KERNERSVILLE, N.C. — An animal control officer in Forsyth County said that it is possible that a dog that bit a baby girl in the face during Thursday’s 9/11 commemoration at Triad Park would have to be muzzled in the future when taken outside by its owner in Forsyth County, according to the Winston-Salem.
It is also possible that the dog may face no restrictions at all: Accounts of the incident are conflicting.
“If we had some independent witnesses it would be helpful,” said Lt. John Day, a supervisor with Forsyth County Animal Control. “We will try to see if there were other people who were there.”
Here’s what is known: During the commemoration of the Sept 11, 2001 terror attacks, one-year-old Taylor Hilliard of Greensboro was bitten on her mouth by a Doberman. The dog, owned by and with Ralph V. Wakefield of Kernersville, was on a leash.
Hilliard was taken to Brenner Children’s Hospital by ambulance immediately after the bite; emergency personnel were on hand as part of the 9/11 observance. Although officials could provide no information on how the child was faring, Day said that a report said that the child received puncture wounds to her lips. The little girl was conscious and crying as she was taken from the ceremony to a nearby ambulance.
Animal control investigators questioned Wakefield at his house. The dog is current on all its shots, including rabies. The dog is being confined at Wakefield’s house for a required 10-day quarantine period.
Wakefield told officials that the girl’s grandmother, identified as Connie Hilliard of Greensboro, held the child up to the dog’s face even after he had shook his head when the woman asked if the baby could pet the dog. Wakefield’s account is that the dog was dozing or near dozing and was surprised by the sudden appearance of the child.
The child’s grandmother told a different story, authorities said. The woman said she asked permission to have the child approach the dog and was told by the dog’s owner that it was OK. Authorities said the grandmother’s account is that she and the baby were three or four feet away from the dog, and when they came closer the dog lunged forward and bit the child.
The child’s grandmother declined to comment when reached by telephone on Friday. Wakefield gave his account to a reporter on Thursday after the biting.
Day said measures such as confiscating the dog or charges against the owner are not being looked at in the case.
“We may be able to impose some preventive measures, such as requiring (the dog owner) to put a muzzle on in our county” when in a public area, Day said. If that happens Wakefield could appeal the decision to an animal control tribunal of three people picked from the advisory board of animal control.
“Even with that in mind (Wakefield) would need to be aware that people have small kids and he has a large dog, and it would be better control to keep the dog away from children since this has happened,” Day said.
There was an incident a couple years ago when Wakefield was trying to break up a dog fight among his dogs and was bitten in the hand, possibly by the same Doberman although Wakefield wasn’t sure.
Triad Park is in Guilford County and operated by Forsyth County officials. Forsyth County officials were there for the ceremony and handled the dog-biting incident, Day said.
Dogs on leashes are allowed in the park.
It is possible Guilford County animal control could get involved and issue its own rulings about the incident, although any rules applied to the dog would apply only in the county issuing the rules. It is possible that Forsyth County Animal Control could not impose restrictions because the biting occurred in Guilford County, Day said.
Day said that people with small children should keep them away from strange dogs, especially out in a public place where a dog might be in an unfamiliar setting.
“Unless it is their pet and really familiar with it, they should keep small children away from it even from small dogs,” Day said. “They are in a strange environment and there is always the potential for something to go wrong.”