Pit Bull Attack Kills 8-Month-Old Boy

Updated at 11:30 p.m. June 14.

Deputies responding to a call of a child bitten by a dog found a woman holding the fatally injured 8-month-old boy in her arms Thursday afternoon in Lemon Grove, authorities say.

Investigators say a pit bull attacked the baby just before 5 p.m. Thursday at a home on the 3500 block of West Street.

Paramedics from the Lemon Grove Fire Department arrived at the same time as deputies and began treating the mortally wounded infant, according to sheriff’s homicide Lt. Larry Nesbitt.

The boy was transported to Rady Children’s Hospital, where he was pronounced dead at 6:06 p.m., Nesbitt said. The baby’s name was not released, pending identification by the San Diego County Medical Examiner’s Office.

According to authorities, animal control officers seized three apparent pit bulls from the home.

The occupants of the home were being interviewed by detectives, authorities said. 10News is reporting there were no other children in the house.

Homicide detectives were called to assume the investigation because it involved the death of an infant, Nesbitt said.

Assisting in the investigation are personnel from the Lemon Grove Sheriff’s Station, the sheriff’s Crime Lab, and U.S. Border Patrol assigned to the homicide detail.

Anyone with information about the incident is asked to call investigators at 858-974-2321 (after hours) or 858-565-5200, or Crime Stoppers at 888-580-8477 (TIPS).

Change of heart

Change of Heart Pit Bull Rescue

Where: Norco-based, serving San Bernardino, Riverside and Orange counties

Adoption fee: $150 tax deductible

Information: cohpitbullrescue.com

When Gracie struts down the street decked out in her pink tutu, onlookers are not afraid.

“They come up to me and ask if they can pet her and tell me how beautiful she is; without the pink tutu it’s a whole different story,” said Sarah Kosinski-Cope, founder and president of Norco-based Change of Heart Pit Bull Rescue. “The tutu is magic. I don’t like to dress dogs up, but people who would normally be afraid will come up to a dog when it’s wearing a tutu.”

Gracie is a gray and white purebred pit bull, the latest rescue for the volunteer-based nonprofit that currently is maxed out at about 20 pit bulls and pit bull mixes but is working hard to get more foster homes and funding lined up.

“I got a call from one of the shelters wanting us to rescue Gracie, but she was so big and we really had no room,” she said. “But she seemed so sweet and she was so beautiful. I just had to take a chance. She’s become a great ambassador for the breed.”

According to its brochure, Change of Heart is dedicated to saving the lives of unwanted and abused American Pit Bull Terriers and their mixes. It focuses on aiding those who have been in shelters the longest, may not be easily adopted or are suffering from illness.

Kosinski-Cope, 24, understands the uphill battle she faces trying to change the public opinion of pit bulls, but believes through educating humans, dispelling myths and providing professional training for each rescued dog, she can make a difference.

“Community perception is not good,” she said. “We encourage research so people can find out what’s true and what’s a myth – like pit bulls having locking jaws – that’s a myth.”

Kosinski-Cope started Change of Heart in 2009 when she found an emaciated pit bull roaming the streets of Perris with cigarettes burns on her head and swollen teats almost dragging on the ground.

“I was nervous to bring her home, but she was so sweet,” she said. “My mom had always said, `No pit bulls.’ She said they were `no good’ and that `you can’t trust them.’ Every time I would bring one home, when I was younger, my mom would immediately take it to the shelter.”

Kosinski-Cope, who at the time lived with her mother, couldn’t leave the animal, eventually named Pandora, to starve to death on the streets. She brought her home, prepared to beg for the dog’s life.

“My mom took one look at her and said, `This is so sad. Who would do something like this to an animal?’ We fed her, gave her a bath. She stayed with my mom who ended up falling in love with her and keeping her. My mom had a change of heart about pit bulls and I figured if she could, anybody could, and that’s why I named my rescue Change of Heart.”

