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Pit bull kills toddler

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Kelly Janelle Shea

Dog attacks child in his grandmother's backyard

SUMMERVILLE — A 2-year-old wandered out the back door of his grandmother's brick house Thursday morning in a red T-shirt and underwear and was attacked by his grandmother's pit bull.

The approximately 40-pound dog latched onto Holden Jernigan's throat and head, inflicting fatal wounds, Dorchester County sheriff's 1st Sgt. Mike Miller said.

Holden died about 10 a.m. in the backyard of Tracy Shelton's house at 129 Barshay Drive, where two signs in the front windows warned: "Beware of the dog."

Dorchester County Animal Control seized the male dog. It is quarantined at the Francis R. Willis Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, and its future was uncertain Thursday.

"I think it's scary we've had two of these in one year," Animal Control Supervisor Officer Melissa McKee said.

Brian Palmer, 18 months old, died April 24, the day after his family's pit bull attacked him in his mother's townhouse off Ashley Phosphate Road. The dog, a stray taken in by the family, had gotten out of a utility room. It had killed a relative's cat about a week before, but family members said they dismissed that incident as dislike of other animals.

The animal rights group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals asked Dorchester County Council to ban or restrict new ownership of pit bulls after Brian's death. PETA wasn't successful because state law doesn't allow the county to declare a breed of dog dangerous, County Administrator Jason Ward said.

The Sheriff's Office has no record of any complaints against the dog that attacked Holden, Miller said. McKee said there was no record the dog had previously bitten anyone, but she hadn't had a chance to go through the files and see if anyone had ever complained about the animal.

Nobody at Shelton's Flowertown Village house would talk to the newspaper Thursday. Miller said Shelton was watching Holden for his parents, Scott and Amber Jernigan. One of Shelton's neighbors said the dog was usually chained in the fenced backyard but had often gotten loose. Wanda Mizell said she kept her 4-year-old grandson inside and that she tried not to go outside unless she had to when the dog was roaming the street.

The dog was on about 25 feet of chain when animal control officers arrived Thursday, McKee said, but it was unknown if he was chained at the time of the attack. He was not aggressive toward the officers, she said.

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