OPINION

OPINION | MIKE MASTERSON: Killed by dogs


At least four preschool or elementary-aged children have been killed of late by pit bulls or pit mixes, including 4-year-old Colton Kline, who was mauled by the family's "pet" on Halloween night.

The Spokane, Wash., medical examiner ruled Colton died of sharp and blunt-force injuries to his neck and head caused by dog bites.

A news story said police responded to the Klines' home about 8 p.m. Oct. 31. They discovered the child severely injured. First aid attempts proved futile.

Family members injured the pit bull mix while trying to save Colton's life. Officers on scene realized the animal was beyond help and shot it, the department said. The county health district performed a rabies test since a man on scene had suffered puncture wounds.

Lovell Anderson, also 4, was mauled to death on Oct. 31 by a pit bull while playing in his grandmother's backyard in Detroit. His aunt, Monique Grant, described Lovell as "full of life, a sweet, gentle soul."

Grant said their family didn't know which of two pits had attacked Lovell. One belonged to a family member and the other, belonging to a neighbor, apparently leapt over a gate and into the yard to get at him.

Police described the 3 p.m. attack as gruesome. Lovell's family member attempted to save his life. "She actually had to pull the child away because there was a dog that mauled the child [that] tried to pull the child under the gate of the fence. And she was pulling the child back," said a police commander. Lovell was dead before police and EMS arrived.

In these unprovoked and impulsive attacks, the extensive damage is often done in a matter of seconds.

A number of area residents reported unrestrained dogs roaming that neighborhood had become a problem. One woman said she called animal control multiple times to no avail. They also said some of the fences in the area are either makeshift or aren't high enough to keep dogs inside. Animal control took custody of both animals.

On Jan. 31 in the United Kingdom, a 4-year-old girl was attacked and killed by a family dog as she played in her backyard. Police described the fatal attack as a "tragic accident." An accident, eh? How, pray tell, does a dog accidentally kill a child playing in her yard? Well, perhaps in England.

A neighbor said she would see the little girl, identified as Alice Stones, walking beside her mother to school. "It's so sad to hear that news," she told a reporter. "She was always holding her mummy's hand on the way back."

In Sarasota County, Fla., 6-year-old Daylan Guillen was mauled and killed at home in July by the family's "pet" pit bull they'd raised from a puppy. The family asked that the dog be euthanized.

At the other end of the age spectrum, David Eller, 65, of Moncks Corner, S.C., was killed Oct. 31 by two unrestrained pit bulls who bolted from a mobile home porch and attacked him as he walked peacefully through a common area in the trailer park.

The good news, if there is any such thing in any avoidable tragedy, is those owners have been criminally charged.

Detectives charged Shannan Christine McCrackin with involuntary manslaughter and two counts of dangerous animals unconfined on premises. Kenneth Howard Swayne was charged with two similar counts.

"This was a vicious attack on an unsuspecting victim and this should have never occurred," the sheriff said. "If the owner of the dogs would have taken the proper responsibility for the safe keeping of the animals, the attack could have been prevented."

Involuntary manslaughter/criminal negligence is defined in South Carolina as "the reckless disregard of the safety of others." It's just the kind of law we in Arkansas also deserve for our protection and safety.

If convicted, McCrackin faces up to five years in prison. Count me as one who believes she deserves the full term for enabling a person to be killed by her unrestrained animals.

Pit bulls and their mixes have been determined by those who maintain such statistics to be the No. 1 canine killers of our kids, claiming the lives of more than half of the children killed by a dog. As of 2021, the most recent figures I found available, pit bulls reportedly had killed 249 American children in recent memory. Try to imagine an entire schoolyard full of children slain by just one dog breed.

Psychology Today in 2019 reported that children make up more than half of the victims of all dog bites (59 percent), and those requiring treatment after dog bites are predominantly children ages 5 to 9 years old.

A pit bull is one of the last animals I would have with access to my young child or elderly relative. Other animals I include in that category would be bears, mountain lions, cougars, wolves and tigers, all with savage natures who also kill using sharp teeth and powerful jaws.

Now go out into the world and treat everyone you meet exactly how you want them to treat you.


Mike Masterson is a longtime Arkansas journalist, was editor of three Arkansas dailies and headed the master's journalism program at Ohio State University. Email him at [email protected].


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