Change of Heart rescues pit bulls from Riverside, San Bernardino and Orange counties.

To date they have placed 50 dogs, with only one return.

“And that was not because of the dog. The potential adoptive family had an issue come up,” said Kosinski-Cope, who attends Riverside Community College in hopes of a career in education. “These dogs make great family pets, but they need to be trained. You get out of them what you put into them. They are horrible back yard dogs. They are not lawn ornaments. They like to be inside with their people. That’s the opposite of what most people think.”

Change of Heart dogs get training from Unlimitedob.com. All adopters have the option of training with their Change of Heart dog paid for by the rescue.

“We pay for you to take some classes because we want you to learn the same cues that the dog’s been taught,” she said. “They will teach you how to read your dog.”

Shelters are full of American Pit Bull Terriers and pit bull mixes, Kosinski-Cope believes, because the breed is over-bred and the public is under-educated.

“People don’t understand them, their needs, their medical issues, and end up giving them up,” she said. “Some people just like to say, `I have a pitbull,’ or want to use them for protection. People fall in love with the looks or expect to find the standards they read about, but each dog is different and with different genes, personalities and needs. Many people want puppies and don’t realize that puppies are a lot of work, besides not knowing what they’ll grow up to be.”

Because of the negative stereotyping surrounding pit bulls, Change of Heart adoptions go at a slower pace and have a more intensive screening process.

“Our placement is very personalized,” she said. “We take in several applications to see who’s a good match.”

Deanna Morrison, a San Bernardino resident who does marketing for Change of Heart, called the rescue “a match.com for dogs.”

Morrison joined Change of Heart in April 2011 after being shunned while at a local dog park with her own pit bull.

“People made mean comments and it was clear they wanted us to leave,” Morrison said. “We’re not welcomed at many pet stores and even when we do adoption events we have people yelling at us asking, `Why are protecting these baby killers?’ One guy bragged that he’s killed many pits and hopes all of ours die.”

The rescue has more luck adopting through such online sites as Petfinder.com.

“With all the negative that’s out there we work hard to change the perception,” Kosinski-Cope said.

Change of Heart runs on donations from private parties and public companies such as Home Depot and Knott’s Berry Farm.

Its goal is to have its own facility to care for, train and shelter more canines in need. While it waits for its dream to come to fruition it hopes to enlist more foster homes.

“We will supply everything needed to our foster families – food, treats, toys, bed, medical attention,” Kosinski-Cope said. “All you have to supply is the love.”

Reach Diana via email, or call her at 909-483-9381.

LEMON GROVE: 8-month-old infant killed in pitbull attack

An infant boy was mauled and killed by up to three dogs Thursday evening, according to the sheriff’s department.

Authorities said the dog attack involving three pitbulls happened just before 5 p.m. on the 3000-block of West Street in Lemon Grove, according to North County Times’ media partner NBC San Diego.

Deputies responded to the attack and when they arrived, a woman was holding an injured 8-month-old baby boy. Deputies requested homicide investigators at the scene.

By Thursday night, sheriffs confirmed the infant involved in the dog attack had died shortly after being transported to Rady Children’s Hospital.

As of Friday morning, no arrests were made in the case, Lt. Larry Nesbit with the Sheriff’s Department.

Neighbor Regina Marlow said she was shocked when they found out about the attack.

“I can’t even imagine losing a child and to know that a family pet did it,” Marlow said. “That’s horrific. I can’t even imagine what the family would be going through.”

Another neighbor Deirdra Canty said the dogs have been known to attack cats before.

“I don’t think that a dog like a pit bull, rottweiler, large dogs should be around little infants,” Canty said.

Authorities confirmed a total of three pitbulls were hauled away at the scene by Animal Control officers.

This is the youngest victim of a fatal dog attack that the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department is aware of, Nesbit said.

“They were aggressive,” Nesbit said. “They were restrained by animal control officers with the tools they have.”

