A Georgia mother is outraged after learning that the owner of the pit bulls that attacked her son—leaving him with 300 stitches—faces nominal charges. Seven-year-old Ethan Fain was a victim of a pit bull attack this past Christmas Eve. He was enjoying the outdoors and climbing a tree in his grandmother’s back yard when his life was drastically altered.
His parents heard screaming after the neighbor’s two pit bulls dragged Ethan out of the tree and over a four-foot fence. His mother told WSBTV that Ethan said the dogs “just kept shaking me and shaking me.” The attack finally ended when Ethan said he “laid really, really still” and the dogs stopped biting him.
According to the Daily Mail, the dogs “mauled his ears, taking the right one off and leaving his left ear hanging by a thread.” His physicians “sewed his right ear into his stomach in the hope of later reattaching it and gave him 300 stitches across his back, neck and shoulders.”
The owner of the pit bulls, as reported by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, “is facing a maximum penalty of up to 12 months in jail and a $1,000 fine for reckless misconduct if he is convicted.” The family’s personal injury attorney, Ginger Wentz, told reporters that “if a dog killed a chicken that belonged to a neighbor, the dog owner would be financially responsible, but that’s not the case when a dog bites a person.” Wentz wants to see Georgia laws change to hold dog owners responsible for the damage they cause to people as well.
Wentz explained that these cases are “difficult to prosecute because [Georgia] has strict definitions for ‘dangerous dog’ and ‘viciousness.’” She says she wants to see “responsible dog ownership” enforced by her state’s laws.
The owner of the dogs, Tim Christian, turned the two pit bulls over to the county’s Animal Control, where they were “destroyed,” but he still owns two other pit bulls.
Meanwhile, Ethan Dowdy suffers from “nightmares and panic attacks related to the attack,” according to his mother, Tracy Dowdy Fain. “He sees doctors for his injuries and his post traumatic stress disorder [PTSD] two to three times a week.” The family’s medical bills are growing as a result of this tragic attack and the follow-up care their son requires. The Fain family created a GoFundMe page to raise $50,000 to cover the expenses. As of today, they have raised over $11,000 to meet their needs.
The family’s latest update on the fundraising page noted that Ethan is still receiving outpatient therapy with “many more medical appointments” ahead. The family remains optimistic for Ethan’s continued recovery from the Christmas Eve tragedy. Doctors hope to be able to reattach Ethan’s right ear in the next few months “as it is successfully collecting healthy tissue as it remains implanted in his stomach.” Fortunately, Ethan has kept a good sense of humor regarding his injuries. The family reports that he “continues to make jokes about people having to talk to his stomach for him to able to hear.”
While thankful for Ethan’s health, his mother is speaking out about her feelings regarding the potential consequences for the dog owner. “I think he is getting off with a slap on the wrist,” she stated. She added that a small fine and minimal jail time “[make] me sick to my stomach.… I’m beyond livid; my son could have lost his life.”
The debate continues as to whether pit bulls are a breed of dog that should be kept as pets. DogsBite.org reports genetic traits such as “unpredictability of aggression, tenacity (‘gameness’ the refusal to give up a fight), high pain tolerance and the pit bull’s ‘hold and shake’ bite style” as the reasons these animals can become so dangerous. They also report 232 Americans killed by pit bulls from 2005 through 2015, which amounts to one person every 17 days. These animals were “selectively bred to conceal warning signals prior to an attack” to help them succeed in dogfights, making it difficult to know when a pit may cross over from loving family pet to dangerous attacker. One study showed that 51 percent of dog attacks were from pit bulls, nine percent from Rottweilers, and another six percent from mixes of those two breeds—making an overwhelming majority of dog attacks rooted in pit bulls.
Whatever your opinions on pit bulls, parents should use caution if their children are playing around this type of dog. Ethan Fain’s mother told her local news station, “Ethan played with [the neighbor’s pit bulls]. He’s fed them treats.” So even though a pit bull may know a child, there is still a danger they will attack. I am a dog owner and a dog lover, and my three-year-old son loves our boxer/Great Dane mix dearly. But when we are around pit bulls, he is always within arm’s reach of an adult who could intervene. Attacks like the one that happened to Ethan Fain are far too frequent to take chances with your children.