Anatomy of a dog attack

A 2-year-old's mauling by four neighbor's dogs Friday night didn't just come out of the blue.

It now looks like an accident waiting to happen.

Damien Chavous, 2, remained hospitalized in serious condition Tuesday after barely surviving the mauling by the four dogs next door -- after the toddler may have managed to scale the chain-link fence between the yards.

This tragic head-on collision of apparent negligence happened in the middle of the road, as it were.

The absentee property owner next to the boy's house had previously quartered up to 15 dogs. Richmond County Animal Control had notified the owner -- who says she's engaged in sheltering homeless animals -- that no more than five dogs can be kept in one location.

The woman, Shirley Andrews Barnes, 60, also was facing charges this week in Aiken County resulting from complaints about dogs she kept at her home in Belvedere. Reports indicate there have been complaints dating back to the 1990s.

Authorities seized 24 dogs from her home -- some of which, they say, would be too dangerous for adoption.

As for poor young Damien -- bitten more than 100 times -- he appears to have an adventurer's soul: While most parents in the area have been scratching their heads over how a 2-year-old might have scaled a fence that most adults would rather not attempt, authorities have located a shred of the boy's diaper on top of the fence.

A relative believes the boy might have been pulled over by the dogs. Regardless, what is a 2-year-old doing with the kind of freedom necessary for him to make that getaway? The family says the boy was playing alone on the back deck while his mother prepared a bottle for a younger sibling. How long does that take? And how smart is it to leave a 2-year-old alone for any amount of time?

The toddler had also reportedly been found walking down the street alone on July 3, rescued by a passerby who reported seeing the child amid heavy traffic.

So, there are unanswered questions emanating from both properties. But the most serious questions involve the boy.

Some questions will now be answered in court: Authorities Tuesday arrested the boy's mother, Jessica Chavous, for cruelty to a child.

When a child is taken care of and safe, how you parent that child is your business.

When he's put in danger through neglect or carelessness, it's everybody's business.

Thus, this community will be watching closely to see how the Division of Family and Children Services and other authorities handle the case.

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