Police seek answer after dogs attack

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At least three agencies are investigating a weekend dog attack that left a 2-year-old Augusta boy hospitalized in critical condition.

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Bill Swint points to the fence dividing his yard with his neighbors', where his 2-year-old great-grandson Damien Chavous was mauled by four dogs. Mr. Swint said he's not sure how the child was able to climb the fence.  Rainier Ehrhardt/Staff
Rainier Ehrhardt/Staff
Bill Swint points to the fence dividing his yard with his neighbors', where his 2-year-old great-grandson Damien Chavous was mauled by four dogs. Mr. Swint said he's not sure how the child was able to climb the fence.

A spokeswoman for the state Department of Family and Children's Services confirmed Monday that it is looking into Friday night's attack on Damien Chavous, as are the Richmond County Sheriff's Office and Augusta Animal Services.

The child remained in critical condition Monday at Medical College of Georgia Hospital, but Bill Swint, his great-grandfather, said the family is encouraged because he is moving his arms, legs and eyes.

The family says it is still unsure how the child got over a neighbor's fence in the 3600 block of Belair Road, where he was attacked by four dogs.

"We really feel bad about this, but who's to say his mother's at fault?" he said Monday. "How in the world were we supposed to know he would get over that fence?"

Family members said the child was playing unattended for about 10 minutes on his family's deck before they noticed he was in the other yard.

Mr. Swint said Damien's mother was making a bottle for her 2-month-old while Damien rode his tricycle on the deck. Because the deck gate was locked, the family did not expect the child to be able to get off it. The yards are also separated by a 4-foot fence.

"The gate is always closed. The backyard is fenced in," Mr. Swint said Monday. "I've lived here 45 years, and we've never had a kid climb over that fence."

The sheriff's office could file charges including negligence against the great-grandparents and Damien's mother, said Richmond County sheriff's Sgt. Ken Rogers. The animals -- which were being cared for by a local woman, Shirley Barnes, as part of her animal rescue operation, Hearts for Animals -- were confined in the neighboring backyard, Sgt. Rogers said.

Though the sheriff's office is also investigating Ms. Barnes, he said, there are no indications that she is at fault.

"The owner of the dogs hasn't done anything wrong as far as we can see, but have dogs in her yard," Sgt. Rogers said.

There were six dogs in the yard at the time of the attack, but only four were involved, said Augusta Animal Services Director Diane Downs. One dog was in the front yard at the time of the mauling. Another ran away when Animal Services arrived Friday night, Ms. Downs said. The five dogs that were at the home are being held at the animal shelter pending an investigation into whether their rabies shots are up to date.

"A local veterinarian is helping us determine whether all these dogs were vaccinated properly," Ms. Downs said. "No charges are pending related to the attack because the animals were confined to the yard."

There have been problems in the past, however.

Animal Services had been called to the residence several times over the past three years, Ms. Downs said. Four leash-law violations are pending against Ms. Barnes from 2007. In December, she received an animal cruelty complaint because she had more than 15 dogs at the address. Georgia dog owners can have no more than seven pets at their residence. Ms. Barnes has been in compliance with that law since January, Ms. Downs said.

Ms. Barnes is not registered as a licensed animal rescuer in Georgia, Ms. Downs said. But Ms. Barnes said she has rescued animals for more than three years.

"These dogs had been abandoned, and I took them in," she said. "I've done nothing wrong."

Reach Stephanie Toone at (706) 823-3215 or stephanie.toone@augustachronicle.com.

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Comments (54) Add comment
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LadyCisback
4
Points
LadyCisback 07/14/09 - 04:16 am
0
0
I hope nothing happens to the

I hope nothing happens to the animals.

dasgaslo
0
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dasgaslo 07/14/09 - 06:38 am
0
0
You Can't take your eyes off

You Can't take your eyes off of a 2 year old period! The adults are at fault...

snap1089
0
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snap1089 07/14/09 - 06:59 am
0
0
I agree w/ dagaslo. As much

I agree w/ dagaslo. As much as I love children, you really can't leave them unattended, especially a two year old outside. I hope the child is alright, but the dog owner should not be punished for another's mistake.

dickworth1
954
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dickworth1 07/14/09 - 07:09 am
0
0
Is it possible that this
Unpublished

Is it possible that this could just be an unfortunate accident? As
far as not taking your eyes off of a two year old, give me a break, in a fenced yard or inside things can happen that you would never anticipate.

buckydog1
0
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buckydog1 07/14/09 - 07:17 am
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The mother has a two month

The mother has a two month old??? Has anyone heard mention of a father?

andywarhol
0
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andywarhol 07/14/09 - 07:25 am
0
0
Dick, you're right, it's just

Dick, you're right, it's just an unfortunate accident. Now, how many more days in a row is this story going to be covered?

