White Rock parents Mike and Elizabeth Cranford want to warn other parents about the dangers of pit bulls after their daughter was seriously injured in an attack Thursday afternoon.
Elizabeth Cranford said four-year-old Emma was simply walking past a young pit bull at a family gathering when the dog growled, then lunged, clamping onto her neck.
“Bite is not even the word,” Cranford said. “She latched onto her neck and took a chunk. The bottom part of her right ear… right up to the chin was demolished.”
Emma was at her uncle’s Cliff Avenue home for a barbecue when the attack occurred around 4 p.m. Aug. 23. It happened “very, very quick,” said her mom, who was sitting just a few feet away from Emma at the time.
Fortunately, Emma’s uncle – Elizabeth Cranford’s younger brother – had arrived home moments before and moved quickly to intervene. He grabbed the pit bull, which was his girlfriend’s pet, and “pretty much threw the dog across the patio,” Cranford said.
“Someone was watching over us,” she said. “He was home right at the right time.”
Taken first to Peace Arch Hospital, Emma was transferred to BC Children’s Hospital where she underwent surgery to close the wound. It needed 30 to 40 stitches. Her parents praised the medical team for the “amazing” effort that prevented the need for a skin graft.
The dog was picked up by City of White Rock bylaw officers and euthanized on Friday, with the owner’s consent.
Paul Stanton, the city’s director of planning and development services, said euthanization was the only option.
“We basically said, that dog is not going to be released,” he said, adding that the city was prepared to go to court if necessary to get permission to put the dog down, as it did after a Staffordshire killed a yorkie-poo in November 2010.
“Killing another dog is one thing, attacking a child is something completely different,” he said.
At home Monday, Emma was reluctant to talk about what happened, but said her love for her uncle’s dog, a three-year-old Boxer named Buster, remains strong.
“He’s fun,” she said.
Elizabeth Cranford said as far as she knows, the attack on Emma was the pit bull’s first aggressive act. The day before, when Emma sat next to the dog reading, there was no sign of trouble.
The incident “totally” changed her opinion of pit bulls, Cranford said. While people are often quick to blame the owner when a dog is aggressive, Cranford is confident that the breed itself is the problem.
“This was an unprovoked incident,” she said. “I want parents to be aware. I don’t want this to happen again.”
The couple are considering asking the city to formally prohibit the dogs, but Stanton said the step is complicated. It is not currently being considered, he said.