Houston doctor wants tougher laws on dog maulings

May 22, 2013 4:53:52 PM PDT
It's National Dog Bite Prevention Week, but you couldn't tell that by the statistics. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention says nearly five million people are bitten or mauled by dogs each year.

In January, pit bull ripped into six-year-old Janelle Govea's face right after she got off the school bus.

"I was walking away fast and then he jumped on me and he started to bite me," she said.

The injuries to the first grader were horrific. Her screams brought her 13-year-old sister Ruby outside. She fought the dog, pulling it off her sister.

"I tried to get the dog away from her," Ruby said.

"She saved me," Janelle said.

Dr. James Wilson, who repaired Janelle's face, said the pit bull made shark-like cuts in her skin.

"The animals will clamp and they'll rip. So they'll crush and then they'll rip," Dr. Wilson said.

Dr. Wilson says they're treating more dog bites at Memorial Hermann Hospital and nationally. And he wants stricter laws.

"This is a big public health issue, it's a significant medical and economic issue and it's not working right now," he said.

The American Veterinary Medicine Association says it's important to teach children the following tips:

  • Don't run from a dog or scream
  • Remain motionless (like a tree)
  • If knocked over by the dog, roll into a ball and lie still
  • Avoid direct eye contact with a dog
  • Let dog see and sniff you before petting

"Janelle is going to have a good repair. She's going to have a good outcome," Dr. Wilson said.

Janelle needs more surgery to improve her scars. Sometimes she still has nightmares.

"It was horrible. I'm never going to forget that day," said Janelle's mother, Delores Govea.

But four months after the mauling, Janelle is finally getting back to the normal life of a first grader.

Janelle's family had to go to court to prevent the pit bull that mauled her from being released back to their neighborhood. Dr. Wilson was angry to learn that state law gives dogs that maul children one free bite. He says laws must be tougher or the maulings will continue.

The pit bull that attacked the girl was euthanized.

Find Christi on Facebook at ABC13-Christi Myers or on Twitter at @ChristiMyers13


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