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Coroner rules death of baby killed by dog was accident



Published: Wed, September 24, 2008 @ 12:10 a.m.

By Ed Runyan

The parents wanted to bring the baby into the kitchen, but her bed was too large to fit through the doorway.

LEAVITTSBURG — The Trumbull County coroner’s office has ruled the death of a 3-day-old girl, killed by the family dog Monday morning, an accident.

But Dr. Humphrey Germaniuk, the county’s forensic pathologist who conducted the autopsy on the infant, said the death reinforces the need for people to understand that dogs are not people.

“An animal cannot tell the difference between a plaything and a human being,” Dr. Germaniuk said, adding that dogs are “guided by instinct” and are sometimes territorial.

The baby had been home from the hospital only one day when the family dog, a Siberian husky, pulled her from her baby bed in the parents’ bedroom and dragged her into another room, police said.

A Warren Township police report doesn’t specify what type of bed the child was in, but it says the parents had been unable to bring the baby’s bed into the kitchen with them during breakfast because it was too large to fit through the bedroom door.

The baby’s mother had fed the child before 10 a.m, put her back in her bed and had gone to the kitchen to make the family breakfast.

A little while later, at around 10 a.m., she and her husband realized the husky had the baby in its mouth in the family room, police said.

The husky complied when the husband ordered the dog to let go of the baby, but the child had suffered multiple blunt-force and sharp-force injuries and died at Forum Health Trumbull Memorial Hospital at about 10:45 a.m. The baby had been born there Friday.

Dr. Germaniuk said the baby suffered injuries to nearly all of her body, including chest, back, arms, legs and face. The baby weighed a little more than 5 pounds.

The baby had a pulse when paramedics first arrived but died either en route to or at the hospital, Dr. Germaniuk said.

The father told police he had let the dogs outside but thinks he may have let them back into the house a short time before the attack. The couple also has a beagle dog, police said.

Debbie Agostinelli, shelter director for the Animal Welfare League of Trumbull County, said it appears the dog did not attack the child but more likely viewed her as a toy.

She said she has spoken with a member of the baby’s family, who said the 7-year-old dog was used to playing with squeaky toys and stuffed animals. Based on what the family member told her, it looks like the dog “simply mistook the baby for a toy,” Agostinelli said.

It’s possible the baby may have made a noise that excited the dog and made the animal want to play, she said.

Agostinelli said it is her understanding that the dog, which is being housed at Trumbull County Dog Kennel in Howland, will be euthanized.

Agostinelli said a pet killing a child is very rare. She said she’s not aware of anything like this happening in the area in many years.

She said standard advice given to parents bringing a newborn home to a house with a dog is to begin to make the dog feel comfortable with the child by introducing the baby’s smells to the dog before the baby comes home by wrapping the baby in a blanket and letting the dog smell the blanket.

And when mom and baby come home, make sure the dog gets to spend quality time with mom separate from the baby. Eventually introduce the baby and dog to each other and reward the dog for good behavior around the baby.

“The more you push the dog away from the baby, it makes the dog more intent on seeing the baby,” Agostinelli said.

Throughout this period, never leave the baby and dog unattended, she said.

Warren Township Police have not completed their investigation, Lt. Don Bishop said Tuesday.

runyan@vindy.com


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