Hoping to avoid dog bite incidents like those that have occurred in recent months, officials with the Humane Society of the Ohio Valley talked with students at Washington Elementary School Wednesday about keeping themselves safe around animals.
"We're going to try to keep these guys from getting bit," said Washington County Humane Officer Butch Morris. "I don't think the parents realize how important it is to tell the kids not to approach a stray dog. I don't think I'd think about it if I wasn't doing the job I do."
On March 9, the pinky finger of a 5-week-old New Matamoras boy was bitten off by a 6-week-old labrador retriever while the boy's mother slept on the couch next to him in their apartment. The dog later regurgitated the finger.
ASHLEY RITTENHOUSE The Marietta Times
Washington County Assistant Humane Officer Levi Seevers sits with 1-year-old Roscoe, a jack russell/fox terrier mix, as Washington County Humane Officer Butch Morris talks with Washington Elementary students Wednesday about animal safety.
Although doctors at Nationwide Children's Hospital in Columbus initially thought they would be able to reattach the finger, Washington County's dog warden, Kelly Schubert, said too much time had passed between when the finger was bitten off and when it was taken to the hospital and it could not be reattached.
The baby's mother, 22-year-old Jena Stewart, willingly surrendered the dog to the Humane Society of the Ohio Valley and the baby has been released from the hospital. Stewart could not be reached for comment Wednesday.
"No charges are going to be pressed on the mother," said Schubert, who is also a deputy with the sheriff's office. "I contacted the law director's office and gave them the facts and they said there's no evidence to support criminal charges against the mother."
Children should not approach strange dogs or try to pet dogs through fences.
Babies and small children should never be left alone with a dog.
Children should be taught to ask permission from a dog's owner before petting the dog.
Children should avoid direct eye contact with a dog.
A dog that is sleeping, eating or caring for puppies should not be disturbed.
An owner should use a leash in public to ensure the dog is in their control.
Spaying/neutering a dog will usually reduce aggressive tendencies.
Do not corner a cat, especially a stray. Strays are untamed, unfamiliar with human contact and sometimes desperate. They will instinctively fight hard to protect themselves.
Source: Times' research.
In an unrelated incident, 6-year-old Lydia Hall, of Lawrence Township, had to get 35 stitches Jan. 19 after she was bitten in the face by a neighbor's black labrador retriever.
The dog had come up to a sliding glass door at her residence on Reed Road and it bit her when she tried to pet it. Hall had interacted with the dog before.
"Charges were filed against (the dog's owner) Marjorie Greathouse for failure to restrain," Schubert said, noting that Greathouse could face fines, jail time or both if the family files a lawsuit.
Lydia Hall's grandmother, Lisa Hall, said the girl is getting deep tissue therapy on her face to help the scars heal.
"She's doing good. She was real brave through that whole thing," said Lisa Hall, of Devola. "Earlier in the evening she was out there with her stepmom petting the dog. I think it wanted to play with her. She's still adamant that she doesn't want anything to happen to that dog."
Lisa Hall added that she's unsure of what the family's next step is.
"The bills are starting to come in and the health insurance isn't wanting to cover them," she said.
Washington Elementary fourth-grade teacher Nann Welch said presentations made by Morris Tuesday and Wednesday were in conjunction with the week's theme of caring, chosen by the school's kindergarten students.
"Our school as a whole decided to have respect as an overall theme this year and we divided it up by grade levels for different aspects of respect," Welch said, noting that the entire school is collecting items for the shelter.
Morris taught the students that they can protect themselves by telling their parents, the dog warden and the humane society when they encounter a stray animal, but it's also important that they look out for the safety of animals.
"You should never beat the dog. A dog really doesn't know what it's doing," Morris told them. "If you think someone is mistreating a dog, don't be afraid to call my office."
He pointed out that cats can also be dangerous. In fact, he said the worst injury he ever got was caused by a cat.
"He tore me up so bad I looked like a mummy by the time they wrapped my arms up. That was in the shelter and he was just a kitten," Morris said.
Fourth grade student Jackson Macatol, 9, said he learned a valuable lesson Wednesday.
"I learned that if a stray dog is walking around hurting people, call the humane society and dog warden," he said.