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Crime & Courts

Family dogs attack 4-year-old girl, father in St. Pete

BY JOSH BOATWRIGHT
Tribune staff

Published:   |   Updated: June 21, 2013 at 08:29 PM

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ST. PETERSBURG - Two Labrador-pit bull mixes were euthanized Friday after unexpectedly attacking their owner and his 4-year-old daughter.

The family's two dogs had been running through the house Thursday night and playing in the 4-year-old's room before turning on the girl.

The dogs had never shown aggression toward anyone before, John Faucette told St. Petersburg police.

Faucette was in the living room of his Yale Street North home when he heard his daughter scream from the bedroom; he rushed in and found the dogs attacking her.

"When he ran into the bedroom, he saw that she was bleeding from the face, and she said the one of the dogs had bitten her," police spokesman Sgt. Mike Puetz said in a statement.

Then the dogs attacked Faucette as he kicked and punched the animals in an effort to whisk his daughter to safety inside a bathroom, according to police.

Faucette, 37, eventually used a child's paint easel to fend off the dogs until he could get his daughter and wife - who had just arrived home - out of the house, police said.

Then he called 911. Police and firefighters got there about 8:15 p.m.

Rescue personnel had to hold the front door closed to keep the dogs at bay.

Both "were extremely agitated and aggressive, growling, barking and attempting to push the door open," Puetz said.

A Pinellas County Animal Control officer captured the dogs with a catch pole.

The 4-year-old's facial wound was treated by paramedics before she was taken to All Children's Hospital.

Because of how aggressive the dogs were, Faucette told authorities Friday morning he didn't want the dogs back, and Pinellas County Animal Control euthanized them.

The dogs will be sent to a lab in Tampa to test for rabies, said John Hohenstern, a senior animal control officer with Pinellas County Animal Services.

Dogs can feed on each other's aggression, so if one begins acting aggressively, the other will fall in line, Hohenstern said.

"The pack mentality does kick in," he said. "Everybody kind of gangs up."

It's unclear what provoked Thursday's attack, though the animal control office advises that small children shouldn't be left alone with a dog and discourages people from running past a dog.

"Dogs naturally love to chase and catch things. Don't give them a reason to become excited or aggressive," the animal control office says on its website.

There are more than a thousand dog bites reported each year in Pinellas County, and a large majority of them involve children, according to animal control.

Pit bulls mixes such the ones in Thursday's attack have a particularly bad reputation for attacks, leading some jurisdictions, including Miami-Dade County, to ban them.

Last year, a family pit bull bit a three-year-old girl on the lip in her Port Richey home, apparently trying to take her food.

A 2012 study by the American Veterinary Medical Foundation, however, concluded that pit bulls, as a group, are not disproportionately dangerous, and the stigma attached to them may be, in part, tied to their popularity in violent activities, such as dog fighting.


jboatwright@tampatrib.com

727-215-1277

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