A Statesboro toddler is recovering from a severe wound to the face after her uncle’s dog bit her Saturday.
Bulloch County Humane Enforcement Supervisor Joey Sanders said the man willingly surrendered the dog, an older mixed breed he said “appeared to be possibly a German shepherd and pit bull mix.”
April Whitehurst Elliott, the child’s mother, first declined Monday when asked by the Statesboro Herald for an interview, but she posted publicly on social media about the incident, including graphic images of her 3-year-old’s face, gashed open.
Tuesday, the images and accompanying post had been removed.
On Elliott’s Facebook page, she wrote Tuesday: “Thank you for all of the prayers that have been sent up for my daughter. This was a complete freak accident that I witnessed myself. The dog was a mixed breed and my brother's personal pet he's had for almost 10 years and was not in any way a vicious animal. She has been taken into animal control custody and unfortunately must be put to sleep. She has been a wonderful pet and we will miss her dearly. She was not provoked by Evie (the 3-year-old child) to be aggressive. Evie simply took her by surprise by touching the base of her tail from behind. Evie is at her home healing well and I am hoping to get to see her soon.”
Elliott did speak to the Statesboro Herald on Tuesday, explaining that her daughter is currently staying with relatives and faces several more surgeries.
Sanders said he was called to East Georgia Regional Medical Center around 5:40 p.m. Saturday. He determined the child’s wound to be a dog bite, describing it as “very, very bad.”
He went to a residence near Hendrix Circle, where Elliott was staying with her father at her brother’s home, he said.
The dog’s owner was visibly upset, cooperative and surrendered the dog, which is being held at the Bulloch County Animal Shelter for observation to determine whether it has rabies. It is scheduled to be euthanized, Sanders said.
During his investigation, Sanders learned the dog had bitten the child before, but there had been no report made.
“It was not a vicious dog or a vicious attack, but the dog apparently does not like children,” he said.
As required, he contacted the Bulloch County Department of Family and Children Services, which is also investigating the incident.
Lyn Elliott, the child’s father, expressed anger that the dog was allowed near the child.
“The dog had shown signs of aggression towards Evie before, and was supposed to be closely monitored or kept away from her altogether,” he said. “The dog's owner, April's brother, failed to do that.”
Relieved that his daughter wasn’t hurt worse than she was, Elliott spoke of the range of emotions he felt when he learned of the bite.
“My first reaction, of course, was utter shock,” he said. “Then fear, regarding the extent of the injuries, and then nothing less than wanting her to be OK, more than anything. But I can tell you that soon came a point at which my level of anger is indescribable.”
In one of his Facebook posts, Elliott stated that his daughter was doing well after undergoing plastic surgery. April Elliott stated on social media that her daughter was recovering at home.
She later wrote that she is not seeking donations, as the child’s medical expenses will be covered by insurance.
Lyn Elliot commented on that Facebook post: “That is true because Evie is in my care. I am currently a full-time, single father to a child that now has a serious injury and will require many follow up visits to the doctor.”
This was the second severe dog bite case Sanders has handled in Statesboro recently. Last week, a Church Street woman was airlifted to a Savannah hospital after a pit bull attacked her in her own yard. That dog was also surrendered and scheduled for euthanasia, Sanders said.
Bulloch County sheriff’s Capt. Todd Hutchens said the incident was not investigated by the Sheriff’s Office.
Herald reporter Holli Deal Saxon may be reached at (912) 489-9414.