MARTINS FERRY - A 4 year old boy was hospitalized with facial injuries after a dog attack Sunday.
Cynthia Smith said her grandson had been playing with other children on a trampoline at a Hanover Street residence and had gotten to the ground when the dog reportedly emerged from an alleyway and attacked the child in the yard. Five other children and three adults were present and attempted to drive off the dog, a Rottweiler breed, that growled and lunged at them while holding the child down.
The police took the dog into custody. The boy was taken to Pittsburgh Children's Hospital with puncture wounds and lacerations to the face. Smith said plastic surgery will be needed to repair the damage to his face and tear duct.
"It was a shock to everybody," she said, adding that she was impressed by how the boy held up under the attack and afterwards. "My grandson took it like a champ."
Smith said she learned that before that attack, the dog had escaped from the kennels maintained by the police department. On Monday, the dog escaped a second time and returned to the yard. Smith said she trapped the animal and called the animal shelter.
She added that she is currently pursuing legal action.
Martins Ferry Police Chief John McFarland confirmed that the dog had been picked up as a stray Saturday and secured in the kennels near the water plant, only to escape Sunday. He added that normal protocol is to notify the animal shelter to pick up a stray, but the shelter is not open during weekends.
Two years ago, two kennels were purchased with $1,000 of the police budget. Both were obtained through licensed kennel distributors. He said they are being examined for any flaw in the cages that led to the escape.
McFarland added that during the Sunday incident, three other dog incidents, one of which was an attack, had been called in.
Sgt. Beth Scales said this was the department's first encounter with this dog, and that it initially showed no aggression. She noted that officers are frequently called out to deal with stray and disruptive dogs, although the service does not officially fall into the duties of the police department.
McFarland added that the police department instituted the policy as a response to frequent dog complaints and an overworked animal shelter that is not available around the clock. He said officers are often called out to pick up strays or disruptive dogs when the owners do not respond at their doors. If possible, the owners are contacted and cited the same day for a dog at large.
Scales noted that the kennels and chain link fence had suffered damage and been mended on earlier occasions when used to house large and aggressive dogs. She added that in the case of the Rottweiler's second escape, the cameras caught the event and the manager contacted the police department immediately.
"That dog was determined to get out," Scales said, adding that officers were on scene and searching directly afterwards.
McFarland said the department intended to continue its policy of responding to dog complaints as a public service.
"We're a little sick to our stomachs at the fact that a 4-year-old got bit," McFarland said. "You can't control everything."
DeFrank can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org