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WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — A 20-month-old girl is in the hospital after being bitten by a family dog in Wilmington. New Hanover County Sheriff’s spokesman Sgt. Jerry Brewer says the girl had surgery for major lacerations to her face.

Wilmington Police Department spokesman Det. Kevin Smith says it happened at 218 Southgate Road.

New Hanover County Animal Control Services has the dog, a boxer, in custody. Brewer says the family adopted the dog earlier this week from an elderly woman, but there was no indication the dog had any history of aggression upon adoption. Brewer says the child’s mother expressed some concerns recently about the dog, though.

Brewer says the dog will be quarantined for ten days. After that point, the owner can claim it. If not, the dog will be euthanized.

WWAY has learned that the mother of the child had called several rescue services Thursday, trying to get the family’s adopted boxer picked up because of aggressive behavior. Though advised to board the dog herself, it was too late. The dog attacked her daughter. Fortunately though, there are precautions you can take to avoid this from happening in your family.

Doctor Meghan Tayloe, a veterinarian at the Highsmith Animal Hospital in Wilmington, says before adopting a dog, there are several things to consider. Researching the dog’s breed, upbringing and personality are all very important. She also suggests bringing in the entire family and other pets to see how the dog interacts with them.

“Even if you need to leave the dog on the leash in the beginning to have some control over it, and I mean a short leash, a six foot leash, not a retractable leash,” Tayloe says.

Once in the home, Diane Gallagher of Dog Train, says establishing control and rewarding good habits is key when the dog is interacting with a child.

“We want to reinforce good responses. Introducing the baby, here’s the baby, here’s a piece of cheese or have a piece of liver treat,” Gallagher says. “So the dog thinks ‘baby cool, I get extra treats for this.'”

Gallagher says it is important to bring the dog into the room the child is in, as apposed to bringing the child into a room the dog is in. This ensures the dog will not feel threatened by the child encroaching on its territory. Doctor Tayloe says you can never be too sure what a dog thinks of a child.

“They’re small like prey can be, unfortunately,” she says. “A lot of times children can be more demonstrative than adults can be. I mean, they certainly put them on edge, I mean they grab them and they want to touch them.”

Gallagher says if you decide on adopting a rescue dog, training is imperative.

“The first thing people need to do when the get a rescue dog is investigate training because you lay out the foundation for how you want to live,” Gallagher says. “That’s how you create a relationship, that’s how you create a language of learning with the dog and without that you got nothing.”

She advises prospective dog owners not to adopt until children are at least five years old.

Comment on this Story

  • Ruby

    Yes it is true – this behavior is not typical for a well socialize boxer. I don’t see anyone blaming the breed on here. NOT all dogs are good. It is not 100% nature or nurture it is a combination of both. THEY do not have to be taught to be aggressive, not socializing or training can & often will develop into the same problems.

  • Ruby

    If aggressive dogs are allowed to be claimed by rescues then they should be TOTALLY liable for any actions that result for pulling dogs KNOWN to have aggressive issues. There were TWO children bitten the other day. A “rescue” group pulled a dog KNOWN by all that interacted with him that he was aggressive. He was put into an adoptive home 2 days later… after being transported and passed from here to there for 2 days… OH BUT he spent 4 hours with the groups trainer!!
    He then bit both an 11 & 14 year old.

    Sometimes it works. Many times it does not. EVEN if aggressive dogs are adopted out to childless families – what happens when, or if that status changes??? I see dogs on “rescue me” and other sites ALLLLL the time – that are being rehomed BECAUSE the dog is an issue with the children… or the new baby. THAT behavior is NOT gonna improve in a new home! THAT owner is merely passing a problem THEY DONT want to deal with, or one they don’t know how to deal with. The better “rescues” take theirs back. REAL Breeders take theirs back for any reason or no reason. I wont rehome any K9 that doesn’t like children NOT worth the risk in any way, shape, or form!

    If your priority is NOT the human family that is receiving the dog then maybe you should rethink WHY you are involved in the dogworld.
    I put happy, healthy pups with the best families I can find to share the joy that they bring with yet another family. No we can never be 100% sure that it will all work, but we can stack the deck to work, or stack it to fail…
    Some dogs have just experienced to much. Some have never been socialized, so they haven’t experienced enough. Those that missed out on early socialization will generally become a problem as they mature. Usually around 1-3 yrs of age. People then try to rehome them, or take them to the pound. (They aren’t gonna say well we bought him when he was 3 weeks old. So they say allergies are the issue, or the landlord, or whatever other excuse they can think of. PUPS MUST be reared by their dam, or other K9s in the event that mama has died. That really isn’t an option. MAMA is not just a milk machine – they teach their pups sooooooo many things!) Then on top of the issues they are already showing MORE problems are added. There are exceptions to all rules, but it is going to be rare to find a pound dog that is rock solid.

