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Pit bull attacks 4-year-old boy in North SLO County

jjohnston@thetribunenews.com

UPDATE: Boy released from hospital »

A 4-year-old North County boy was badly bitten in the face by the neighbors’ female pit bull after he tried to touch one of the animal’s puppies Wednesday morning, authorities said.

The boy was treated at Twin Cities Community Hospital in Templeton for severe injuries to his face and the back of his head, said Eric Anderson, manager of San Luis Obispo County Animal Services.

“He’ll probably need reconstructive surgery,” said County/Cal Fire Capt. Steve Meikle, who responded to the report of the dog bite along Meadow Lark Lane in the gated Heritage Ranch community.

Meikle said the boy’s nose was partially severed and his upper lip was injured. The bite happened about 10 a.m.

“He was able to talk, but he was crying pretty hard,” Meikle said.

Authorities would not disclose the name of the boy, who lives in the Nacimiento Lake neighborhood north of Paso Robles.

But Jim Milender, owner of the dog, said the boy’s name was Thomas. He said he did not know the last name of the child, who lives next door.

Milender said his wife was at home watching the boy and three other young children, who were also inside, when their 2-year-old pit bull, Misty, bit the boy. His wife was in the bathroom at the time of the incident.

“He reached for the puppy and then Misty just reacted, from what I’ve been told,” Milender said.

Milender said the pit bull had never shown any signs of aggression before. He said the dog has been well behaved since they got it about five months ago from friends, who Milender said trained it well.

He said Misty has nine puppies.

Milender’s wife, who stood outside the home Wednesday and would not give her name, explained that she rushed to see what had happened once she heard a commotion.

“It happened really fast because Misty was separated from Thomas when I came out,” she said. “I went over immediately when I heard the noise.”

Milender said he’d repeatedly told his daughter and young niece and nephew not to touch the puppies, fearing a reaction from Misty.

Anderson said Milender is being allowed to quarantine his dog for 10 days by keeping it on his property until it can be determined that the animal doesn’t have rabies.

Anderson said state law permits authorities in some instances to kill dogs that are deemed to be vicious or dangerous. But Milender’s dog had not shown past aggressive behavior, and because the incident took place on its owners’ property, Anderson did not have legal authority to kill the animal.

The Animal Services director said he’s following quarantine law guidelines by allowing the dog to be sequestered temporarily at the home.

Anderson acknowledged that pit bulls have created some public concern for attacks, but he emphasized that “any female dog is protective of their offspring, and young children should be closely attended or monitored around them because of that possibility.”

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