Beau Clark, 4-years old, died after a violent bull breed mauling in Morgan County, Alabama.
No Criminal Charges
UPDATE 02/29/24: On Thursday, Morgan County Sheriff Ron Puckett issued a release, stating that no charges are expected in the death of 4-year old Beau Clark. Investigators determined the dog was "securely maintained on its own property" and had "no history of violent or aggressive behavior." The child was riding his bike, but for "unknown reasons entered the yard he had been in numerous times." The "child was familiar" with the dog and had been around it "numerous times in the past."
Sheriff Puckett added, "the families are friends and have routinely shared many life events together" and that "this is an incredible tragedy in the truest sense of the word." We know from our own 19-years of data (2005 to present day) that fatal dog maulings resulting in criminal charges compromise 20% or less of all fatal attacks. Seldom is someone to blame when a pit bull "explodes" -- attacking and killing a child and severely injuring an able-bodied adult male, who intervened to save his son's life.
Details from Earlier Reporting
We retrieved the article from Daily Decatur, which had previously been behind a paywall, because it contains additional details. Morgan County Sheriff's Office spokesman Mike Swafford said the call initially indicated the child had been hit by a car. Deputies were unprepared for the horrific scene that awaited them. “Once they arrived on scene, one of our deputies was helping the father with the child, and the other deputy was able to locate the lost dog, which was still aggressive,” Swafford said.
The article also delves into the similar breed history and functionality of the Olde English bulldog (a modern "revived" bull baiting breed) and pit bull terriers -- both engineered to excel in bloodsports and are descendants of fighting and baiting dogs. Morgan County Animal Shelter Director Darren Tucker, "whose department collected the dog’s body and sent off specimens for analysis, said the animal appeared to be a pit bull-mix weighing between 40 and 60 pounds," reports Daily Decatur.
We were unable to obtain a photograph of the dog involved. Director Tucker, however, who collected the animal, believes it is predominantly pit bull.
Tucker said the dog's owners called about getting the dog's remains. The health department "would not allow it," he said. "The dog has to be sent in because of the severity of the incident.” He added that "97% of the calls that Animal Control responds to for aggressive animals end up being pit bull related." His shelter relies heavily on rescue groups to adopt out dogs. But at least two of those groups "will not take pit bulls at all because the breed’s 'trigger' is unpredictable," Tucker told Daily Decatur.
Tucker also made a statement that victims' advocates say. "It’s in that dog to not let go. If it had been a golden retriever, a cocker spaniel, an Irish setter -- it would have probably bit and have been done, and that child could be alive today," he said. Similar to the view of advocates: "If these pit bulls were a beagle, or I could name almost 300 dog breeds, this child would be alive to today." Tucker urged people to carefully investigate breeds and temperament when adopting dogs, reports Daily Decatur.
02/27/24: Child Killed by Bull Breed
Hartselle, AL - Last night, the Morgan County Sheriff's Office published an update about a violent bull breed mauling involving a 4-year old boy. It began with, "A dog bit a child. Child in critical condition. Deputies had to put down dog." The next update, shortly thereafter, states, "The child has passed away." At about 6:00 pm, deputies were dispatched to a home on Ramblewood Private Drive off Vaughn Bridge Road. The dog involved belonged to the child's neighbor, the sheriff's office said.
That same night, the sheriff's office posted another update: "Please pray for the family of the child who was killed by a dog tonight in our community, as well as our Deputies, EMS, Coroner, VFD and Dispatchers that handled this call or responded to the scene. Tonight is hard." The word "dog" was later changed to "Olde English Bulldog." The audio dispatch logs from Decatur and Morgan County Public Safety became difficult to listen to when we heard the ETA of the Air Evac was 20 minutes.
The boy's father sustained serious injuries trying to save his son; he was treated and released from the hospital. Both families involved are friends.
"4-year old male. Attacked by a canine," the dispatcher states. "He's covered in blood. CPR is in progress. Child has bite wounds to the neck." A few seconds later, he states, "Advise that the canine is in the neighbor's yard." Then the ETA is announced. "Survival flight 20 is in route. It has an ETA of 20 minutes," the dispatcher states. The segment ends with details about the landing zone. The sheriff's office warned people to stay away from the area, "Use caution. Large police and EMS presence."
The Olde English bulldog is not recognized by the AKC or the Federation Cynologique Internationale (FCI). It's yet another "revived" bull breed "created for the English sport of bull baiting, practiced from approximately 1100 until 1835," states the UKC. This "revived" bull breed was created in a 1971 breeding program that "began using a linebreeding scheme" to rapidly achieve a dog that matched the look "of the bull baiting dog of the early 1800s." The UKC did not recognize the breed until 2014.
According to working bulldog breeders, "the foundation crosses consisted of English bulldog, and bullmastiff, American pit bull terrier, and American bulldog." The Olde English bulldog (also spelled, Olde English Bulldogge) is one of the breeds used in the creation of the American XL bully, the largest of four sizes of the American bully breed, which was recently banned in the United Kingdom. The dog that killed this little boy was first identified as a pit bull likely because it looked and acted like one.
A GoFundMe created for the boy's family has raised over $30,000 in only 5 hours. "Kevin and Hailey Clark are beloved members of the Hartselle, AL community," states Emily Reeves, who organized the fundraiser. "Tragically, they lost their 4 year old son, Beau, on February 26, 2024. Please donate to help support them and their family during this difficult time." Our hearts go out to the Clark family and to all of the medical and law enforcement responders who worked so hard to save his life.
Mother is a Teacher
The Decatur Daily, which is behind a paywall, states the victim is the "son of a beloved Hartselle High School English teacher. Hailey Clark, Beau's mother, previously taught at Hartselle Junior High before transferring to the high school, according to Principal Brad Cooper." The photograph on the high school's website is the same one used in the GoFundMe. Brian Clayton, the superintendent of Hartselle City Schools, confirmed Beau was a student who attended Crestline Elementary.
Morgan County Coroner Jeff Chunn commented on Facebook about the support the family has received: "I have been in public service going on 43 years and never seen so many people come together as one, as they did [last night]. There were so many, from the dispatchers, police officers, Fire, EMS, hospital staff and even the bystanders were kneeling in prayer. It makes you proud to live in a community and be a part of a first responder family like this. Please continue to pray..."
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Law enforcement departments across the United States should release consistent "baseline" information to the media and the public after each fatal dog mauling, including these items.