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June 5, 2010

Mauling still remains a mystery

Incident could renew debate on certain dog breeds perceived as aggressive

Kokomo — The pit bull terrier that mauled 9-year-old Savannah Gragg on May 29 was destroyed that same day with the consent of the dog’s owner.

But the questions over the dog’s behavior remain unanswered, with even dog experts puzzled about what could have triggered the animal’s vicious attack.

Gragg was pronounced dead Thursday afternoon at Riley Children’s Hospital in Indianapolis. She suffered a lacerated trachea in the attack, and a resulting disruption of oxygen to the brain, according to the Marion County Coroner’s Office.

At the Howard County Sheriff Department, Sheriff Marty Talbert said he’s never seen anything like the attack in his 33 years of law enforcement.

“If the dog had grabbed the child’s arm or leg, obviously there would have been injury, the child obviously would have been hurt. But for the dog to go for the area where a human body is most vulnerable, the throat? That’s what you see wild animals do.”

Friday, the sheriff department released a picture of animal control officer Terry Bryant standing inside an 8-foot-tall enclosure with the dog, just after the attack.

Talbert said Bryant didn’t feel threatened by the animal, which he said seemed as though nothing had happened.

“[Bryant] didn’t need his bite suit. The dog wasn’t aggressive. It allowed Terry to put it on a leash, and it obeyed commands,” Talbert said. “The girl certainly wasn’t scared of the animal. I’m not sure we’ll ever know the reasons why this happened.”

Kokomo veterinarian Bob Mason said the attack couldn’t be seen as a defensive reaction by the animal.

“It sounded like a predatory attack. It went right to the throat — a mortal wound. Normally, if the girl had stepped on its toe or shut the door on its tail, it would have nipped her on the hand or leg. It wouldn’t have applied a kill bite.”

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