ST. CLAIRSVILLE - A visit to the Belmont County Animal Shelter turned terrifying for a 6-year-old girl who suffered a serious dog bite this past Sunday.
"She's okay, but shaken up," said Jessica Lucas of St. Clairsville, mother.
She said she had taken her son and daughter, ages four and six, to the shelter during the afternoon. She said they had brought dog and cat food and treats for donations. She added that her daughter was a Girl Scout and had visited the shelter on a prior occasion with her group.
"I was trying to teach them to give back and help out," Lucas said. She added that her daughter saw the dogs in the shelter compound and asked to see them. Lucas said the staff assured her the dogs were safe. She said she told her children to stay close to her as they handed out treats to the animals. Lucas said the children were by her the entire time.
Lucas said there were about 30 dogs in the compound at the time.
Lucas said the bite occurred when the children each gave a treat to an apparently friendly animal and the girl tried to pet it.
"It jumped at her, knocked her down and went for her face," Lucas said. "I had to pull the dog off of my daughter."
They hurried back to the shelter to seek help.
"She was bleeding everywhere," Lucas said. She was able to calm the girl sufficiently to drive to the emergency room. Her daughter required a total of 12 sutures, including internal stitching.
"You could see her skull," she said.
Lucas also contacted the sheriff's office and filed a police report.
"We don't want this to happen to anybody else," she said.
"We understand that accidents happen and we understand any animal can turn at any time," she said. "We just didn't want it to happen again."
Lucas added that the family was considering the possibility of legal action.
Verna Painter, supervisor and dog warden, said she regrets the incident. Painter was not present at the shelter at the time but said the shelter was normally very safe for visitors.
"It's a shame this had to happen to anybody," she said. "It's a risk you take when you're giving animals treats."
She added that the compound was an area for friendly dogs. She said this was the third bad dog bite she had seen in 40 years of working on and off at the shelter. Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, schools and other organizations have had trips to the shelter without incident.
"The risk of being hit by a car is higher than being bit by a dog in the dog shelter," she said, noting that 50-100 people visit the site daily.
Painter said the shelter committee was now considering a policy of not allowing children into the compound.
She said that the dog had been with the shelter for three months, was in good health and had never evidenced anything but affection.
"We try very hard not to keep dogs that will bite," she said, adding that the dog has been put in quarantine and will be humanely euthanized after 10 days.
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