Dog Attack Scars Face of 3-Year-Old Victim in San Diego Park, Mother Wants Change in Rabies Quarantine Policy

| by Phyllis M Daugherty

A gruesome dog attack at Balboa Park in San Diego, Calif., left a 3-year-old girl with extensive facial scaring that will require numerous surgeries. Her mother is calling for changes after the dog was allowed to return home following the incident.

Cortney Schwalbe and her two daughters were looking at the fish near the Lily Pond on Oct. 27, 2013, when the attack occurred. Schwalbe, a professional photographer, was snapping photos when she heard a noise.

“I just heard a scream, and I knew it was my child,” Schwalbe told 10News. “It was horrible. There was blood everywhere.”

Schwalbe ran to her 3-year-old daughter, Kennedy. Witnesses reported that a tan Chihuahua ran up to Kennedy and bit her in the face, biting off part of her lip.

While waiting for the child to be transported to the hospital, Schwalbe approached the dog’s owner and asked her for information.

“She refused,” Schwalbe said.

The young victim was rushed to Rady Children’s Hospital, where a plastic surgeon sewed up the severe wounds to her face and lips.

The following day, Schwalbe discovered the owner had provided her information to Chula Vista authorities, and the dog had been sent home with its owner, who lives in Chula Vista. (Chula Vista is a city in the southern part of San Diego County.)

“I was told [that] because the owner lived in Chula Vista, their animal control had to handle it, but they were closed,” Schwalbe said.

10News reports it took two days before the Chula Vista Animal Care Facility began a home quarantine to monitor for rabies. Schwalbe requested the dog be quarantined at the shelter.

“I was scared," Schwalbe said. "We didn’t know whether my daughter needed a rabies treatment, which is very painful.”

Schwalbe said she was told that since the dog had no prior history of attacks, it would remain at home.

“I was angry," she said. "I think after a vicious attack like that, the dog should be taken immediately by animal control. In the language in state statutes, this was a vicious dog because of the attack.”

State law allows for quarantines at the "discretion of the local health officer." However, the worried mother claims the Chula Vista policy allows irresponsible dog owners to police themselves, which could allow the dogs to get out.

“It's not responsible, it puts people at risk,” Schwalbe said.

A Chula Vista spokesperson issued a statement to clarify the policy.

“The city of Chula Vista follows state law that allows the city discretionary authority to permit dog owners to self-quarantine their dogs where the owner represents that they will not let the dog outdoors unattended during the 10-day quarantine period," the statement reads. "Animal Care Facility officers monitored the dog during the quarantine period and it was determined not to exhibit signs of rabies. After the 10-day period the quarantine was lifted.”

Schwalbe plans to file suit against the dog owner next week. Her lawyer, Ross Jurewitz, will send the suit to city leaders in hopes of changing the policy.

“The onus should be on Chula Vista to put the victim first, not the dog and its owner,” Jurewitz told 10News.

“My daughter is very self-conscious about the scar,” Schwalbe said. “We’re told she will likely have to have more plastic surgery. I would never want another family to go through this,” she said.

Source: 10 News