June 20, 2018
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Two girls, 5 and 9, attacked by dogs in separate Harpswell incidents

By Darren Fishell, Times Record

HARPSWELL, Maine — Two young girls are recovering from separate dog bite incidents Sunday that sent both to the hospital and leaves one girl facing treatment for rabies.

Harpswell Animal Control Officer George Lee Johnson said Tuesday morning that a 9-year-old girl and 5-year-old girl were bitten in separate incidents on Sunday.

The 9-year-old girl, from New Gloucester, was visiting family friends at 235 Cundy’s Harbor Road and playing in a yard shared with neighbors when a pit bull belonging to those neighbors entered the yard.

“It was just an unprovoked attack,” Johnson said. “(The dog) just jumped on her and bit down on her neck.”

Johnson said the dog was unregistered and had not received a rabies vaccination. Johnson said he spoke with the girl’s father Tuesday and was told she is in good condition and will likely receive treatment for rabies.

Johnson said that the dog also lashed out at a law enforcement officer who responded to the call.

In a separate incident Sunday, a family pet attacked a 5-year-old girl in a home at 300 Long Point Road. Johnson said that child is also in good condition. Johnson said the breed of that dog is unclear, but that the owner told him it is a Boxer and Wire-haired terrier mix.

Johnson said both owners were fined for having a dangerous dog, and both animals were quarantined for 10 days.

Johnson said he “will closely monitor the situations” with both dogs and that he is assured that neighbors of both homes will “have their eyes on what’s going on.”

Beyond further fines, Johnson said there is not much that he can do if the dogs stay confined to their owners’ properties.

“I can’t take the dog and police can’t do anything with the dog,” Johnson said.

In six years on the job, Johnson said he has only handled four dog bites, including the two Sunday, which he said were the worst that he had seen.

History and prevention

Johnson said the pit bull at 235 Cundy’s Harbor Road has no record of fines with the town. In the Long Point Road incident, Johnson said he learned Tuesday that other family members had been bitten by the dog in the past and recommended that it be euthanized.

“People’s behaviors with their dogs, I just don’t get sometimes,” Johnson said. “Even if they bite someone or another animal they just don’t get it.”

Johnson said the situation is difficult to prevent because there is no way for him to know whether a dog is registered or dangerous until something is reported.

“It’s a very difficult situation,” Johnson said. “People love their dogs and in some cases it may be the only thing that they have. I wish I had the answer as to how to prevent it.”

Johnson said he would recommend caution around strange dogs, but that such caution would not have prevented either incident Sunday.

In each case, Johnson said, the child was not attempting to approach or provoke the dogs.

“I wish I could say there was a good lesson learned here,” Johnson said, “but there’s nothing they could have done.”

Correction: An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated that the 9-year-old girl is from Harpswell. She is from New Gloucester.

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