Sheriff's deputies and Hernando County Fire Rescue responded just before 11 a.m. on Monday to a 911 call for a dog attack on an 18-month old boy in Istachatta, Florida. Sadly, when they arrived, they found it was too late to save him. Little Declan Moss was already dead, according to Tampa Bay.com, mauled to death by two family dogs.
The toddler had reportedly been playing on the porch and yard of the family’s mobile home with two family dogs, Thumper and Max, while his grandfather, George Moss, 51, watched him.
Although the dogs are being described only as medium-sized and mixed-breeds, neighbors told WFLA 8 On Your Side that they were Pit Bulls, and that they attacked the boy suddenly. They said Declan's grandfather ran out of the house and tried to pull the dogs off, but the dogs “wouldn't let go of each other or the baby.”
Neighbor Charles Shorey cried as he described the toddler as a “beautiful kid.” He also told News Channel 8 that, although they had not harmed humans before, the Moss’ family dogs were dangerous to other animals and that Max and Thumper had killed smaller dogs in the past.
Hernando County Sheriff Al Nienhuis said: “It is a terrible, terrible event today. Obviously, even those of us who work with death and dying and serious injury, the firefighters on scene were heartbroken.”
He told reporters that detectives are conducting an investigation to determine whether criminal charges will be filed.
Sheriff's Office agency spokesman Michael Terry said, “We still don't understand entirely what occurred."
According to Terry, family members have expressed shock at the dogs' aggression and that the Sheriff's Office has no issues or complaints about the dogs on file.
Thumper is about 6 years old, and Max is about 18 months old, born at about the same time as the toddler, Tampa Bay.com reports. The dogs are being evaluated at Hernando County Animal Services in Brooksville, Florida.
About 10 family members gathered at the home to grieve the young boy, including his mother, Sheila Moss, Terry said. "They never thought the dogs, from their comments, would act this way and do something to this infant."
Sheriff Neienhuis told Fox 13 News that he had spoken with the toddler’s mother and she had defended the dogs and said that it "wasn’t’ necessarily their breed." There are reportedly two more dogs at the home, not believed to have been involved in the attack.
Deputies were continuing to investigate at the Moss' home late Monday afternoon and are said to reveal more details on the incident today.