WAG
287
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WAG 07/14/09 - 07:27 am
0
0
What parent has never taken

What parent has never taken their eye off their child for a few minutes... for Gods sake get real....there was a fence on the deck....The dogs should have not been left alone..... The woman with the dogs is at fault also....Like I said dogs are just that animals.....I hope and pray this baby is ok....

Little Lamb
46413
Points
Little Lamb 07/14/09 - 07:54 am
0
0
The "great" grandfather says

The "great" grandfather says he has lived there for 45 years and he has "never had a kid climb over that fence." Then he is a mean, old man. Fences are made for climbing. That chain link fence is 4 feet high. A two-year old could climb to the top in twenty seconds. When I was a kid, climbing chain link fences was a normal part of the childhood experience. These "guardians," (Swint & Chavous) need to be cited for child neglect.

wise
1
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wise 07/14/09 - 07:55 am
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0
My yard is fenced and there

My yard is fenced and there are no dogs in my neighbors yard and I still would not leave my girls unattended and they are 4 and 6.

Nammy3
0
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Nammy3 07/14/09 - 08:00 am
0
0
Wise move, wise. Never ever,

Wise move, wise. Never ever, under ANY circumstances! Take them with you EVERYwhere you go. PERIOD!! It's how I raised mine and they are here today for it.

WW1949
19
Points
WW1949 07/14/09 - 08:00 am
0
0
Just a bad accident. That's

Just a bad accident. That's all.

AAQueen
18
Points
AAQueen 07/14/09 - 08:31 am
0
0
Nammy I hope you were being

Nammy I hope you were being sarcastic. I don' think theres a parent in tne world that watches their children 2407 when they are home with them.
That fence looks like its double. Even if it's not I don't see a 2 year od climbing it ad falling over, he must be closer to three than two. I hope he survives with little or no side affects.

Why is that lady housing dogs in a unoccupied home. Why didn't she take them with her.

Unfortunate accident.

Little Lamb
46413
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Little Lamb 07/14/09 - 08:46 am
0
0
If you go up to the top of

If you go up to the top of the article, you can click on the arrows to view five photos. One shows the old man pointing to the fence, and the other four show dogs in cages. I say the dogs should be in the back yard and the old man should be in a cage.

radiatingtatas
0
Points
radiatingtatas 07/14/09 - 09:03 am
0
0
Did anyone notice that days

Did anyone notice that days before it was only 5 minutes now it is up to 10 minutes. I know when my kids were 2 they were climbing everything and those chain link fences have perfect holes for little shoes. This is all that it is is a unfortunate accident and I pray for the boy and his family and I also hope that the dogs are released Okay. The dog owner did nothing wrong she came everyday sometimes more than once to check on them so far the records seem okay. Who knows maybe he was pulled over and maybe he was throwing stuff at the dogs and hurting them noone will ever know because the only one that knows the truth is the 2 year old there was not one responsible adult out there with the child

emergencyfan
0
Points
emergencyfan 07/14/09 - 09:04 am
0
0
Didn't a previous story

Didn't a previous story report that the mother said she turned her back for 5 minutes? Now it's that she was in the kitchen for 10 minutes fixing a baby bottle. Sounds like there were great grandparents, a mother, and apparently a great uncle (who reportedly rescused the child) all at the house. With that many adults, someone should have been keeping an eye on him. That the dog owner previously had 15 dogs has nothing to do with this incident. She was legal at the time this happened. That's like saying even though you're obeying the speed limit today, I'm going to pull you over and ticket you again because you were caught speeding six months ago. If you think that many dogs "unattended" is too many, then petition the county/city to change the law by limiting the number of animals or requiring higher fences. The dog owner was following the law as it's currently laid out and is NOT AT FAULT. If you have kids, YOU're responsible for them--though the way I see children behaving in restaurants and stores these days, that's apparently a foreign concept to many parents.

cricketflea
3
Points
cricketflea 07/14/09 - 10:19 am
0
0
Look at it from the dogs

Look at it from the dogs point of view for a change: Dogs are territorial....period. When the child climbed that fence, it would have been the same had it been an animal--a rabbit, a bear, or even another dog. They were protecting what was their's! Don't get me wrong, I truly hope the child survives and will be OK, but it was NOT the fault of the dogs in any way. Fault lies with the person who was in charge of watching that child!!! If they are claiming the gate on the deck was locked (now) maybe they needed a BETTER and STRONGER lock! The lock was probably a screen door latch anyway. Of course, I am just speculating here, but I do know a child can unlock one of these. Just remember that the dogs were PROTECTING WHAT WAS THEIR'S!!!!! It's that simple....

