2021 Dog Bite Fatality: Boy, 4, Killed by His Grandparents Two Rottweilers in Jefferson County, Montana

Elliott Sherwin - killed by grandparents rottweilers
Elliot Sherman, 4-years old, was killed by his grandparent's two rottweilers on May 9.

Cause of Death
UPDATE 05/28/21: More information has been released about a 4-year old boy that was killed by his grandparents' two rottweilers on May 9 near Whitehall. The boy left his grandparents, who were outside the home, to go inside the home, reports KRTV. After 45 minutes, his grandparents went to check on him and found him badly injured by the dogs. The grandparents started CPR on the child. After the sheriff and EMS arrived, Elliot Sherwin was pronounced dead at the scene.

"The cause of death is numerous puncture wounds and lacerations to his arms, legs, torso area." - Jefferson County Sheriff Craig Doolittle

Elliot's grandparents had recently gained custody of the boy, and moved to the area from Washington state, reports KRTV. The boy had grown up with the rottweilers since they were puppies. There were no indications or reports the dogs showed viciousness in the past. Both dogs were euthanized. The cause of death was ruled an accident. The grandfather's Facebook page still shows the pair of rottweilers. No other information has been released by authorities.

05/26/21: Rottweilers Kill Boy
Whitehall, MT - In the wake of a pair of family rottweilers killing a baby in North Carolina, the Montana Standard reports that two dogs killed a 4-year old boy in early May. Jefferson County Sheriff Craig Doolittle confirmed the boy's death Wednesday. The case continues to be under investigation and autopsy results haven't been finalized. The attack occurred at the boy's grandparents' home on Cedar Hill Road on May 9. Doolittle identified the boy as Elliott Sherwin.

The boy was pronounced dead at the scene, Doolittle said. "There was an ambulance called there from Jefferson Valley EMS, Life Flight was called and the victim was pronounced deceased at the scene," Doolittle said. The two dogs, believed to be rottweilers, were euthanized after the attack, Doolittle said. Deputy County Attorney Andrew Paul told The Standard his office could not comment on an ongoing investigation and that no legal proceedings had been initiated.

Fatal Rottweiler Attacks

There were no recorded fatal rottweiler attacks in 2020. There were four fatal rottweiler attacks recorded in 2019. In California, 2-year old Jaysiah Chavez was killed by two roaming rottweilers. In Nevada, 15-month old Kyna DeShane was killed by a rottweiler while visiting her grandfather's home. In Tennessee, 19-year old Adrieanna O'Shea was killed by a pack of dogs involving a rottweiler-mix. In Kentucky, 3-year old Steven Thornton was killed by two family rottweilers.

The delay in reporting this Montana attack comes during a period where we have seen a sharp decline in media reports of fatal dog maulings. During 2020, we saw a 45% decrease in media reports compared to 2019. Of the 46 persons killed by dogs in 2020, nearly one-quarter, 22%, lacked an official news release as well. This situation has continued in 2021. This year, reported fatalities are down 35% compared to a similar pre-Covid period (January 1 to May 26, 2019).


The two rottweilers seen on the boy's grandfather's Facebook page on April 10, 2020.

map iconView the DogsBite.org Google Map: U.S. Fatal Rottweiler Attacks By State

Related articles:
05/26/21: Fatal Rottweiler Attacks - The Archival Record - DogsBite.org
05/26/21: 2021 Dog Bite Fatality: Pair of Family Rottweilers Kill Baby in North Carolina
06/26/17: 2017 Dog Bite Fatality: Woman Brain Dead After Pit Bull Mauling Near Bozeman

Baseline reporting requirements:
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.

2021 Dog Bite Fatality: Pair of Family Rottweilers Kill Baby in Johnston County, North Carolina

The Baby's Parents Work in Law Enforcement and EMS

pair of family rottweilers kill baby
Malia Scott Winberry, 10-months old, was killed by a pair of family rottweilers.

Rottweilers Kill Baby
Angier, NC - A 10-month old baby girl died Tuesday after being attacked by a pair of family rottweilers. Johnston County deputies responded to a home on Riparian Court in Willow Spring about 8:00 pm. When deputies arrived, the baby was unresponsive. Johnston County Sheriff Steve Bizzell said the baby's father stepped outside briefly and was speaking to a neighbor when he heard a commotion inside. He went back inside to find the rottweilers attacking the baby.

