Four toddlers killed by dogs in 10 days: lessons yet to be learned - Animals 24-7 (2024)

(Beth Clifton collage)

Two Alabama toddler deaths again illustrate weakness of “one free bite” Emily’s Law

NEW HOPE, Alabama; MONROE CENTER, Illinois––Two-year-old Mark Alan Partain, youngest child of Kayla and Jason Partain of New Hope, slipped outside shortly after 5:00 p.m. on Friday evening, March 1, 2024.

Neighbor Rickey D. Clark, 67, told the Madison County Sheriff’s Office, Owens Cross Road Police Department, New Hope Police Department, and local media that he believes Mark Alan Partain opened a gate that was latched, but not locked, to enter his yard.

Rickey D. Clark.
(WAAY 31 News photo from video)

Owner “Couldn’t believe it”

Clark’s dogs, a husky and a German shepherd/golden retriever mix, killed the child before anyone realized he was outside.

“I couldn’t believe it because my dogs ain’t never growled or barked at nobody or nothing,” Clark told WAAY-TV, of Huntsville.

“If I even had a clue that those dogs were going to hurt anybody, I wouldn’t have had them,” Clark insisted.

Clark theorized, rather improbably, that his dogs had tried to protect Mark Alan Partrain “from a brown bulldog that had been running through the neighborhood,” he said.

Mark Alan Partrain.
(Facebook photo)

Blames “that other dog”

The victim “might have opened the gate, and that other dog might have come in here with him, and then they might have all went at it, and he might have been right in the middle of it,” Clark suggested.

“Clark’s dogs were taken by animal control and set to be returned to him after 10 days,” WAAY-TV reported.

Mark Alan Partrain was the fourth toddler in two weeks to be killed by dangerous dogs, following apparent Great Dane victim Duke Miller Whittington, killed on February 29, 2024 in Monroe Center, Illinois; four-year-old Beau Clark, killed by an Olde English Bulldogge pit bull variant on February 26, 2024 in Hartselle, Alabama; and two-week-old Brayden Heery Burwell, son of Joseph and Shelley Heery, killed by their husky at their home in Milford, Connecticut.

(See .)

Duke Miller Whittington with his father.
(Facebook photo from video)

Duke Miller Whittington

Four-year-old Duke Miller Whittington was son of Nick and Rachel Whittington.

The Whittingtons operate four businesses, the LFD Great Danes breeding kennels, Limestone Sphinx cattery, Nick’s Automotive vehicle electronics garage, and another business, Defensive Shooting Inc., clustered at the intersection of North Limestone Road and Edson Road, about two miles north of the actual village of Monroe Center, population 400, but only about a quarter mile east of I-39, 19 miles south of Rockford.

What exactly happened at the Whittington property is unclear, but the Ogle County Sheriff’s Department was called to the scene at about 4:40 p.m.

Duke Miller Whittington was reportedly pronounced dead on arrival at the nearest hospital.

The Limestone Sphynx & LFD Great Danes page on their Facebook page announced the next day that, “Due to a loss in our immediate family, we’ve decided that we will no longer be raising Great Danes. Anyone with deposits in will be refunded. We are also going to be rehoming a number of our adults.”

Left: the Clark family. Right: Beau Clark.
(Facebook photos)

A dog is not a weapon

The first simple, obvious lesson that can be drawn from the four fatal dog attacks on toddlers in just ten days is that big reactive dogs and small children are an inherently dangerous combination.

A second, concurrent and related lesson, should be that a dog is not a weapon, and should not be kept or trained to protect either people or property.

An effective watchdog is a vigilant dog who barks a warning, not a dog who dismembers a perceived intruder irrespective of the identity and intent of the victim, and irrespective of whether the supposed crime in progress would actually carry dismemberment or death as a legal penalty upon conviction.

Elizabeth and Wyatt Caddel with baby Leo. (Facebook photo)

Alabama has bad record

Further to be noted is that Alabama, human population five million, has now had 14 dog attack fatalities since 2017, 12 of them by pit bulls and free-roaming packs believed to include pit bulls.

The March 1, 2024 death of Mark Alan Partain in New Hope, Alabama, appears to have been only the second of the 14 Alabama fatalities since 2017 definitely not involving a pit bull, unless Rickey Clark’s theory involving a pit bull can be proven.

The first of the 14 Alabama dog attack fatalities that definitely did not involve a pit bull was three-month-old Leo Caddel, attacked in his grandparents’ kitchen by a wolf hybrid on November 30, 2023. Multiple adults were present, but none were able to react in time to save Caddel.

(See Alabama wolf hybrid baby killing: Jack London knew “bastard wolves”.)

Illinois, human population 12.7 million, has had eight dog attack fatalities since 2017, six of them by pit bull.

Connecticut, human population 3.6 million, has had just four dog attack fatalities since 2017, three of them by pit bull, and one––the death of Brayden Heery Burwell––by husky.

