A family Christmas party near Walterboro took a violent turn Saturday when a pit bull attacked a 4-year-old boy, shredding the back of his head and sending him to the hospital.
Christopher Ranly, a blond-haired boy known as "Little Chris," can't remember what happened to land him at the Medical University of South Carolina Children's Hospital. His blue eyes looked weary Monday as he watched "Beauty and the Beast" on the television in his room, clinging to a "Get Well Soon" balloon with one hand and a stuffed bear with the other.
Chris lives in Greeneville, Tenn., with his mother, Brandy, and his 2-year-old sister, Ashlyn. His father, also Chris Ranly, or "Big Chris," works in South Carolina and sometimes gets to see his family only every few months.
The Ranlys reunited for a Christmas party at the home of Big Chris' uncle, Joe Ranly. Brandy said her son grabbed an apple and walked outside to eat it when Joe Ranly's pit bull attacked.
"All of a sudden people were running in, screaming that one of the babies had been mauled," Brandy Ranly said Monday. "Then I heard someone say 'Christopher.' "
The mother dashed outside to find that the dog had shaken her 30-pound son so violently that the boy's shoe flew off. He needed about 30 staples in his scalp and a drain for the wound.
"It could have killed him," Brandy Ranly said.
Her brother-in-law, who works for a wildlife and pest control company, pried the dog's jaws open and pulled the boy out.
The Ranlys rushed Little Chris to Colleton Medical Center, but they later took him to MUSC.
Joe Ranly said the dog, a male pit bull named Stat, remains at his home. Ranly said the dog attacked because Little Chris came into his area while Stat was chained.
Asked what he intends to do with the dog, Joe Ranly said Monday, "I don't know what the plan is right now."
Tim Lynes, director of Colleton County Animal and Environmental Control, said the owners violated no laws, since the dog was on their property and appears to be current on his rabies vaccinations.
"We won't take the animal, as long as the owner can secure it," Lynes said, meaning the dog can't have contact with people or other animals.
Only a judge's order or a request from state health officials would require that officers take the dog away.
Lynes said another pit bull attacked a boy last week in a similar situation that also included head trauma. The owner shot the dog in that case, Lynes said, although authorities prefer that owners keep the dogs alive to test for rabies.
Little Chris remains in fair condition.
Reach Allyson Bird at 937-5594 or Twitter.com/allysonjbird.