    Terrible is the long road that the children that get bit must travel. HOW many of them (& the family) then develop a horrible lifetime fear of dogs?

  • Ruby

    They adopted this K9 from an older or elder woman to live with a small child – a toddler. Had this dog been exposed to small children before?
    This is tragic & far too common. It really has lil to do with age of the child. Two children were just bitten a few days ago they were 11 & 14!!
    PLEASE stop thinking that JUST because you fall totally in love with or feel tons of pity for a K9 they are gonna feel the same about you… The CHILDREN & K9s are paying dearly for the lack of judgement. STOP PLAYING guessing games with temperments of these animals that will most likely sleeping with your children. We have a responsibility to young defenseless human beings as well as the K9s we bring into our homes. We have to teach children how to properly interact with K9s, WHILE keeping in mind that a toddler is IN NO WAY able to defend themselves against any K9… The toddler does NOT have the coordination, or knowledge.
    I can show you several generations of temperament and personality that goes into making our K9 babies! NONE of them have bite histories. I HOPE this child is able to fully recover, both physically & emotionally.

  • TARAhan

    this is a sad view of what happened when rescues believe that every dog can be saved.. NO they cant. and the age of the child make no difference
    . it is the dog. if you want to know about your dag than go to a breeder. NOT A RESCUS!

  • ROXY1

    What I would like to say first and foremost, I hope this child will be OK!! Second and very important, PEOPLE , especially children come first in this life. This is a dog that was raised irresponsibly. It gets put down, end of story.

  • jo88

    Til you know this family and there background mind your own business ,both parents are absoluelty wonderful and are suitable for a dog and 2 kids, they dont need some scumbag on here running there mouth about something thats not there business so do us all a favor and get a life :)

  • The Aunt

    I agree that “slamming the parents” isn’t right. The mother happens to be my niece. The baby in question is my great niece. No one knows except the people involved exactly what happened. I do know that my niece took precautions and was doing the right thing for her family by expressing concerns to her vet and having the proper tests performed on the dog. When she found out the dog wasn’t a good fit for her family she continued doing the right thing by the dog. She was finding a suitable home for the dog. The dog had a certain way of life for 6 yrs. My niece thought she could give a good home for an animal but it ended not being a good fit. The baby suffered consequences and the dog is too. Why throw nasty comments out there about people you don’t know? 2 cents you are right in saying these parents have learned a hard lesson and I appreciate you standing up for this loving family. I wish I could take their pain and of course my sweet little nieces pain. No one should go through something like this. No animal should suffer either. Everyone needs to leave this family alone and let them heal! I love you guys. Please give that little angel a kiss from me.

  • diane@dogtrain

    This is a hugely emotional issue and people need to step back a bit, maybe wait for more *facts* to present themselves. Imo, this is a pretty severe incident. Severe enough I doubt it is a surprise to the last owner of the dog, and therein lies the rub.

    Should the parents have allowed unfettered access to their child with a dog they did not know? Obviously not.

    BUT! And this is a really big *but* — this behavior choice didn’t come out of nowhere. This, ime, would represent a pretty bold opening gambit. So most likely it is not. The people who brought this dog home had NO idea what this animal was capable of. I suspect the person who gave them this dog DID. A dog who makes this kind of decision

    ***based on the information we currently possess ***

    should not be rehomed.

    I have precious little patience for dogs who exhibit this sort of behavior when there are dogs PUT TO SLEEP (aka: euthanized/killed) every day who just ended up in the wrong place at the wrong time. Dogs did NOT usta be wired like this, this “multiple bites to skull and face” on an INFANT.

    People are notorious for skimping just a wee bit on the details of exackly why they want to rehome a particular dog. I have one of those *particular* dogs rmyself, but my husband and I are fully prepared to deal with her AND we have no minor children in our home.

    This should NOT have happened.

  • Guest Star

    Here’s some really GREAT tips for kids in how they should and shouldn’t interact with dogs. The way the veterinarian who made these illustrates them and compares the actions to how we interact with people, it just makes sense.


  • K

    Pray for a recovery for the child and the dog. Pray for the parents that the ignorance they suffer will be replaced by education

  • R-E-S-P-E-C-T

    Please, PLEASE have respect for this family going through this traumatic time. Please read the WHOLE story, take in the facts, and THINK before you comment. Or, preferably, don’t comment at all. Thanks.

  • kittyann

    “”The “parents” that you people are all slamming right now are college grad, well educated, church going, extremely nice and smart people.””

