Expert: Signs were missed that could have avoided dog-biting incident

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SALT LAKE CITY — On a nice sunny day, you can't blame dog owners for wanting to bring their pets outside.

"She just likes to be out in the fresh air," said dog owner Brianna Milot.

But it's these same types of days that kids like to be outside as well.

"You're always responsible for your children wherever you are," said Ashleigh Bassett, a parent.

When it’s warm, Memory Grove is a perfect place to let kids play and for dog owners to let dogs play.

"There are dogs everywhere and some people are really responsible with their dogs and some people aren't,” Bassett said.

Bassett doesn't have any problem with dogs running around, but she made sure to teach her kids about them.

"I say sometimes they're going to be on a leash and sometimes they're not, and when they're not, we don't always know if dogs are nice or not, so don't go up to dogs," Bassett said.

"I always like it when people ask me if it’s OK to pet the dog first and just to teach that," Milot said.

Unfortunately, there are times when a dog gets out of control around children.

On Aug. 22, Shauna Thompson and her family were sitting outside a fast-food restaurant with her dog, Lilly, by their side. Two boys came around the table when, according to Thompson, it appeared one of them stepped on Lilly’s tail.

Thompson said the incident lasted seconds, and the dog was barking the entire time. She doubts whether the 2-year-old was bitten by Lilly, and suspects the child may have been cut by the prong collar Lilly was wearing.

In court, Rich County Attorney Gary Heward said there's surveillance video to prove the dog attacked the boy, unprovoked. Heward also said 10 minutes before the attack, the dog lunged at and growled at another child that was 4 or 5 feet away.

Last Thursday, Rich County Justice Court Judge Ross McKinnon found Thompson, who was representing herself, guilty of allowing a vicious animal to go at large, a class B misdemeanor. Thompson was sentenced to six months of probation and ordered the pay a $680 fine. The judge left it up to the owner whether or not the dog will be put down or sent to a ranch.

"It was horrendous," said Heather Beck, owner of K9 Lifeline.


K9 Lifeline in Draper specializes in dog obedience and behavioral training. Beck watched the video of the dog in Bear Lake attacking a child, but she also saw how the dog seemed out of control beforehand.

"When the dog was really struggling, they should have removed the dog from the situation and this could've been completely avoidable,” Beck said.

Beck feels dog owners as well as parents are both responsible for safe kid-dog interaction, but in this situation — because of the missed signs — it's hard to blame the kids’ parents.

"The kids were not messing with the dog,” Beck said. “They were simply walking by."

Beck said there are other options, such as defanging the dog or even making it wear a muzzle when in public.

Contributing: Xoel Cardenas, Tania Mashburn, Vivane Vo-Duc


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