Scarlett Pereira, 1-year old, was killed by a pit bull in East Providence, Rhode Island.
Clarifications and Updates
UPDATE 07/18/20: On July 16, East Providence police were dispatched to 99 Brookhaven Drive at 2:45 pm for a report of a "disturbance and confrontation." Police arrived to find a child dying with "significant" injuries from a vicious dog attack. Two adults were injured while trying to "intervene" to stop the attack, states a news release by police. The baby girl was transported to Hasbro Children’s Hospital, where she later died. Police described the dog as a "pit bull-type breed."
News footage revealed a large-scale police response, including a police investigator climbing onto the roof of the residence. On Friday, local authorities confirmed that police shot the dog from the roof of the home. Over the course of Thursday evening and Friday, Police Chief William Nebus told the media various -- and sometimes conflicting -- statements that we would like to address. The most egregious statement being that "maybe the dog didn't even know this was a child."
The dog that killed 15-month old baby Scarlett belonged to her grandparents. The young child was over at her grandparent's home on Brookhaven Drive when the dog violently attacked her. Chief Nebus told media outlets, "During lunchtime, there was some food set on the table outside, and the baby was crawling around in the yard where the dog had free reign." Then he categorized the attack as "unprovoked" because the child was not pulling on the dog or reaching for any food.
"There was no food on the ground both of them were going for, there was no hair pulling, no tail pulling, anything of that sort," Nebus clarified.
Chief Nebus then told WPRI: "It’s hard because even a family dog, a family-friendly dog, can suddenly lash out for whatever reason." Yet, the investigation had already categorized the attack as "unprovoked," which means there was "no reason." If a sliver of stimuli had been present, the pit bull's response was so disproportionate -- killing the child, attacking two adults and forcing police to open fire on the dog from the home's roof -- it can only be described as pathological.
Chief Nebus then excused the pit bull breed and denied it: "People might say this was just because it was a pit bull, but be careful of all breeds when you're introducing children," he said. "There was no fault here to throw around, whether it was the parents or grandparents, maybe the dog didn't even know this was a child and didn't realize the extent of what it was doing. I'm not trying to make excuses for that, but, the message is, be careful with all dogs and children."
Question: How can Nebus possibly make the argument of carefully "introducing children" when it is completely unknown (or unreleased by police) if the grandparents had ever babysat this 15-month before? Had the child ever been in contact with this dog in past? Had the child been in contact with the dog prior to lunchtime that day? Without knowing that information, carefully "introducing children" is an excuse Nebus dropped just after defending the pit bull breed.
He then excused the breed again, specifically, he excused fighting pit bulls. Nebus could have found this years-old insufficient justification, "maybe the dog didn't even know this was a child," in many places online. So, where does it actually come from? It stems from Dr. Randall Lockwood, who investigated dogfighting and fatal dog attacks during the 80s and 90s (See excerpts of Training Video Dog Bite Prevention for Law Enforcement and Other First Responders, 2004).
"I've seen many instances in investigating fatal dog attacks from pit bulls that were bred for the fight trade, that these were animals that simply had never learned to distinguish between another dog and a small human being. And the injuries that I've seen and some of the autopsies that I've assisted in, were of children who were essentially being treated by these dogs as another dog would be treated." - Randall Lockwood
It's bad enough to use a game bred dog excuse in the case of baby Scarlett -- unless there is reason to suspect her "grandmother" is raising fighting dogs -- but the second part of the sentence is even worse. Maybe the dog "didn't realize the extent of what it was doing." Normal dog breeds have bite inhibition. This dog had zero bite inhibition. This dog executed the killing bite, and did so without provocation. Then the dog attacked two adult family members who tried to intervene.
Next Nebus stated, "I'm not trying to make excuses for that, but, the message is, be careful with all dogs and children." Why? Because all dogs might have a similar pathological response? This type of obfuscation perpetuates an endless number of children being mauled, mutilated and killed by pit bulls every year. A dog breed that kills at a rate 6.5 times more frequently than the second top killing breed, rottweilers, and 12.5 times more frequently than third top killer, "mixed-breeds."
We agree that all dog owners should be careful with dogs and small children. Especially, when a child is visiting a dog owner's home. Over the 15-year period of 2005-2019, 27% (139 of 521) of dog bite fatalities involved the victim visiting or temporarily staying at the dog owner's home. Pit bulls carried out 75% of these attacks. Children ≤ 9 years old made up 62% of these victims. The risk factor is only amplified that much more when a young child is visiting a pit bull owner's home.
To be fair, Nebus appeared shaken during most of the media interviews. We imagine every single responder who saw the scene was too.