"Bizzell said the father is a law enforcement officer in Wake County, and the mother works for Johnston County’s EMS." - Multiple news reports

Other details released by police include, "an investigation determined the father, who is a law enforcement officer, had briefly left the baby unattended in the home to go outside and move a sprinkler in the yard. He heard a commotion and when he went back inside, the girl had been attacked by the family's dogs," as reported by WTVD News. These are similar circumstances to the fatal mauling of a baby in Dallas in 2015 by a family pit bull the mother called a "Big Baby."

This region of North Carolina is known as the Triangle (Raleigh, Durham and Chapel Hill). Last month, in the adjacent Wake County, a 7-year old girl was killed by two pit bulls. The location of this attack is about 15 miles from the Town of Garner, where Jayden Henderson was killed and her mother was severely injured by two pit bulls they were caring for while their owners were away. The owners of those pit bulls are still fighting to get these dangerous dogs returned to them.

Baby Identified

On Wednesday, police identified the baby as Malia Scott Winberry. When deputies arrived at the scene, they found her father, Scott Winberry, rendering aid to her. "The Sheriff’s Office and EMS responded but were unsuccessful on reviving the child," Johnston County Sheriff’s Office Capt. Danny Johnson said. "It’s a bad scene," he said during a Tuesday press conference. This is "very hard in us all because we all have children. Our thoughts and prayers go out to the family."

A spokeswoman for Johnston County Emergency Services, where the mother of the child works, Bianca Patel, said they were "deeply saddened by the tragic loss of Malia," and was "offering support services to the family." Both dogs were taken into custody by Johnston County Animal Services. The director, Chad Massengill, confirmed the dogs have been declared dangerous by the county. "It's very solemn around here this morning," he said. "It's very difficult to deal with."

A 2019 Facebook post by Patel shows that the rottweilers had escaped the family's yard in the past. Presumably, Abbi and Joker are the two rottweilers. "Joker," the dog wearing the red collar, "likes to dig," Patel stated. "There is an electric fence but it was not plugged in at the time," Patel wrote. Both rottweilers are "fixed" and "with papers," according to the post. That did not stop the rottweilers from roaming. Sterilization also plays no role in altering breed-specific behaviors.

"Code Blue" Call

Audio dispatch logs from Johnston County Public Safety reveal the call came in as a "code blue." Recall they are responding to the home of a Johnston County Emergency Services employee. Since the 1980s, rottweilers have been the second top killing dog breed in the U.S. This is why we created the fatal rottweiler attack archive. Rottweilers consistently show just how dangerous they are, particularly to young children. There were no recorded fatal rottweiler attacks in 2020.

pair of family rottweilers kill baby

One or both family rottweilers seen at different times before the fatal attack on Tuesday.

map iconView the DogsBite.org Google Map: U.S. Fatal Rottweiler Attacks By State

Related articles:
05/26/21: Fatal Rottweiler Attacks - The Archival Record - DogsBite.org
05/20/21: 2021 Dog Bite Fatality: Child Killed, Mother Hospitalized While Caring for Neighbor's...

Baseline reporting requirements:
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.

Former Owner of Rescue Pit Bull Shares Story After Unprovoked Attack: 'Still Very Shaken' by the Experience

Former Owner of Rescue Pit Bull
The former owner of a rescue pit bull shares story of an unprovoked attack.

Atlanta, GA - The former owner of a rescue pit bull recently wrote into our nonprofit and shared a powerful story with us. This individual is "still dismantling the beliefs I previously held about these dogs." Beliefs this person learned by "networking with other pit bull owners." This person did not expect the level of "fear, regret and guilt I would feel when the attack happened." This former owner is still very shaken by the experience and will never own a rescue dog again as a result.

This individual also comments about how many shelters adopt out pit bull-mixes under the "mixed-breed" label to "unsuspecting adopters." In January, we published a letter from a person who once worked at an open intake shelter. That letter also discussed the deliberate mislabeling of pit bulls and their mixes by shelter staff, along with adopting these dogs out to homes with unprepared adopters. An unsuspecting adopter of a pit bull-type dog is equivalent to an unprepared adopter.

I used to be a pit bull advocate. We adopted a pit bull puppy who was adorable and sweet with absolutely no background of abuse. She was rescued at 5 weeks along with her mom and litter mates. She was not separated from her mom too young. We gave this puppy the perfect life. At that point, I believed the lies put forth by pit bull advocates. I felt like you had to teach these dogs to be aggressive and they weren’t born this way.

Well, in January 2021, my dog attacked a man for no good reason at all. He was doing nothing strange. He wasn’t talking. He was standing still. By the grace of God, this man was able to mitigate the attack by holding her leash away from his body. My dog tore through his shirt and he was left with bruises and an abrasion. I didn’t witness the attack in full because I had fallen when my dog pulled so I was trying to get up when part of the attack was taking place. Once I grabbed her, I immediately took her to the vet to be put down.

