Girl strangled as playful dog pulls scarf
How tragic. :(
Vivian S. Toy
New York Times News Service
Jan. 26, 2006 05:13 PM
In a bizarre accident, a 6-year-old girl was strangled Tuesday in her backyard on Long Island, N.Y., when the family dog tugged on her scarf while they played behind the house in Manorville, the Suffolk County police said Wednesday.
The girl, Kaitlyn Hassard, had just arrived home from school around 4:30 p.m. when the dog, an 18-month-old female golden retriever named Jessy, greeted her inside the house by tugging on her scarf, the police said.
Kaitlyn's mother, Korey Hassard, put the dog in the backyard and told Kaitlyn, her 9-year-old sister and 11-year-old brother to get ready to help her run an errand. About 10 minutes later, after Hassard answered a phone call, the brother went out in the yard to look for Kaitlyn and found her unconscious, the police said.
The police said it was clear that the 70-pound dog had grabbed the scarf in its mouth and dragged Kaitlyn, who weighed about 40 pounds, a short distance, tightening the scarf around her neck. She was pronounced dead of asphyxiation at Brookhaven Memorial Hospital, the police said.
Detective Lt. Jack Fitzpatrick said no bite marks or scrapes were found on the girl. "It looks like the dog was just playing tug of war with the child's scarf," he said, calling the death "a very tragic story."
James Talamini, a friend who spoke on behalf of the family, said: "The dog pulled on her scarf and she was asphyxiated. It was a complete accident." He said the Hassards were "coping as best they can under the circumstances."
The Hassards live in a relatively new Suffolk County subdivision of well-kept homes, with SUVs in driveways and picket fences closing in spacious backyards.
Talamini said the family got Jessy about a year ago and had never had any problems with her playing too roughly with the children. He said Kaitlyn had just turned 6 last Saturday. "She was a bright, smart, energetic, beautiful 6-year-old," he said.
The dog was taken to the Brookhaven Animal Shelter. Town officials said that family members had decided they did not want the dog back in their home, but had not requested that it be destroyed.
"The animal is gentle and is showing no signs of aggression at the shelter," said Mark Grossman, a deputy supervisor for the Town of Brookhaven. He said the shelter had already received dozens of calls from people asking to adopt the dog. An adoption seems likely, he said.
Roy Gross, chief of the Suffolk County Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, said that golden retrievers were generally not aggressive dogs.
"But they can be very playful, and I would guess that the dog didn't mean to harm the girl in any way," he said. "There was probably one-in-a-million chance for something like this to happen." He said that golden retrievers were so gentle and affectionate that the society used them as therapy dogs, taking them to nursing homes and hospitals to cheer patients up.
Janet Leek, a board member of the Long Island Golden Retriever Club and a dog breeder, said the average weight for an adult female golden retriever was about 65 pounds. She said that dogs younger than 2 years could be rambunctious.
"If I have puppies to sell, I usually will tell people to wait until their children are at least 6 years old," she said. "Because they are a retrieving breed and they might take the kids' toys or take a child's arm in their mouths, just playing with them."