Lastly, we will address the new information published in the Providence Journal's article. East Providence City Clerk Samantha Burnette told the newspaper that her office could find no license for a dog residing at 99 Brookhaven Drive. Understanding the animal’s licensing status is a goal of police investigators, Major Christopher Francesconi told the Journal. The Rhode Island Department of Children Youth and Families has also been notified, Francesconi told the paper.
07/17/20: Pit Bull Kills Child in East Providence
East Providence, RI - Last night, WJAR reported that East Providence police were dispatched to the area of 99 Brookhaven Drive at about 2:45 pm for a "disturbance and confrontation," Police Chief William Nebus said. It may have sounded like a disturbance, because people were trying to control the dog, he said. Multiple people were taken to the hospital; the extent of their injuries was unknown. Today, Nebus' office issued a release stating that a baby girl died from her injuries.
WPRI video footage from Thursday, shows a police investigator on the roof of the family's home, while police, fire and animal control vehicles surrounded the residence. The release states that family members were eventually able to contain the dog in the backyard. The investigator may have been on the roof to determine how best to remove the dog from the backyard. If there were no safe options, police presumably shot and killed the dog ("dog was euthanized by police").
"They scaled the roof, I heard two shots, then another two shots, and then they just cleared everybody out." - Neighbor Heidi Dorazio, WPRI
In addition to the dog killing the baby, two adult family members were taken to Rhode Island Hospital for injuries sustained while trying to stop the attack. The dog is described as a "pit bull-type breed" that belonged to the family at the residence. The release states that family members injured the dog while trying to intervene to stop the attack. In another "multi-victim" attack, one family pit bull produced three victims, killing one. This is categorized as a "rampage attack."
Earlier this year, there was an "unprovoked" rampage attack in Plainfield, Illinois, after a male pit bull attacked four family members, killing one. The 25-year old victim who died, Devin White, was the owner of the dog. The pit bull also attacked three other people in the household: a 52-year-old woman, a 25-year-old woman and a 19-year-old man. All four victims were transported to local hospitals by ambulance. Plainfield police officers also dispatched that pit bull at the scene.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE July 17, 2020
East Providence Police Investigating Dog Attack
East Providence, RI -- On July 16, 2020, at approximately 2:45PM, East Providence Police responded to a residence on Brookhaven Drive for the report of a disturbance in progress. During the response, further information was obtained by dispatchers, and officers were advised that a child had been bitten by a dog.
Upon arrival at the residence, officers located a 15 month old female with significant injuries from the dog attack. Police immediately began life-saving procedures. The East Providence Fire Department arrived on scene and continued attempting life-saving care. The baby was transported to Hasbro Children's Hospital by East Providence Fire personnel. Sadly, the baby succumbed to her injuries shortly after arriving at the hospital.
Two adult family members were transported to Rhode Island Hospital for injuries sustained while attempting to intervene in the attack.
The dog, a pit bull type breed, was injured during the incident by family members attempting to intervene and contained in the back yard of the residence. With the assistance of East Providence Animal Control, the dog was euthanized by police. The dog belonged to the family at residence.
At this time we are not aware of any prior incidents involving this dog, but the case remains under investigation by the East Providence Police Detective Division and East Providence Animal Control.
Caitlin Callahan DeAngelis, who is organizing the fundraiser for baby Scarlett states, "Yesterday afternoon, my former brother in law and his wife had their baby girl tragically taken from them. She was 15-months old and just starting to walk. She was brutally attacked by a family member's dog and did not make it." She adds, "My heart aches so hard for them right now. I cannot imagine the burden of losing my baby so tragically and then bearing the unexpected expenses of burying her."
WLNE reports the dog belonged to the child's grandparents. At the time of the attack, the child was being babysat. "It started out like any other day, where a parent dropped their child off at their grandparents’ house for babysitting and a visit," Chief Nebus said. "During lunchtime, there was some food set on the table outside, and the baby was crawling around in the yard where the dog had free reign, it was a fenced-in yard, and the dog just, unprovoked, went after the child."
Chief Nebus reiterated that the investigation showed the violent attack was entirely unprovoked. The child wasn’t pulling on the dog or reaching for any food, reports WLNE. "It was horrific, I mean, everybody’s imaginations can run wild and it still wouldn’t be the true picture of what was there and seen by the officers that arrived first," Chief Nebus told reporters outside of the public safety complex building. Police said they are not aware of any prior incidents involving the dog.
02/11/20: 2020 Dog Bite Fatality: Pit Bull Attacks Four Family Members, Killing One in Plainfield
11/04/19: Pit Bull Attacks Rise in Pawtucket After State Preemption Law Muted City's Pit Bull Ban
10/31/19: 2019 Dog Bite Fatality: 4-Year Old Boy Killed by Pit Bull His Family Was Housing...
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.