The Commonwealth's Attorney for Lee County has decided not to press charges after an 8-day-old baby girl was mauled by a family dog.
Commonwealth's Attorney H. Fuller Cridlin called the incident "simply a horrific tragedy, and our thoughts and prayers go out to the family of the child that died."
According to the investigation, the mother of the infant placed the child in a bassinet in the bedroom of their home around noon on March 7 while she prepared lunch in the kitchen. She then heard the baby crying, and found one of her dogs, which she claimed to be a Malamute/wolf hybrid standing over the child. She immediately contacted medical personnel.
The dog was a family pet that had lived in the home with two young foster children for several months with no prior incidents. Social services approved the home for placement following a study which revealed no concerns about the dog. A foster care worker who made multiple visits to the home described the dog as "not aggressive" and "very friendly."
The investigation also revealed the dog received regular veterinarian care in the months leading up to the incident and never showed any aggressive behavior to the vet or his employees. The vet's office had previously boarded the dog and there was no evidence that the dog had previously shown any signs of aggression toward the other young children in the home.
The Commonwealth's Attorney concluded his news release with the following statement:
"Under the law of the Commonwealth of Virginia, no canine or canine crossbreed is considered to be a dangerous dog solely because it is a particular breed, nor is the ownership of a particular breed of canine or canine crossbreed prohibited (See Va. Code Section 3.2-6540(D)). A charge of criminal negligence would require proof that the caregiver showed a wanton and reckless disregard for the safety of others under circumstances likely to cause injury or death. Mere carelessness which results in the death of another is not enough for prosecution of criminal negligence. The mother's act of not securely closing the bedroom door while she went to the kitchen to prepare a meal does not indicate the callous disregard for human life necessary for prosecution, particularly when one considers that the dog had previously shown no signs of aggressive behavior to any foster care worker, veterinarian, or the other young children in the home. I am therefore declining prosecution of this matter. This is simply a horrific tragedy, and our thoughts and prayers go out to the family of the child that died."