Brayden Heery Burwell. (Beth Clifton collage)

Alabama dog-keeping habits

From this data, one may infer that while pit bulls are by far and away the most deadly dogs in all three of these very different states, ranging geographically from the Deep South to the central Midwest to coastal New England, the dog-keeping habits of Alabama clearly accentuate the risk.

Those habits include a greater tendency for Alabama residents to keep multiple dogs, keep pit bulls, allow dogs to run at large, neglect spay/neuter, and keep dogs on chains, instead of securely behind fences that the dogs can neither jump over nor tunnel under, and that small children––like Mark Alan Partrain and Beau Clark––cannot enter by themselves.

To what extent any or all of these habits contribute to any given dog attack fatality, and to the overall Alabama dog attack death toll, may be endlessly debated.

One or more of these factors, however, appear to be involved in 13 of the 14 recent Alabama dog attack deaths.

Emily Mae & Eric Colvin.
(Beth Clifton collage)

Emily Mae Colvin

Further to blame is the weak design of Alabama animal care-and-control laws, which appear to be crafted more to protect owners of dangerous dogs than to prevent dog attacks.

New Hope, Alabama, where Mark Alan Partain became the most recent Alabama dog attack victim, is about 40 miles east of Hartselle, where four-year-old Beau Clark was fatally mauled by an “Olde English Bulldogge” pit bull variant on February 26, 2024.

New Hope is also 40 miles west of Section, where Emily Mae Colvin, 24, was killed by a neighbor’s five pit bulls in front of her own home on December 7, 2017.

(See Emily Mae Colvin, 24, is record 35th U.S. pit bull fatality of 2017).

(Beth Clifton collage)

Emily’s Law made matters worse

And New Hope is 40 miles northwest of Guntersville, Alabama, where vegan blogger Tracy Patterson Cornelius, 46,was killed by four pit bulls on November 29, 2017, after rushing to the aid of her friend Valeria Hinojosa, whose own pit bull the other four had attacked.

Emily’s Law, introduced in memory of Emily Mae Colvin, took effect on June 1, 2018, but made matters worse instead of better.

ANIMALS 24-7pointed out on March 26, 2018, under the headlineNew Alabama law increases penalties for dogattacks but does little to prevent them,that the “one free bite” exemption incorporated into Emily’s Law would render it ineffective.

Alabama governor Kay Ivey, however, a Republican, had already signed the bill into law a week earlier.

(Beth Clifton collage)

Protects owners of dangerous dogs

Emily’s Law co-authors Steve Livingston, a Republican state senator from Scottsboro, and Republican state representatives Tommy Hanes of Scottsboro and Nathaniel Ledbetter of Rainsville, among them they could scarcely have crafted a bill doing more to protect owners of dangerous dogs from the consequences of first known attacks.

Regardless of how many animals a dog might have killed, and regardless of whatever other history comes to light, a dog is now officially deemed “dangerous” in Alabama only if the dog has already injured a human in a previous reported attack.

Beth & Merritt Clifton.

(See Alabama mauling: “Emily’s Law” fails to protect public from pit bulls.)

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Recent Alabama dog attack victims other than those whose deaths are detailed above:

Joe Cleveland Scott, 73, 2-28-2023, McDonald Chapel, Alabama. Killed by six-dog dog pack including pit bull, boxer, and German shepherd/Malinois mixes.

(SeeRiverside County, California extends lead in fatal dog attacks.)

Jonirus Davis. (Facebook photo)

Jonirus Davis, 31, 11-1-2023, Lowndes County, Alabama. Sanitation worker fell off and was crushed by garbage truck while under attack by pit bull.

(See Halloween 2023: three dead by pit bull in 24 hours; U.K. bans XL Bullies.)

Sharon Kaye Billups Portis, 63, 11-9-2023, Birmingham, Alabama. Killed by a pack of three pit bulls seen at site.

(SeeIf dogs kill your mama or grandma, don’t expect the law to give a damn.)

Demarcus “Sam” Kenzie II, 27, 7-29-2023, Skipperville, Alabama. Pack attack by dogs with priors.

(SeePit bull death of 93-year-old woman ends streak of 4 killings of adult men.)

Michele Dill Sheeks. (Beth Clifton collage)

Michelle Sheeks, 44, 7-12-2022, Red Bay, Alabama, died nearly three months after being injured in April 28 attack that also led to death of Alabama Public Health Department worker Jacqueline Summer Beard.

(See Five pit bull attack deaths in five days: these were the victims.)

Jacqueline Summer Beard, 58, 4-29-2022, Red Bay, Alabama. Alabama Public Health Department workerMichelle Sheekswas fatally injured by the same six or seven pit bulls while investigating the attack the next day. Pit bull owner Brandy Dowdy was charged with manslaughter for both deaths, and wile out on bond was arrested for possession of methamphetamine and drug paraphernalia, but has yet to be tried for any of the alleged offenses.

(See Five pit bull attack deaths in five days: these were the victims.)

