Owner defends dog that bit toddler

April 9, 2009 

The 32-year-old owner of a pit bull that mauled a Bluffton toddler over the weekend said he's sorry his dog hurt the child, but he doesn't plan to put the animal down.

The attack happened near Brighton Beach when a Crystal Robic took her 1-year-old don T.J. Bishop for a walk Saturday afternoon in his stroller and headed up Shawn Gorman's gravel driveway to chat, Gorman said.

When Robic got about 10 feet from the six puppies delivered by Daisy, a 2-year-old pit bull, the dog, which was on a runner, leapt onto the stroller and bit the boy in the face and neck. Paramedics rushed the toddler to Hilton Head Hospital, where he received six stitches for cuts to his lips and the back of his neck.

Calls to Robic were not immediately returned Wednesday.

"(Robic) wanted to protect her baby when she pulled her baby out of the stroller and away from the dog," Gorman said. "All Daisy was doing was protecting her babies. It's not the dog's fault, she's just doing what dogs do."

Several neighbors claim this isn't the first person Daisy has bitten and Gorman admits the dog did attack a man riding his bike near his Tillman Road home last year.

"She's scared of wheels," he said. "It's just natural for a dog to go after wheels, but I haven't trained her to be mean, though."

Daisy and a second pit bull Gorman owns is quarantined at Gorman's home while S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control officials determine if the dogs have rabies.

Thom Berry, spokesperson for DHEC, said 10-day quarantines are mandatory when an animal attacks someone, and the sequestering is at the owner's expense. If the dog begins to show signs of rabies, the animal will be put down, as dictated by state law.

If not, the dog will be released into the owner's custody, Berry said.

Gorman said Daisy is a month behind in her rabies vaccination because he has been out of work as a carpenter for six months and can't afford the shot.

He was charged with failure to keep his dog vaccinated, he said.

"She's a good dog, she didn't mean to hurt anybody," he said. "I'm not going to kill my dog when I don't think she did anything wrong but try to protect her babies."

Gorman said he keeps his dogs -- two pit bulls, six pit-bull puppies and two Boston terriers -- for protection and won't give that up.

He hasn't spoken with Robic since the attack but hopes the boy is OK.

"I feel bad, I really do," Gorman said. "But sometimes things like this happen and it's never good. I'm just not willing to kill my dog because of it."

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