    It doesn’t matter that the people were any of the things quoted from the previous writer. They obviously lacked one thing that many do these days: COMMON SENSE!

    You bring a dog home from a totally different environment, to total strangers, different smells etc etc and expect the dog to be calm, cool, and OK? Really? The dog was nervous and scared, he didn’t know what had happened, why had he been taken from his prior home? He was confused and reacted in the only way a dog knows how to do, he bit.

    Now it’s the dog’s fault. No, it was the people’s fault for not isolating the dog from the child with a GATE for a couple of weeks till the dog could acclimate to the new surroundings and people.

    It is never the animals fault in these tragic situations. I feel for the child who will have scars emotionally and physically for the rest of her life because her parents lacked common sense on how to deal with a new dog in the family.

    I hope someone claims that poor dog after the 10 days is up or else it will be put down through no fault of it’s own.

  • Mws2012

    Please don’t judge if you don’t know the details. The mom is one of my best friends. Details of this story are missing and some are wrong. I hate the way we all jump to judge each other. This was a tragic accident. Why would you want to make a family feel worse than they already do? Mean comments don’t help anyone.

  • Guest10105

    This family CLEARLY was not suitable adopting this adult dog. ANY DOG would exhibit this behavior if it was taken out of its home and placed in a new one, especially with a child if it had never been around small children before. I agree with everyone who has said that a new dog needs to be watched very closely and acclimated to a new family, especially children. I adopted an adult dog (3 years old) and had a 3 year old child. In the first 3 weeks we had him, my son went over to him and got close to his face. Children will stare when fascinated, which my son was. Dogs stare when threatened or dominating. My dog snapped at my son, caught him on the head (fortunately not the face), and we ended up with some stitches. Whose fault was it? MINE!! I had been careful about keeping my kids away from the dog while he acclimated and I trained him. But ONE time is enough not being careful, and the unfortunate happened. I corrected him immediately. I worked on getting both my son and the dog used to each other afterward, and carefully teaching my son how to act around a dog. Staring, climbing on a dogs back, or otherwise pinning the dog are acts of dominance, and the dog will work to stop it. Fast forward one year later, I have a dog that looks like he was made for children. My son adores him, and my dogs “rank” as submissive in the house is well established, everyone happy, including the dog. There are no bad dog breeds – dogs are trained to be aggressive by bad owners. Someone get this dog up with a boxer rescue. This is so atypical for a boxer, and this dog deserves a home that knows how to handle him.


    The dog had growled at the children and the parents had been advised by their veterinarian to rehome the dog. Instead they allow the children free access to this poor animal that has no idea how to react to children. I am appauled and dumbfounded how parents could put their children and this poor animal in harms way, unbelieveable and so tragic for all involved.

  • Carrie

    Every living thing on this planet that has teeth can bite you. You should always exercise caution when around something with teeth. Regardless of Kingdom, Phylum, Class, Order, Family, Genus and Species. Anything with teeth can and will if provoked bite.
    My sympathies to the family. As well as the dog.

  • don’t judge

    Please tell your friend that I feel her pain, my daughter’s nose was partially bitten off by a dog in the neighborhood and she endured many surgeries to reconstruct and now she lives with life long scares on her face. People need to stop passing judgement on this family and understand that this is not the time to place accusations. I hope this little girl is ok, there are wonderful plastic surgeons in Wilmington that can help her. I am reliving the pain we went through by reading this story. My prayers are with your friend and her child.

  • Guest Tina

    I work with dogs everyday, and personally I would never again take in an adult dog, especially with a baby in the house. Boxers have a high prey drive, if they are not used to small kids, obviously this type of thing could happen. You just don’t know the history on and adult dog you take in. I actually took in an adult boxer when I was younger, it somehow made its way out of the crate, while i was gone and almost killed my other dog. I found him hiding under the box springs of my mattress with teeth marks to the face. Luckily my other dog ended up ok, but use your common sense, if you have kids your better off taking in a pup you can raise up with your kids, from good lines, good temperments, and you better darn well teach your children how to respect animals from day one.

  • Guest2020

    …but the adult in the home is responsible for this happening. A child is the most precious gift you have and your child should come before all else. That child should have been monitored at all times with a dog around. The only way something like this can happen is if someone fell asleep on the job and did not watch that child properly and take all necessary precautions to keep the dog away from the child.

  • Veteran Animal Control Officer

    I have been an Animal Control Officer for many years and you can never predict these situations. Yes there are precautions that should be taken but it is hard to see what is coming. People think they are doing the right thing by taking in an animal that is unfamiliar. They do not realize that just as people do anxiety causing strange behavior. Poor child and poor dog.