I’m still in the process of mentally healing from this situation. I can’t wrap my brain around the fact that this was my dog that I loved and this dog had the perfect life, yet still became an attack dog. I’m still dismantling the beliefs I previously held about these dogs that they’re not inherently dangerous. I learned and adopted these beliefs through networking with other pit bull owners.

Since we adopted her, I had heard about numerous other pit bulls getting into fights and hurting other dogs so we decided to get a very strong insurance policy to protect a potential victim. I researched dog bites and knew how expensive they could be. I did not expect the level of fear, regret and guilt I would feel when the attack happened. I’m plagued daily by considering what could have happened and how bad it could have been.

So, although I know sweet pit bulls, I tell people to absolutely believe this breed is dangerous. If someone were to own a pit bull, they’d need to be an expert behaviorist to keep the dog in-line, although I still would advise anyone to avoid this breed. One thing that scares me is that most shelter dogs in Georgia are pit bulls or pit bull mixes. A lot of shelters adopt them out as mixed-breeds to unsuspecting adopters. I’m so sad to say I will never own another rescue dog. The chance of getting a pit mix is too high.

I appreciate what your organization is doing to educate and safeguard the public … I’m still very shaken by my experience.

We also directed this individual to the letter submitted by the former open intake shelter worker. This person had worked with four trainers in Atlanta, who basically pointed back the blame finger instead of being honest. This was a "project dog" with impulsive aggression, despite being adopted as a young puppy into a loving home. Further, when the person tried to return the dog to the rescue, "they said they absolutely would not take on a dog with a known bite history."

This article is 100% true and spot on. My dog was spayed and was actually much smaller than most pits at 50 lbs. Maybe that’s why the man was able to defend himself. We had worked with 4 trainers who all said she was submissive and it was basically our fault we couldn’t make her into a normal dog. She was my 1st dog so I believed them. Since then we’ve adopted a wonderful pure breed dog (non pit bull-type) from a breeder and guess what? It turns out I’m not an idiot as it relates to training a dog. My pit bull was a problem dog. When the attack happened, I asked the rescue if they wanted her back and they said they absolutely would not take on a dog with a known bite history. They said there was no where for her to go where she wouldn’t be a danger to others. We immediately put her down after we got off the phone with the rescue.

Related articles:
01/04/21: Working at an Open Intake Shelter: Deliberate Breed Mislabeling, Aggressive Dogs...
12/16/20: Ann Marie Rogers: Animal Welfare Advocate, Animal Control Officer, Public Safety...
07/31/20: 2020 Edition: 125 Behavior Terms for Shelter Dogs Decoded that Mask Aggression
10/16/19: A Pit Bull Adoption Disaster: Animal Aggression, Anti-Anxiety Medication and More

2021 Dog Bite Fatality: Teenager Killed by Pack of Dogs on the Navajo Nation in Fort Defiance, Arizona

Lyssa Rose - Fort Defiance
Lyssa Upshaw, 13-years old, was found dead near a pack of vicious dogs in Fort Defiance.

Navajo Nation Council
UPDATE 05/29/21: On May 27, 2021, the 24th Navajo Nation Council issued a press release that confirmed that Lyssa Rose Upshaw was killed by a pack of dogs. The release addressed the Navajo Nation feral dog population and the necessity for action. The release stated that three other people have been killed by dogs on the Nation in the past year. One death was mentioned specifically, a 5-year old boy was recently killed by a dog in Tiis Tsoh Sikaad, New Mexico.

During the last week in May, two separate meetings were held by the Law and Order Committee and the Resources and Development Committee. Items discussed included appropriating emergency funding to bring animal control staffing levels up to five officers per agency, as well as funding for the Navajo veterinary program for increasing the spaying and neutering clinics. Changes to the maximum number of dogs allowed, which is currently four, was also discussed.

WINDOW ROCK, Ariz. — This week, the Law & Order Committee (LOC) and Resources and Development Committee (RDC) of the 24th Navajo Nation Council held separate meetings where reports were given by various Navajo Nation government entities regarding the growing issues of feral dogs in communities.

The reports were requested after a recent incident, where 13-year-old Lyssa Rose Upshaw was fatally attacked by a pack of dogs in the Fort Defiance area. The Council held a moment of silence for her at last Friday’s Special Session to mourn her passing.

