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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Wednesday, February 25, 2004

Killer dog turns tame in custody

By Jan TenBruggencate
Advertiser Kaua'i Bureau

KIPU, Kaua'i — The mixed-breed dog that killed a toddler Saturday did not display any viciousness yesterday in its kennel at the Kaua'i Humane Society.


Guarding against attack

• Teach children to pull their hands in and stand like a tree or roll up like a ball.

• Never approach a strange dog on a chain, in a car or protecting its home or family.

• When confronted by a stray dog: Don't run or shout, avoid sudden movements and stay calm. Speak quietly, telling the dog to "stay," "sit" or "go home." Do not stare at the dog, keep your hands and arms at your sides and ease away, with your side facing the dog — do not turn your back on the animal. Do not try to kick or hit the dog. Never try to run away.

• If possible, keep an object — such as a bike, surfboard, backpack or purse — between yourself and the dog.

• If a dog knocks you down, lie quietly in a fetal position, with your hands in fists around your neck and head. If a dog does bite you, report it to police or the local humane society so action can be taken to protect the public.

For dog owners

• Neuter or spay an animal to reduce its aggressiveness.

• Take puppies to socialization classes and adult dogs to obedience classes.

• Spend a lot of time with the dog, but don't wrestle or roughhouse with it.

• Owners are responsible for keeping their animals confined on their own property.

"He's a very different dog in this environment. You can handle him. He's away from his territory," said humane society director and veterinarian Becky Rhoades.

Police continue to investigate the case, and although they have conferred with county prosecutors, no decision has been made on whether charges will be filed against the dog's owner, who has not been identified.

The 40-pound, male beagle-mix fatally mauled 17-month-old Truston Heart Liddle when the toddler apparently wandered within the range of the chained dog Saturday afternoon. The child had been playing with his 6-year-old brother at a Moloa'a farm lot while his parents, Dove and Raven Liddle, and grandparents, Greg and Sue Liddle, worked on organic crops there.

Five dogs were on an adjacent lot, all chained or fenced in, but there were no fences between the farm lots. The farm lots do not have homes on them, and police said that while the dogs appeared well-cared-for, the owner was not present.

Police officer Eric Caspillo said the parents told him they found the boy lying motionless as the dog continued its attack. The Liddles took the child in their car to get help, and turned him over to an emergency medical crew on Kuhio Highway. The child was pronounced dead at Wilcox Memorial Hospital.

The dog's fate has not been determined. Rhoades said the Kaua'i Police Department will decide whether to seek a court order to have the dog declared a dangerous animal that should be humanely destroyed or securely fenced in an escape-proof kennel.

While the dog was not known to have bitten people before, Caspillo said it readily attacked the tires of passing cars and when he approached the animal, "it rushed me."

Eve Holt of the Hawaiian Humane Society in Honolulu said it is difficult to get comprehensive statistics on dog bites because some cases are reported to the counties' humane societies, some only to the police, and some not at all. Holt's agency recorded 193 dog bite cases from July 1, 2002, to June 30, 2003, which is close to the annual average for O'ahu.

Holt said the Hawaiian Humane Society has a free dog-bite prevention program and will provide speakers upon request. For information, call the society on O'ahu at 946-2187, ext. 222.