Ode
5
Points
Ode 07/14/09 - 11:06 am
0
0
This has been hashed for

This has been hashed for days. The dog owner has broken no laws or odinances and is clearly not at fault. The child was neglected. Hope the victim/unaccountable/nanny state mentality folks will finally understand this. However.....So this lady has a 2 year old and a 2 month old and lives with her grandparents. A father hasn't been mentioned. Anybody want to make a wager that the taxpayer is picking up the tab for the kid's healthcare? Moral of the story: Stop having kids you can't afford or don't want. It only harms the child and society....case in point.

Ode
5
Points
Ode 07/14/09 - 11:07 am
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0
Those dogs look real vicious

Those dogs look real vicious don't they? I'm surprised the photographer could get that close to them without the dogs trying to break through the fence to attack him or pull him over the fence by his clothes.

truthisstillhere
0
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truthisstillhere 07/14/09 - 11:08 am
0
0
wag.....so it is ok to leave

wag.....so it is ok to leave a 2yr old alone but people shouldn't leave a dog alone????? get a grip......this was not the dogs fault nor the woman who was watching them.....with that mentality i hope you don't have either children or dogs

cricketflea
3
Points
cricketflea 07/14/09 - 11:21 am
0
0
Ode....Glad to know someone

Ode....Glad to know someone besides me is looking at this with common sense!

buckydog1
0
Points
buckydog1 07/14/09 - 11:42 am
0
0
Good pt ode, re your 1106

Good pt ode, re your 1106

sjgraci
2
Points
sjgraci 07/14/09 - 11:52 am
0
0
Six dogs left outdoors in a

Six dogs left outdoors in a neighborhood yard equals nuisance. Against the law? Not necessarily but I guarantee that they were a problem. Dog owners have a responsibility to control their animals and that includes the smell and barking and not just fencing them in. Barking at all hours of the day is against the law. People climbing over your fence onto your private property is not a violation of the law on your part. This was a horrible accident. Leaving a child on a closed-in back deck unattended for short periods of time is not unusual nor illegal. I do not place blame anywhere but in hindsight ALL people should realize they need to be more responsible in their decisions given the environment. I hope the child comes home soon and the animals find a good home. The family of the boy should probably consider getting him a puppy to grow up with as a way of confronting this trauma that he may have with him the rest of his life. (Look at the dogs in those pictures, they are just as traumatized. They too need good homes.)

Antlion
0
Points
Antlion 07/14/09 - 11:56 am
0
0
Adults are responsible, not

Adults are responsible, not dogs who were just minding their own business and being dogs. I'm sorry that the child is injuried, but the dogs didn't come into the childs yard. take a long hard look at the child's living conditions re safety.

Happy Camper 455
6
Points
Happy Camper 455 07/14/09 - 12:04 pm
0
0
Kill the dogs.

Kill the dogs.

Happy Camper 455
6
Points
Happy Camper 455 07/14/09 - 12:09 pm
0
0
An animal can be territorial

An animal can be territorial all it wishes, that does not mean they are all vicious like that. No way, no how. Animals should be a part of the family. They should be friendly and loving. Sure you want one to bark when they hear something, but deep down they should not be vicious like that. What's the point in having a house/home pet if it's gonna be like that? I'm sorry but a human life is more important than an animals.

Happy Camper 455
6
Points
Happy Camper 455 07/14/09 - 12:14 pm
0
0
And you ESPECIALLY want an

And you ESPECIALLY want an animal that loves children. For those dogs to maul a child like that???? Those dogs in those photos look guilty. Not sweet and precious.

Happy Camper 455
6
Points
Happy Camper 455 07/14/09 - 12:16 pm
0
0
It's all in the eyes.

It's all in the eyes.

Antlion
0
Points
Antlion 07/14/09 - 12:25 pm
0
0
Quite a few kids in that age

Quite a few kids in that age group want to hug dogs, a dog will protect its throat if it hasn't been trained differently....most likely the dogs took that as an act of aggression, I'm sorry about the child, but dogs will act like dogs.

dani
12
Points
dani 07/14/09 - 12:32 pm
0
0
Veterinarians will tell you

Veterinarians will tell you that to shut dogs up with no human contact - just leaving them day and night with food and water - will drive them mad. A dog needs companionship. This lady is doing them no favor.

ladyjanegrey
0
Points
ladyjanegrey 07/14/09 - 12:37 pm
0
0
LOL..it does not drive them

LOL..it does not drive them mad...dogs will revert to pack mentality without human contact but thesedogs were not completly deprived of that said human contact...

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