minn. –
It wasn’t the first time the big dog had attacked a child.
Before biting the face of an 18-month-old girl this week in St. Paul, Blue — a Presa Canario mastiff that once had weighed up to 175 pounds — had injured her brother, too.
The city declared Blue a dangerous dog after the most recent previous attack in January, but the owner — the girl’s grandmother’s husband — appealed the decision at a March hearing.
The case was under review when the dog attacked again, Thursday, May 24, said Bill Gunther, St. Paul Department of Safety and Inspections environmental health manager and dangerous dog hearing officer.
“Oftentimes when we’re talking about dangerous dogs, we’re talking about protecting the public, and it becomes quite challenging when the incidents are occurring in the household because we have less control over people’s behaviors in the home,” said Ricardo Cervantes, DSI director. “When people have animals, it’s really incumbent on them to know their animals and do their best to protect their families.”
Clara Ryan was taken Thursday to Regions Hospital, where she was treated and released Friday, said Sgt. Paul Paulos, police spokesman.
The bite came during National Dog Bite Prevention Week.
The dog was taken by Animal Control, and family members asked that he be destroyed, police said.
Blue will be quarantined for 10 days, and then a determination will be made about whether the dog should be declared dangerous and destroyed,
On Thursday, the dog owner’s 18-year-old daughter apparently was petting Blue at a home in the 900 block of Mendota Street in the Payne-Phalen neighborhood.
Clara, the 18-month-old, crawled over and “must have surprised the dog,” and he bit her, Paulos said.
The toddler had a puncture mark underneath her eye and a laceration above her eyelid, Paulos said.
The dog’s owner, Adam Dyer, and the younger children’s grandmother, Sherrie Aubin, said at the March hearing that they are married, according to Gunther. Clara’s brother who was injured by Blue was listed as living at their address in a January police report about a bite.
Paulos didn’t have information about whether Clara also lives there, but it was the home where she was injured.
Reached Friday morning, Aubin, 42, asked to be left alone, said she didn’t want her granddaughter’s personal life in the newspaper, then hung up. A phone number for Dyer, 36, could not be located.
The current weight of Blue, who Paulos said is 21/2 years old, was unknown. The dog weighed as much as 175 pounds, though a veterinarian’s report presented at the March 14 hearing showed the dog down to 112 pounds after a severe skin infection, Gunther said.
On March 10, 2010, police were called to Regions for a dog bite report. It happened at the same home, after Clara’s brother, Tayler Ryan, who was 2 at the time, accidentally stepped on the dog’s genitals, Paulos said.
Tayler had a small laceration, about half-inch, on the left side of his face from Blue’s tooth, a police report said.
Animal Control determined the dog reacted to being stepped on, both child and animal got up quickly and bumped heads, and Blue’s tooth punctured the child’s cheek, Cervantes said.
Another police report said Blue bit Tayler at the Mendota Street home Jan. 2.
Police were called to Regions, where Tayler was being treated, and Aubin told them that her dog, which she said was about 200 pounds, had attacked Tayler and that she had to “pull Blue off him,” the report said.
Tayler told police he had “tried to kiss Blue and then he bit me all over,” the report said.
An officer saw scratches on Tayler’s face, swollen cheeks and lips, cuts on the inside of his mouth “and tissue hanging from an open cut on his left bicep,” the report said.
The city declared the dog dangerous — a designation that comes when a dog has attacked two people in a “simple attack” or one person in a “serious attack,” Gunther said.
With Dyer’s appeal, a hearing was held in March. The child’s injuries did not appear to come from a bite but rather cuts, Gunther said he determined.
A letter from a vet said the dog had a serious skin infection that was very painful, and the dog was under treatment, Gunther said. Dyer and Aubin testified that the boy had been hitting the dog in the area of the infection.
The dog tried to leave the room, according to the testimony, but the boy was in the way, Gunther said. Blue stepped on the child and Aubin tried to pull the dog away. The dog’s sharp toenails could have scratched the child, Gunther said.
Nationally, 4.7 million Americans are bitten by dogs annually and more than half the victims are children, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The American Academy of Pediatrics says babies and small children should never be left alone with dogs.