Saturday, August 30, 2014
AMHERST — Two children at Crocker Farm School suffered minor injuries when they were bitten by a loose dog on the playground during the first day of school Thursday.
Detective Michael Forcum said police were called to the school at 1:26 p.m. after the children were in the nurse’s office being treated. One child was bitten on her hip, the other child on her thigh, and in both cases the skin was pierced, Forcum said. The children had been outside during recess for fourth and fifth graders.
A man entered the playground and retrieved the dog which had been running loose before they quickly left the school property, Forcum said. The dog was described to police as beige and white, possibly a pit bull terrier or boxer.
The man and the dog were not identified and, despite an extensive search of nearby neighborhoods Thursday afternoon and evening by Officer James Damouras, have not yet been located. Police are still hoping to locate the dog owner.
A letter sent home to parents by Crocker Farm principal Derek Shea informed them of the incident. “Please let us know if your child would benefit from additional support after this unfortunate event,” Shea wrote.
Renata Shepard, the mother of one of the children bitten, said in an email Friday that her daughter, Juliana, is doing fine. A doctor used stretch strips rather than stitches to treat the wound and minimize infection. The family is still awaiting the doctor’s recommendation regarding rabies shots since it is not know if the dog had up-to-date vaccinations.
Shepard said she is pleased with the school’s response to the incident and quick action, but disappointed that the person in control of the dog fled.
”What I am upset about is the owner or walker who ran off,” Shepard said. “That lack of accountability really needs to be punished somehow. Accident or not, the owner is ultimately accountable.”
Animal Welfare Officer Carol Hepburn said the town’s bylaws prohibit loose dogs on school grounds. A $50 fine can be issued to an owner for allowing a dog to run off leash at a school.
If similar incidents occur in the future, Hepburn said staff should try to take a picture of the pet and its owner using a smartphone, and also try to get the name of the person before leaving.
Hepburn said playground monitors should always be aware of any animals that might enter the area children are playing.
“Teachers need to be diligent about any kind of dog that might be loose,” Hepburn said. “It’s best to keep dogs off school grounds, whether on leash, off leash or friendly.”
While a dog can injure children through bites, Hepburn observed dogs also can injure smaller children by knocking them down.
Scott Merzbach can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.