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When Pets Attack — The Aftermath

When a pet — usually a dog — attacks a child, we often hear about the horrific details in the news … but not much more.  Maybe the dog was put down, maybe the parents were facing charges, but once the sensational headline has passed its expiration date, the story’s details disappear from the front page.

In his new self-published book Could It Happen To You? Baby AJ’s Story of Being Taken From His Crib by the Family Dog, Dakota, Michael G. Smith of Kentucky shares in detail his personal story about what happens to a family after a pet attacks.

In July of 2009, Smith’s Native American Indian dog Dakota — a breed that can include a mix of husky, malamute, Chinook, and sometimes wolf  — picked his four-day-old son A.J. up out of his crib by the baby’s neck and carried him outside.

A.J. suffered life-threatening injuries, including a fractured skull and a punctured lung, and his heart stopped at least four times.  But Smith was adamant that his dog did not attack the newborn.  “She had A.J. for 10 minutes on her own, and if you look at A.J.’s belly, there’s about 100 little marks. All the dog had to do was one bite and A.J. wouldn’t be here,” he told local media at the time, saying that Dakota was carrying A.J. “like a loaf of bread.”

What followed, says Smith, was a family’s struggle to bring their son back to good health and to keep their family together.  Smith’s book details that horrific day, the chilling 911 call, and Child Protection Services’ subsequent investigation of the family. Though Smith and his wife Chrissie were eventually cleared of any wrongdoing, they were charged with neglect after the Smiths made the shocking decision to bring Dakota back home.

Though Dakota no longer lives with the Smiths — they gave her away to prevent any further backlash — it’s clear that they don’t blame their dog for her actions or for hurting their son. In various new reports, Smith is quoted defending the dog, saying she was just acting on instinct and that she was carrying the baby as a mother dog would her puppy. He’s probably right, but no matter her intentions the fact her remains that Dakota put the the child into intensive care.

We’re pet owners — we currently have two dogs (lab mixes –  no wolf mixes for us), a cat, and two guinea pigs. Though I love our pets, it’s nowhere near the same emotion that I have for my kids. Our kids are taught how to be respectful of animals, and likewise, our pets are taught their place in our family. There’s no doubt in my mind where my pets would be if they hurt one of my kids like Dakota hurt A.J. The Smith’s decision is a surprising one, and I’m sure this book makes for an interesting read.

What do you think — could it happen to you?  Or do you think the Smiths were at least partially responsible for what happened to AJ?

Photo: Pink Sherbet Photography, Flickr

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