Ask the Trainer: 10 questions when choosing a dog trainer

Q:  I recently adopted a  female 2-year-old pit bull mix, and I want to start training right away. She definitely looks like a pit bull, which is causing some concern amongst my neighbors, so I know I need to go over and above to make sure her behavior is good. I grew up with a couple dogs but have never put one through training and I’m not sure how to go about selecting the right trainer or training program. Can you offer any guidance?

A: Congratulations on the new member of your family and a big THANK YOU for adopting. As a pit bull advocate myself, I appreciate your responsible approach to training and your understanding of the reality of the public’s perception of this breed. We can yell all we want about how misunderstood this breed is, but nothing speaks louder than a well-behaved ambassador.

Getting into training right away is a great way for you to create a healthy bond with your dog, and for your dog to start understanding what behavior is acceptable. Whether you choose to go to a group class or work privately with a trainer, you’ll want to do your due dilligence to make sure it will be a good fit for you and your dog.

Use the following list of questions when interviewing potential dog trainers to ensure you’re hiring someone experienced and trustworthy:

1. What dog training methods do you use?
You’ll want to know how the trainer teaches your dog a particular behavior. Make sure you’re comfortable with the process. Is there a “correction” or “consequence” component to the training or is it all rewards based? Learn what you can about the different methodologies before deciding what you’re comfortable with.

2. How long have you been training dogs?
More years in the business doesn’t always mean a better trainer, but someone who’s been doing it for a long time has seen a wide variety of behaviors and has hopefully learned from their experiences.

3. Where did you receive your training?
Anyone can say they’re a dog trainer; it’s an unregulated industry. Make sure the trainer you choose is certified through a training school, such as NationalK9 or Animal Behavior College. Ask if the person has experience outside of training schools, such as with animal shelters or rescues, which represents a different and useful skill set.

4. Do you participate in continuing education programs to keep your expertise up to date?
A good dog trainer will be able to discuss the latest research and emergence of the latest techniques and tools in the industry. They should also be able to direct you to informational web sites and publications and shouldn’t hesitate to do so.

5. Do you have experience with my dog’s breed?
Although not an absolute, pure bred dogs tend to share similar characteristics. It’s helpful if the trainer you choose has worked with your dog’s breed.

6. Have you worked with dogs that have issues like mine?
Dogs are unique individuals with different temperaments and drives, so no dog will be exactly like yours. However, you’ll want to choose a trainer who has dealt with situations like yours before. A good trainer will be able to identify when they’re out of their depth and will gladly refer you to another professional.

7. Can I speak to a former client or do you have written testimonials?
A good dog trainer WANTS you to ask this question and knows that happy clients are what keep his or her reputation sparkling and business thriving. Ask for a referral to a client or two with situations similar to yours.

8. How long will it take before I begin to see results with my dog?
A good trainer should answer this question thoughtfully. There’s no one correct answer; it depends on you, your lifestyle, and your particular dog. But don’t be surprised if a trainer says you’ll see results immediately, especially if your dog spends one-on-one time with a trainer. A good trainer knows how to evaluate your dog’s unique drives and tap into them in short order.

9. Will I be able to continue training my dog once he is finished with your program?
A good dog trainer knows that if the owner can’t replicate the training at home, it won’t work. Be sure the trainer you hire emphasizes the importance of follow-up and is clear about his or her availability after your dog has completed training.

10. What are your rates?
Make sure you understand the full scope of the training program and the cost associated with it from beginning to end. Ask if any equipment you’ll need is included in the cost of the program, and if you get a discounted rate should you decide to seek advanced training.

In addition to finding the right trainer, in your case you might find it helpful to find a meet-up group or advocacy group so you (and your dog!) can socialize with like-minded individuals. One of my favorites for pit bulls is local: Chako Pit Bull Rescue Advocacy . They offer breed-specific workshops and social opportunities where you’re both bound to make some new friends.