“Life is not worth a small fine nor a simple warning,” said Chairman Rickie Nez (T’iistoh Sikaad, Nenahnezad, Upper Fruitland, Tse’ Daa’ Kaan, Newcomb, San Juan). “These laws need to change because it is now a matter of life and death that we cannot afford to ignore.” …

Director of Criminal Investigations, Michael Henderson, said the recent dog attacks are not the first and that the Navajo Nation Police Department has received multiple reports about dog attacks resulting in severe injuries, including three other deaths in the past year.

Henderson recalled a recent case in Tiis Tsoh Sikaad where a 5-year-old was also fatally attacked by a dog. According to Henderson, the dog’s owner was only given a $500 citation for the attack, which he says is a common penalty that does not help the issue.

“[It] doesn’t seem that justice was served at the end,” stated Henderson. “Our department has distributed press releases to bring awareness to the issue and encourages the public to remain vigilant for their safety.”

Henderson acknowledged the current laws surrounding animal attacks do not waiver criminal prosecution due to the inability to determine whether attacks are intentional or not on behalf of dog owners...

05/19/21: Teenager Found Dead
Fort Defiance, AZ - A 13-year old girl was discovered dead on the Navajo Nation near a pack of vicious dogs. Lyssa Rose Upshaw asked her mother if she could go for a walk near the family's home. When her mother, Marissa Jones, got a call from her son saying, "Mom, you need to get over here," she knew something was wrong. Lyssa was discovered curled up in a fetal position. Her clothes and pieces of flesh were scattered around; signs indicative of a fatal pack attack.

"Her legs were all chewed up," her mother recalled. "She was gone."

The dogs were aggressive towards people at the scene, including police. By the time Animal Control arrived, the owners had hidden the dogs, Jones said. Officials eventually found 12 dogs locked in a building on the property. The dogs were seized as evidence. "They had to check them for blood, hair, anything that might be caught in their teeth or on their coat,” Jones said. She believes more dogs may have been involved too, but authorities could not locate them.

Fort Defiance Animal Control officers would not confirm or comment on the case. Her daughter's remains were sent to Flagstaff for an autopsy, Jones said. The dogs were known to be aggressive, according to Jones. "Everybody knows those dogs are mean," she said. Jones also said that NHA housing pet policies are enforced (certain dog breeds are banned from Navajo Nation Employee Housing units), and that more should be done to enforce the animal ordinances on the Nation.

Lyssa's death comes a month after the Associated Press reported that Covid-19 had hindered animal control services on the Navajo Nation, which spans 27,000 square miles. Last year, the pandemic forced Navajo authorities to shut down three of four animal shelters, states the report, in Tuba City and Many Farms, Arizona, and Shiprock, New Mexico. The only open shelter was in Fort Defiance, where this fatal attack occurred. Only two officers worked for the most part of 2020.

Navajo Nation Animal Control manager Kevin Gleason estimated the dog population on the Nation was back up to 250,000 dogs, just like it was 10 years ago. In 2020, his program only picked up about 7,000 dogs, instead of the normal 20,000 to 30,000 dogs annually. Most of those dogs, 80 to 90%, are euthanized. Also, the veterinary mobile spay/neuter unit was not used during the pandemic. The unit provides vaccination and spay/neuter service in rural areas on the Nation.1

Fatal Dog Attacks on Reservations

If Lyssa Upshaw was killed by this pack of dogs, she will be the fourth person fatally attacked by dogs on the Navajo Nation since 2010. In 2016, Kayden Begay, 3-years old, was killed by a pack of dogs in Seba Dalkai. In 2012, Tomas Jay Henio, 8-years old, was killed by up to nine dogs in Pine Hill. In 2010, Larry Armstrong, 56-years old, was killed by a pack of dogs near Gallup. Since 2010, there have been at least nine fatal dog maulings on Indian reservations nationwide.2

Fort Defiance fatal dog attack

Marissa Jones posted on Facebook about the dog owners hiding the dogs from authorities.

map iconView the DogsBite.org Google Map: Fatal Dog Attacks on American Indian Reservations.

Learn about breed-specific laws on Indian reservations in our Breed Safety Laws section.

1Sadly, we knew when we read the Associated Press article last month that fatalities might be a result. Indian nations in North America were hit especially hard by the pandemic.
2These numbers only reflect deaths that have been reported by the media.

Related articles:
01/16/20: 2020 Dog Bite Fatality: Woman Killed by Pack of Dogs on Tribal Land at Taos Pueble
07/23/16: 2016 Dog Bite Fatality: Pack of Pit Bulls Kill Boy on Navajo Nation Reservation