Pit bull attack breaks calm

Dog was tranquil, owners say, until their son was hurt

October 23, 2007|By Brent Jones | Brent Jones,Sun reporter

The dog rarely barked. He never growled, and his teeth - until a vicious attack Saturday night - had been reserved for chewing food, his owners say.

Chocolate - a caramel-colored pit bull a little more than a year old - was one of the most tranquil dogs Kenneth and Melissa Garrison had until, unprovoked, he snapped and nearly bit the nose off the couple's 1-year-old son.

Two days after the attack, sitting in the living room where their child's blood stained the carpet, the Garrisons were at a loss to explain Chocolate's actions, which left their son hospitalized for a night. Half of Jadyn Garrison's face was covered in a red scab yesterday, but doctors predict he will make a full recovery and not need surgery, the family said.

"Had we seen any signs that the dog was violent, he would have never came here," Melissa Garrison said.

Because of the attack, investigators from the city's Department of Social Services have made two visits to the Garrison's Armistead Gardens house in East Baltimore, the family said. A spokeswoman from the department said she could not comment on individual cases.

Jane Smith, the spokeswoman, said it is not uncommon for the department to investigate family dog attacks as a form of neglect.

Investigators will visit at least twice a month for the next two months, Melissa Garrison said. The couple has five children ranging in age from 13 days to 9 years old.

Kenneth Garrison, 26, said he had owned four pit bulls previously and that none of them was vicious. He assumed ownership of the dog from a cousin who died last month. Despite numerous news reports of pit bulls attacking humans and other dogs, Garrison took the dog in with no reservations. He said he was familiar with the dog and that his cousin did not breed him to be violent.

Shortly after nightfall Saturday, Melissa Garrison, 26, who had given birth to the couple's youngest child a week earlier, said she was sitting on her couch relaxing. She said Jadyn was the only child in the room at the time, standing with a cookie in his hand a few feet from the dog when Chocolate charged and went straight for the child's face.

Melissa said she screamed, then lunged at the animal and head-butted it.

Kenneth Garrison heard the commotion from upstairs. He said he ran down, grabbed the dog by its neck and fought with it for about 10 minutes. Garrison said he wrestled the dog into the kitchen, where it remained while the rest of the family rushed out a back door. Garrison said he eventually left the dog in the house and attended to his bloodied child outside as an ambulance arrived.

The struggle left Kenneth Garrison with puncture wounds and hand lacerations. His arm remained in a soft cast yesterday.

Chocolate was Tasered by authorities and taken to a shelter. The next day, the Garrisons signed papers to have him euthanized.

The attack on Jadyn was one in a series of recent pit bull maulings.

A June assault left an East Baltimore woman hospitalized with bites and gashes on her head, neck, arms and legs. In April, a 10-year-old Towson boy spent more than two weeks in the hospital recovering from his injuries, and two Baltimore sheriff's deputies shot and killed a pit bull as it was attacking a 7-year-old girl.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently released a report that showed pit bulls were responsible for more dog bite-related attacks than any other breed during a 20-year period.

A city councilwoman introduced a proposal this month that would require owners to keep dangerous animals in pens with a concrete base and a roof anchored to the frame.

Kenneth Garrison said he supports legislation that would require dogs to be muzzled in public. After Saturday's incident, he will no longer allow any dogs in his house. The attack has disrupted his life and might force him to go on short-term disability from his construction jobs.

The only pet remaining in the family's home is a turtle.

"I was always one that said pits are fine and they're only mean if you train them to be that way," Garrison said. "This thing made a liar out of me."

brent.jones@baltsun.com

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