By Ellen Eldridge firstname.lastname@example.org
Ethan Fain spent 14 nights in the hospital after his face and ears were injured in a violent dog mauling on Christmas Eve in Gwinnett County.
The 7-year-old needed 300 stitches, and one of his ears had to be sewn into the skin of his abdomen for a future reattachment surgery, mother Tracy Dowdy Fain said.
Ethan’s parents didn’t know what had happened w h e n t h ey h e a rd h i m screaming from beyond the fence.
They assumed one of the neighbor’s pit bulls grabbed him from a tree limb and pulled him into their yard.
Dowdy Fain cleared the fence to rescue her boy, but his right ear was gone and his left ear was hanging from loose, shredded flesh.
Though Ethan has been home from the hospital for a few weeks, he still needs regular medical care, Dowdy Fain said. He sees doctors for his injuries and post-traumatic stress disorder two to three times a week.
“Ethan still has nightmares and panic attacks related to the attack,” Dowdy Fain said.
But Ethan isn’t afraid of his 2-year-old Blue Heeler/ Border Collie mix, Jax.
“He’s very protective of Ethan,” Dowdy Fain said. “He tried to get over the fence to Ethan the day of the attack.”
Dowdy Fain’s personal injury attorney, Ginger Wentz, said the dog’s owner Tim Christian is facing a maximum penalty of up to 12 months in jail and a $1,000 fine for reckless misconduct if he is convicted.
“I think he is getting off with a slap on the wrist,” Dowdy Fain told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
Christian appeared in cour t last week for an arraignment, but his attorney asked to reschedule.
Wentz said if a dog killed a chicken that belonged to a neighbor, the dog owner would be financially responsible, but that’s not the case when a dog bites a person.
“Georgia’s laws need to change because they make it almost impossible to hold the dog owner responsible,” Wentz said.
Ethan’s medical bills are mounting, and the family has a GoFundMe page to help with some of the costs of Ethan’s care.
The attorney said criminal cases against dog owners whose dogs bite are difficult to prosecute because the state has strict definitions for “dangerous dog” and “viciousness.”
“Ultimately, the goal would be responsible dog ownership,” Wentz said.
The fence separating the yards was 4 feet high. Dowdy Fain thinks it should be a requirement for pit bull owners to have a taller fence, pay more for registration and face higher fines.
Christian surrendered two of his four dogs, and they were destroyed by Gwinnett County Animal Control, spokesman Deon Washington said.
Christian still has two pit bulls in his possession.
“Makes me sick to my stomach,” Dowdy Fain said. “I’m beyond livid; my son could have lost his life.”