Dog bites are common but can be prevented

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Damien Chavous doesn't remember what happened to him July 10, 2009.

Damien Chavous survived being bitten dozens of times by four dogs when he was 2 years old. The toddler spent three weeks recovering at Medical College of Georgia Hospital. He doesn't remember the incident.  Special
Damien Chavous survived being bitten dozens of times by four dogs when he was 2 years old. The toddler spent three weeks recovering at Medical College of Georgia Hospital. He doesn't remember the incident.

The 3-year-old's family will never forget.

Damien, then 2, wandered from his family's deck on Belair Road toward four mixed-breed dogs in a neighbor's yard.

Though a 4- foot fence separated the two yards, the toddler was still bitten dozens of times by the animals and spent three weeks recovering at Medical College of Georgia Hospital.

"He didn't know to be scared," said Damien's great-grandfather, Bill Swint. "They would jump to the fence all the time when we were back there, but I never thought this would happen. We thank God he's all right, but he has scars that will be there for a while."

Most dog-bite cases in Richmond County are not as severe as Damien's, but they are frequent, said Sharon Broady, the Augusta Animal Services director. There were 226 incidents in the county last year and 116 so far this year, Broady said. Pit bull is the breed most often associated with biting incidents, with 61 involving these dogs last year and 35 this year. The incidents occur most often in the summer, and have more to do with the owner than with the breed, Broady said.

"People are out and about; a lot of kids are out playing with school out; so, we have more cases," she said. "To the pet owners, we just stress they keep their animals contained at home or on their leash."

Just as owners should be vigilant with their pets, parents also must watch their children to reduce instances of dog biting, said Beatrice Friedlander, the managing director of Animals and Society Institute, an animal research center in Ann Harbor, Mich.

"It's counterproductive to demonize particular breeds," Friedlander said. "The focus should be more on changing the behavior of the people who keep pets but don't take care of them."

The animals who attacked Damien were kept at the neighboring home by Shirley Barnes, who used the house as a rescue mission. Barnes was never charged in the incident.

"They needed to have supervision," said Maggie Swint, Damien's great-grandmother. "Any dog mistreated or not under control will attack."

Edward Jefferson, the Augusta Animal Services field supervisor, warns pet owners to have at least a 6-foot fence around their pets. The fence should also have wire at the bottom to prevent dogs from digging under the fence.

"It's all about being responsible for the animal," Jefferson said. "It's also about having caution with any animal. You just can never trust a pet that's not your own."

Swint said Damien still enjoys playing with dogs in spite of the attack. She said the family is much more careful with him when he is in the presence of a dog.

"He's still not afraid of them, but I think it's because he doesn't remember," she said. "He only had a 50/50 chance, so we thank the good Lord and the doctors at MCG that he's OK."

Dog-biting cases

A look at Richmond County's dog-biting cases this year and last:

Unknown breed2414
Great Pyrenees01
Shar pei01
Brittany spaniel01
Boston terrier31
Great Dane02
Pit bull6135
German shorthair10
American bulldog61
Jack Russell40
German shepherd156
Golden retriever32
Chi chi73
Border collie21
Cocker spaniel80
Cattle dog50
Bull terrier10
English bulldog10
American spitz10
Doberman pinscher10
Rat terrier04
Shih tzu22

Source: Augusta Animal Services

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TheArmyWife 07/17/10 - 08:51 am
Mr. Jefferson, people get

Mr. Jefferson, people get bitten by their own family pet, as I am sure you are aware. Dogs are wonderful pets, but the use of common sense and observance of laws, rules and regs is in order.

Jefe 07/17/10 - 09:14 am
My daughter was about seven

My daughter was about seven years old when she was bitten in the face by a Beagel that was still relatively new to the family.
My daughter was not mature enough to recognize the warning growls the dog was making as she was cuddling and loving on her new pet.
It was a tragic event, but taught me once again what I already knew: animals are animals, driven by instinct. They are not people. Expect only animal responses from animals. What appears to be human responses in our animals, is not, and that will never change.

disssman 07/17/10 - 02:55 pm
The reason we have an

The reason we have an abundance of pit bulls is because drug dealers keep them for security at the back yard. I wish we had the same laws as europe where people are required to have liability insurance for pets. It isn't expensive but it is adviseable. I can't believe Ms Barnes wasn't sued into poverty for her actions. Believe me if your pet attacks me, you had better have a pile of money. Especially if you have it in a yard with a flimsy fence.