Frank Jerome Cobb.
(Beth Clifton collage)

Frank Jerome Cobb, 70, September 21, 2021, Phenix City, AL. Killed by pit bull running at large.

(See Six pit bull-related deaths linked to “The Wickedest City in America”)

Ruthie Mae Brown, 36, Nauvoo, AL, 10-19-2020; unwitnessed pack attack.

James Derle Patterson, 63, of Dadeville, Alabama, died on May 7, 2017 from a heart attack after apparently being knocked off a small gasoline-powered scooter and being mauled by two or more pit bulls.

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  • Pit bull death of 4-year-old underscores “March For Our Lives” messages
  • Virginia pit bull fancier, 22, sets new record for pit bull deaths in one year


Four toddlers killed by dogs in 10 days: lessons yet to be learned - Animals 24-7 (2024)


How many kids have dogs killed? ›

In 2019, 48 dog attacks resulted in human death: 13 child victims, 3 victims (ages 10-18) and 32 adult victims. The state of California had the most dog bite-related fatalities in 2019 with 9 deaths. In 2018, 36 dog attacks resulted in human death: 15 child victims and 21 adult victims.

Why do dogs attack children for no reason? ›

Most dog aggression towards children is fear based, though many dogs will also show aspects of food, possessive and territorial aggression as well. According to the CDC, 800,000 people seek medical attention for dog bites each year, half of which are children.

What dog is most likely to bite a child? ›

Researchers found pit bulls and mixed breed dogs have the highest risk of biting and cause the most damage per bite. The same goes for dogs with wide and short heads weighing between 66 and 100 pounds.

Why do dogs maul babies? ›

Researchers suggest the main cause of aggression in dogs stems from territorial behavior: Children under the age of 6 were more likely to be bitten when a dog felt the kids were threatening to take his food or toys. Older children were bitten when the dog felt the kids were intruding on his territory.

What breed of dog has the most attacks? ›

The breed that is most likely to be involved in a fatal attack is pit bulls. Pit bulls may present a greater danger than other breeds for many reasons, such as because they have been bred to be more aggressive, are less likely to back down during fights and are less likely to give a warning before a bite.

Should a dog be put down for attacking a child? ›

A: California law permits the state to euthanize a dangerous dog if it poses a significant threat to the public.

Should you get rid of your dog if it bites your child? ›

If the bite was not severe, and/or if you can clearly see that your child provoked the dog, and/or you find out your dog was ill and that's why they bit your child, you may choose to keep your dog and stick to some new strategies to ensure your child stays safe in the future.

What to do when a dog bites a toddler? ›

If a dog bites your child, contact your doctor, especially if the dog is not yours. Some dog bites need to be treated in an emergency department. Some dog bites can seem minor on the surface but can cause deeper injuries to muscle, bone, and nerves.

What is the #1 dog to bite? ›

Study after study agrees. The breed of dog most likely to bite and attack humans and other animals is the pit bull. A census finds that pit bulls were responsible for at least 346 deaths in the United States in the past 15 years.

Which dog will not bite humans? ›

Labrador Retrievers, Cavalier King Charles Spaniels and Newfoundlands are among the safest dog breeds that are least likely to bite, new research has found. While any dog can nip, these breeds are known for their particularly sweet-tempered spirit as long as they are treated right.

Do dogs see babies as prey? ›

Fortunately, most dogs look upon a baby with curiosity and interest and will show no signs of aggression or other negative behavior. However, some dogs may perceive an infant as a strange mammal or even a potential item of prey. "Dogs that have never seen a baby may not view them as human beings."

How do dogs know not to hurt babies? ›

Instinct/Intuition: Our perceptive pets are more intelligent than what we often give them credit for. They are quite brilliant beings when it comes to detecting and acting on certain cues and subtleties in their environment. In this instance they are able to sense that a baby does not pose a threat to them.

Why would a dog snap at a child? ›

Simply put, dogs can't use words to talk to us. They can't say, “Please don't do that to me. I don't like it.” They can't reason with a small child to quit pulling their ears or quit crawling on them. Instead, they communicate via the only means available to them–they growl or snap.

How common are dog attacks on kids? ›

More than 2 million children are bitten by dogs each year in America. The Humane Society estimates 51% of dog bite victims are children.

How many children hurt animals? ›

Animal abuse by children is common, with 3-44% of children being reported to abuse animals at some point during their childhood.

How do dogs maul humans? ›

Severe and fatal dog attacks have in common that the dog or dogs involved carry out multiple, targeted bites (focused bites to bring the victim down and subsequent bites to the neck and face) and shaking until the victim ceases movement.

What are the odds of being bitten by a dog? ›

A quarter of participants (24.78%, 95% CI 21.72 to 28.13) reported having ever been bitten by a dog during their lifetime, with only a third of bites described requiring further medical treatment and 0.6% hospital admission. Incidence of dog bites was 18.7 (11.0–31.8) per 1000 population per year.


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