Emily Dwyer usually loves going to the park, but when she and her family went on an outing to Bowring Park last week, she couldn’t even get out of the car.
"I was too scared, there were so many dogs around,” she said.
The 14-year-old always liked dogs. That is, until last month, when she was viciously attacked by a PIT BULL, which belonged to her boyfriend’s brother, Matthew Michael Whelan. Now the sight of a dog causes her to shake uncontrollably.
On Tuesday, Emily was in provincial court in St. John’s, where Whelan faced a judge on charges of breaching the Animal Health Protection Act — failing to keep his dog tethered or penned at all times and unlawfully allowing a companion animal to cause a hazard.
Outside the courtroom, Emily showed reporters the injuries to her arm. It happened April 10. Emily had been at a party in the Mundy Pond area with her boyfriend and other friends. A few of them decided to leave and go to her boyfriend’s house on Cairo Street.
Emily and her friend left separately and when they arrived at the house, they went in to wait for her boyfriend and other friends. Once inside the house, she asked Whelan to put the dog in another room so she could go to the washroom, she said.
Instead, he held onto the dog’s tail while he talked on the phone, she said. The dog got loose and ran after her.
“I panicked. I was terrified,” Emily said. She said she ran into a bedroom, but the dog jumped up, bit her and dragged her to the floor.
“Matthew had to beat the dog with a piece of wood to get it off me,” she said.
She ran downstairs over a baby gate, holding her injured arm.
“Matthew didn’t even come downstairs to check and see how I was,” said Emily, who suffered lacerations and muscle damage from the attack.
Ten days after Emily was bitten, the same dog was said to have atacked another child — this time, a young boy, whose injuries are reportedly more serious.
Whelan said nothing in court Tuesday. His case is due back before a judge July 14 to allow him time to get a lawyer.
Whelan was first in court last week, when the judge granted a police officer’s application to have Whelan’s pit bull, Diesel, euthanized. However, a day later, an application was presented in court by lawyer Averill Baker on behalf of a dog group hoping to stay the judge’s ruling and save the dog’s life. Arguments to hear that application will be made Friday.
The pit bull was impounded after the incidents and has been handed over to the Humane Society, where it will remain until the courts decide its fate.
Emily’s mother, Melissa, said the dog should be put down and is shocked that many people seem to be more concerned with what happens to the dog than the safety of children.
“It’s quite frustrating because nobody is even concerned about the kids, it seems,” said Melissa, who added doctors treating Emily said that had the dog bitten her neck, she likely would not have survived.
“Unfortunately, it’s not the dog’s fault. I believe it was how it was raised. But, at this point, the dog has attacked twice.”
Melissa said she has nothing against pit bulls — just this pit bull, in particular. However, she believes the dog is getting sympathy because of the negative reputation associated with the breed.
“If this wasn’t a pit bull, it would’ve been put down right away. They’re only concerned about giving (the breed) any more of a bad name than what they have now. If it was a German shepherd, a Shih Tzu or a beagle, do you think people would be coming forward fighting to keep it alive? No, they wouldn’t.
“I’ve got nothing against pit bulls. It’s about this dog, in particular.”
Melissa said Emily’s physical scars are healing, but the psychological damage will take longer.
“She’ll never be the same,” she said.
“I love animals,” Emily added, “but I don’t want any other kid to be traumatized like this.”