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BITING BACK - Dog-attack law expected to be passed today; 5-y-o victim needs plastic surgery

Published:Tuesday | November 17, 2020 | 12:15 AMCarl Gilchrist/Gleaner Writer
Cavelle Newsome and her Akita companion, Samson. Newsome says that she is in agreement with the proposed dog-bite law that holds negligent owners criminally responsible for attacks.
Cavelle Newsome and her Akita companion, Samson. Newsome says that she is in agreement with the proposed dog-bite law that holds negligent owners criminally responsible for attacks.
Mickele Allen
Mickele Allen

The blurred yet graphic photograph of five-year-old Mickele Allen, his hands and feet lacerated and scalp blood-red from a ferocious attack by a pack of hounds, will embolden Justice Minister Delroy Chuck to press through passage of the new dog-bite law in Parliament this afternoon, the culmination of a fight to hold negligent owners criminally responsible.

Deliberations on the Dogs (Liability for Attacks) Bill will resume at the committee stage before passage by lawmakers in the House of Representatives.

Chuck said he was jolted by the trauma suffered by young Mickele and views the incident as a tragic example of why the proposed law seeks to penalise offenders and curb the incidence of dog attacks.

“I certainly am very sympathetic. I feel it’s a most unfortunate case that should never have happened,” he told The Gleaner on Monday night.

“I urge dog owners to secure their dogs. This bill will ensure that the owners of dogs in their private space that cause injuries in the public space be held criminally responsible. I urge dog owners to control their dogs.”

While declining to offer a timeline on the tabling and passage on corollary legislation, Chuck said on Monday that tougher measures on impounding and euthanasia were key to buttressing the new dog-bite law.

Mickele will need to undergo plastic surgery to fully recover, a medical official at the St Ann’s Bay Regional Hospital has said.

Speaking with permission from the child’s parents, Senior Medical Officer Dr Tanya Hamilton-Johnson told The Gleaner that the boy’s condition is being stabilised before he can be transferred to the Bustamante Hospital for Children in Kingston.

That transfer will likely take place by Tuesday.

“He’s stable, but we will need some expert management in terms of plastic surgery, and so on,” Hamilton-Johnson said.

“It’s been a sad, sad weekend, but we’re glad that he is alive and we’re doing our best ... . He had to be transfused a lot of blood, and so on. The damage by the dogs was significant and extensive,” she added.

Meanwhile, the family remains devastated by the brutal attack in St D’Acre, St Ann, that saw the boy being bitten all over his body after he fell in a bid to escape.

The police report states that he was bitten on the head, legs, arms and back, with photos appearing to show the most significant damage being done to his head and side of his face, along with one of his arms.

The boy’s mother, Shereen Grindley, took a few moments off from feeding her son at the hospital to speak to The Gleaner on Monday.

“The siblings are taking it very hard,” she said. “I’m trying my very best not to break down, because I’m the head of the family and breaking down would make no sense.”

But as stoutly as she tries to remain strong, the frailty of her humanity is still apparent.

“Sometimes I cry,” she said. “Sometimes when I look at my son I have to cry.”

But as the hospital team that worked tirelessly over several hours on Sunday to save Mickele’s life continues to care for him in anticipation of a transfer to Bustamante, it is cause for hope among the family.

“At the end of the day, I still have to give him hope,” Grindley said. “His life is still here and he’s recuperating, and I think he will be better.”

Little Mickele’s condition could have been worse were it not for the intervention of Stanford Shaw.

Shaw was driving home from church some time after 1 o’clock when he came upon the gruesome scene of six dogs mauling the prostrate figure of a five-year-old.

“I saw the dogs them have him on the ground, and I stopped to check and see if he was alive,” Shaw related to The Gleaner.

Shaw said even after he stopped and tried to chase away the dogs, they persisted.

Eventually, they retreated.

“Then I called the police, but ... the police don’t turn up. I was there for about 20 to 25 minutes and then I had to take him up and take him to the (Alexandria) hospital.”

A doctor was at the hospital, but there was no vehicle to transfer him to the better resourced St Ann’s Bay facility. There was no vehicle available at the nearby police station either, he said. An ambulance came later to transfer the boy to the St Ann’s Bay Regional Hospital.

Meanwhile, the police have questioned one woman who has admitted to owning one of the dogs that attacked Mickele.

Head of the St Ann police, Superintendent Carlos Russell, said that lawmen were on the scene on Monday to conduct further investigations.

“They would have located one person who owns one of the six dogs,” Russell revealed.

“She said she had tied the dog, but the dog seemed to have gotten loose and strayed on to the road.”

He said efforts are being made to try to identify the owners of the other dogs, but noted that some may well be stray animals.

Russell said that the family would have to pursue civil action, because the dog-bite legislation has not yet been passed by Parliament.