TakeAstand 07/17/10 - 08:40 pm
dissman heres the link, Mrs

dissman heres the link, Mrs barnes may have had to many dogs, but this tragedy that happened to this poor little boy was 100% the result of his negligent mother and it wasn't the first time!!!! The AC is giving a different impression today than what really happened. That’s why Barnes wasn’t sued and the mom was arrested and had her kids taken away!! And as far as the fence goes, anytime you go into a fenced in yard with a dog without the owners permission its tresspassing and if you get bit, they arent responsible. The story is appalling, and the fact its happened more than once, she knew the kid would and could do it, and theres 15 dogs next door that could harm her child, she's a prime candidate for sterilization!!!! lol Still waiting to see what her sentence will be.

rescuer 07/19/10 - 03:05 pm
Everyone can agree that it is

Everyone can agree that it is a shame this young boy was bitten. But the grandmother comments that the dogs needed supervision (in their own yard, while fenced in), yet ignores the fact that the toddler was left unsupervised. The grandfather comments the dogs would jump up at the fence; not illegal and not how this child was bitten.
He was known by the mother to open the gate and enter the dogs' yard, he was known to wander off into the road, yet he was unsupervised, allowed to tresspass and somehow it's only the dogs' fault. Typical of some people to accept no personal responsibility.

Hearts for Animals
Hearts for Animals 07/21/10 - 11:11 pm
Damien looks amazingly well

Damien looks amazingly well after so called being mauled by 4 dogs....bull...the truth is Mr. Swints Jack Russell mauled that little boy and then forced everyone else to blame it on my dogs....that came right out of the mothers mouth. You all don't know all of this story and because Richmond County did a shoddy investigation..they simply believed what the family said...instead of prooving what happened....perhaps Jessica would have her children back...and never would have been arrrested in the first place....all to protect the life of their little dog and to keep from having to be responsible for all the medical expenses for Damien....Devious is the word...and everyone could see the too would know that they protected themselves...only to shoot themselves in the foot.
Shirley...the owner of the innocent dogs that are gone now thanks to Richmond County Animal Control....standard procedure was not followed...and I paid a big price for it.

Hearts for Animals
Hearts for Animals 07/24/10 - 11:19 pm
This reminds me of a

This reminds me of a it starts off false to start with and by the time it makes its makes the original story sound rediculous. I did not use that house as a rescue, I had a secure fence, I took care of those dogs, I have been bitten by their dog,my son has been bitten by their dog and my grandson nipped at by their dogs never bite anyone....they lied to cover up for themselves and anyone who really knew what the story is...would have to say it was true..if you don't believe me go over to my house and look at the fence for yourself...or I will be glad to direct you to some online pictures of everything..the news is not interested in getting the truth out....and neither is the city...could it be embarrassement on everybody's part that they dropped the ball..and let an innocent person take the fall for something they didin't do?Shame on the Swint family and shame on Richmond County.I believe giving false statements to the police is a crime and insurance fraud is a criminal act as well....someone other than Jessica should be arrested for their part in the coverup of this horrible event...but Petey enjoys his life and his freedom thanks to their little conspiracy. Pets do attack family members...its too bad they just didn't tell the truth...the truth is always better.

Hearts for Animals
Hearts for Animals 07/27/10 - 03:01 pm
The more I read this article

The more I read this article the sicker I get. Just look at this little boy now. He is not the victim of my dogs jumping over into their yard...and as for a 6 ft high fence Mr. Jefferson...the only 6 ft fence you will see is a privacy fence or the one around your business. It was an impossibility for this child to get over this 4ft chain link fence with barbs at the top and doubled barred and don't make stupid statements like he crawled under....please...stop with the crap...soon enough you all will have to come out with the truth openly for medicaid fraud and filing a false police report...the sad part is...the damage is already done...and nothing can bring back my sense of security or faith in the humane race.

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