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No charges in fatal dog mauling of Lee infant

Stephen Igo • Apr 11, 2018 at 7:01 PM

JONESVILLE — No charges will be filed in last month’s mauling death of an infant by a family dog, Lee County Commonwealth’s Attorney Fuller Cridlin announced on Wednesday.

Calling the incident a “horrific tragedy” that could not have been anticipated, Fuller said a review of the evidence collected during the investigation — including statements from a child foster care worker and a veterinarian who were both familiar with the animal — showed that no criminal wrongdoing exists to prosecute.

At around noon on March 7, the infant’s mother placed the child in a bassinet in a bedroom while she prepared lunch in the kitchen. Minutes later, Cridlin said, she heard the baby crying and upon investigation found one of her dogs, which she said was a malamute/wolf hybrid, standing over the child. The mother immediately called medical personnel.

“Additional investigation revealed the dog in question was a family pet that had lived in the home with two young foster children for several months with no prior incidents,” Cridlin wrote in a press release.

“The Lee County Department of Social Services approved the home for placement following a study that revealed no concerns about the dog. A foster care worker made multiple visits to the home, interacted with the dog, and described the dog as ‘not aggressive’ and ‘very friendly.’ ”

Cridlin also said the dog received regular veterinary care in the months leading up to the incident and never showed any aggressive behavior to the vet or his employees.

“The veterinarian’s office had previously boarded the dog multiple times without any incident,” Cridlin noted. ‘There was no evidence the dog had previously shown any signs of aggression toward the other young children in the home.”

Cridlin said that under Virginia law, no canine or canine crossbreed is considered dangerous solely because of its particular breed, nor is ownership of a particular breed prohibited.

“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,” Cridlin said.

“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 any 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.”

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