Dog That Attacked Boy Slain to Test for Rabies

Times Staff Writer

A Westminster pit bull terrier that attacked a child over the weekend was destroyed Monday at the county animal shelter for precautionary testing for rabies, a city animal control officer said Monday.

Meanwhile, 18-month-old Claremont Brown of Westminster, who received severe facial wounds when bitten by the dog Saturday, remained in intensive care but in fair condition at Childrens Hospital of Orange County in Orange.

The dog, a 45-pound, 1 1/2-year-old male named Jake, was taken from quarantine and injected with a barbiturate solution at the Orange County Animal Shelter, said Christopher Paxton, a Westminster animal control officer.

Rabies Not Suspected

Results of the test won't be known until later this week, but Paxton said officials do not suspect rabies.

The boy underwent plastic surgery after the attack which occurred in the backyard of a home where he lives with his mother, Christina Brown, 23.

The right side of Claremont's face and neck were severely bitten. Doctors said they hope plastic surgery will restore his face.

Doctors have prescribed antibiotics to help ward off any infection. A hospital spokesman said Claremont was smiling and resting comfortably on Monday and could be released in several days.

Westminster animal control officers told the dog's owner, Jeffrey Howell, 23, who lives at home with his mother and stepfather, that he had to either relocate the dog to a safer environment or allow it to be put to death.

"We would have declared the dog vicious if the owner would have tried to bring it back into Westminster," Paxton said. "And then we would have required that it be kept in a covered kennel for the remainder of its life."

When the pit bull terrier was taken by an animal control officer Saturday, it was done with Howell's permission. Paxton said Howell signed a consent form.

Officers still do not know what caused the attack. Interviews with the owner and neighbors revealed that the terrier had previously posed no problem, Paxton said.

Since April, 1985, two other children have been attacked by bull terriers in Westminster, Paxton said. Both children were hospitalized with facial bites.

Although canine experts contend that pit bulls, bred to have strong legs and jaws, are no more aggressive than other dogs, there is agreement that they have the potential to inflict more serious injury.

From an animal control officer's standpoint, Paxton said he is "no more cautious" with pit bulls than other dogs.

"In fact, other dog breeds seem to bite (people) more. But when it comes to the severity of the bite, well, that's where you get the problem with pit bulls."

Paxton added that a county animal control officer recently lost part of a finger when bitten by a pit bull.

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