Dog euthanized as investigation of St. Helena attack continues

pdonohue@beaufortgazette.comApril 13, 2012 

A bull mastiff that mauled a St. Helena Island toddler last week has been euthanized, and authorities continue to investigate the attack.

Officials said the animal was turned over to Beaufort County Animal Control immediately following the April 4 incident, which sent 3-year-old Xavier Freeman to Beaufort Memorial Hospital with severe lacerations to his head and legs.

The dog, a male named King, belonged to the boy's cousin, according to a Beaufort County Sheriff's Office report.

As a precaution, the animal was held in a rabies quarantine at the county shelter before being euthanized this week after the owner said he no longer wanted the dog, according to DHEC spokesman Jim Beasley.

Beasley said the shelter provided the animal's head to DHEC officials for rabies testing, which came back negative.

Though the dog's owner said the animal was vaccinated, Beasley said health officials did not want to take any chances given the severity of the boy's injuries.

"It is common practice when a human life is at stake that a rabies test be performed out of an abundance of caution," Beasley said. "In humans, rabies is almost always fatal."

The attack occurred when Freeman went next door to visit his aunt on Almond Drive at about 1:45 p.m. and was mauled by the dog, which was on a chain in the yard, according to the Sheriff's Office.

A deputy reported that the boy had a large tear in his left calf, puncture wounds on both legs and deep lacerations behind both ears.

The boy's parents and other relatives said they did not see what prompted the attack but told investigators the boy often played with the dog and even expressed concern for the animal.

Freeman's mother was quoted in the incident report repeatedly as saying, "He is a good dog, and I don't want nothing to happen to him."

The boy's father declined to comment this week, and a spokeswoman for Beaufort Memorial Hospital declined to provide an update on the toddler's condition.

Authorities are continuing to investigate, but no charges have been filed, Sgt. Robin McIntosh, Sheriff's Office spokeswoman, said.

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