Police reviewing handling of pit bull attack in S. Baltimore

Health department says it wasn't notified for several days about attack on 7-year-old boy

June 25, 2013|By Kevin Rector, The Baltimore Sun

A "breakdown" in how Baltimore Police officers handled an alleged pit bull attack in South Baltimore that sent a 7-year-old boy to the hospital last week is now the subject of an internal police review, after animal control was left in the dark about the attack for several days, according to police and city health officials.

"Was it something that slipped through the cracks?" said Anthony Guglielmi, a police spokesman, on Tuesday afternoon, several hours after animal control officers responded to the home in the 2000 block of Ramsay Street and confiscated the dog for observation. "Obviously there was a breakdown somewhere, and we need to find out why there was a breakdown."

Standard police procedure calls on officers who respond to an incident in which a dog has bitten a person to alert animal control, said Sgt. Eric Kowalczyk, another police spokesman. Depending on whether the dog is still considered a threat, officers can do so by either calling or faxing a report to the health department, he said.

But Michael Schwartzberg, a health department spokesman, said animal control was not notified of the incident and was unaware it had occurred until a reporter with Fox 45 asked about the incident Monday night — four days after the incident occurred.

Animal control officers responded to the home Tuesday morning, interviewed the dog's owners and took the dog into custody, Schwartzberg said.

"The dog will be humanely euthanized today, and will be sent for rabies testing tomorrow," Schwartzberg said in an email Tuesday afternoon. "This is standard procedure for a [bite] case where there is no evidence of vaccination or an unknown vaccination history."

Officers had first responded to a report of a dog bite on Ramsay Street, in the city's Carrollton Ridge neighborhood, about 9 p.m. Thursday, and found the 7-year-old boy with numerous bite wounds to both of his arms, according to a police report on the incident.

The boy was transported to St. Agnes Hospital by medics at the scene, the report said.

Schwartzberg said hospitals are also required by state law to notify animal control of dog bites. Kirstan Cecil, St. Agnes Hospital's director of communications, said in a statement Tuesday that the hospital did report the bite, but did not specify when.

The boy's family was given a standard form offered to victims who want to press charges in common assaults not witnessed by police, but the animal was not seized — despite remaining "on scene" upon officers' arrival — and animal control was not called to the location, according to the police report and health officials.

The owner of the dog, whose identity was withheld by police, was initially told to confine the dog for 10 days, the report said.

Officers interviewed other children in the area who said "they were playing in the rear of [the block] and some of them were teasing the dog," which was restrained in a backyard, the report said.

The dog then broke free, jumped a fence and chased the children to the front of the block, where it allegedly began biting the boy, the report said.

An adult was able to stop the attack, the report said.

The office of the Chief of Patrol has launched a review of the incident, Guglielmi said.



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