  • Dog-KaKa

    People need to pick up after their dogs, that is what I am more concerned about, so nasty!

  • Guest10105

    Diane@dogtrain, your comments regarding this dogs behavior ascribe to a certain set of principles. As a trainer myself, I have run in to a few trainers that follow this philosophy: “there are good dogs and there are bad dogs. Bad dogs cannot be trained.” One trainer I worked with could tell this by just looking at a dog, and seeing if it shifted its gaze when she approached it. If it did not, she deemed it a dog with aggressive traits that was a “problem waiting to happen.” If any of you out there have seen the show “Dog Whisperer” on the National Geographic Channel, you will see how a man who understands dog behavior is able to take a dog with almost any type of problem and reform it. Now, Diane, I will agree that CERTAIN PEOPLE can not handle CERTAIN DOGS. Many people (including celebrities, like Oprah Winfrey, if you ever watched the show) allow their dog to be the alpha. Some dogs are not aggressive to people when they are the alpha, and some can be. As a rule, dogs will do better and behave better when their person is the alpha. There are certain dog breeds that fall in to the submissive state easily, and there are breeds that tend not to be submissive and need continual reinforcement that they are not the alpha. This is easily accomplished with regular training and exercise with the the dogs owner directing and controlling all of the activities. Any dog who perceives himself/herself to be the alpha will act as the pack leader to remain dominant, defend territory, etc. Suggesting that this dog should not be re-homed is suggesting that most dog adopters are incapable of being the alpha. This dog most certainly should be re-homed, probably first in a foster placement with an experienced, alpha trainer. Then the correct home could be located for him/her. The ultimate “tell” or “rub” in this story is not anything with regard to the dogs behavior. He was acting like a dog. It is that the family that adopted the dog saw the dog exhibiting this behavior, but did not see fit to keep their 20 month old child away from it. I am sure these parents feel very badly, and am not writing these comments with the intent to “guilt” them further. They will no doubt have to see the scars left by extremely poor decision-making on their part for a lifetime. But to suggest that this dog should be euthanized is abdicating responsibility for what happened and wrongly assigning blame to the animal.

  • 2 cents

    I have been reading these comments and am a little shocked at the number of people slamming the parents for this. Its easy to throw out an opinion via the internet…there is no one to face.

    I agree the dog should have been nowhere near the child…and there is a lot of things that should not have happened here, but I am sure the parents are asking themselves all these questions today.

    What if I…

    It’s heartbreaking to think of what they may be going through and the guilt they must feel. I would anyway. Hindsight is almost always 20/20.

    There is a lesson to be learned here…it was a very hard lesson for these parents…one that I cannot imagine.

    Awareness is needed for these types of animals and what to do when faced with a violent dog. They are animals and animals are not predictable no matter how they were raised. I have 2, both sweet as can be but I am not lulled into thinking they are incapable of biting. Pointing fingers right now doesn’t help anyone…including the little girl. But getting out the information of what to do when faced with this may help someone else who doesn’t know.

  • Guest10105

    I believe that ONLY the owners can claim the dog after the 10 day hold. The quarantining agency typically will not put the dog up for adoption due to the biting incident and the liability the agency would assume. Sometimes they will allow a rescue to adopt the dog. Can anyone clarify what the policy is in this particular case?

  • don’t judge

    Please tell your friend that I feel her pain, my daughter’s nose was partially bitten off by a dog in the neighborhood and she endured many surgeries to reconstruct and now she lives with life long scares on her face. People need to stop passing judgement on this family and understand that this is not the time to place accusations. I hope this little girl is ok, there are wonderful plastic surgeons in Wilmington that can help her. I am reliving the pain we went through by reading this story. My prayers are with your friend and her child.

  • Message from mother left on voicemail

    The mother called several rescue groups for help rehoming this dog. She stated that the owner was an elderly woman that was in the ICU in Raleigh. How these folks found out about this dog is ?? unless they were friends with family member. Guessing this dog had never been in a position to interact with children. Mother stated that she got the dog last eve, Wed and dog was growling at children. Took dog to vet on Thursday am for vaccinations and the vet advised rehoming the dog. Why the family ever brought up the term “adopted” is very odd, since from private person. Fact that instead of leaving dog at vet or boarding dog since vet advised not to have around children, this family brought the dog home to be loose in house with their minor children. Mother very disconcerted that no rescue stepped up to take the dog. My guess is they weren’t going to put anymore money into the dog, ie to board it, since now, instead of a “free” boxer, they had a dog with issues. Parents never called AC to pick up dog, yet expected that a rescue group would take on the responsibility. Also family had a boxer in the past of course, they had all the answers. Have probably never used a professional trainer because they have all the answers.

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