The attack on an 8-year-old girl by two large dogs in the Summerville area is one of nearly 75,000 incidents the state has investigated in nearly a 10-year span.
The dogs, later determined to be American Staffordshire Terriers, were quarantined. Their owner is scheduled for a hearing before a magistrate judge on Aug. 28, authorities said. The girl was hospitalized after the July 30 attack. No update on her condition was available, and her father declined to comment when contacted.
According to data provided by the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control, there are thousands of "dog exposures," annually, which range from minor interactions to serious attacks. From 2010 to Aug. 6 this year, there have been 74,433 such exposures recorded by DHEC.
The agency is informed by physicians or veterinarians when a person or pet they are treating has been involved in an incident with an animal. The agency's primary responsibility is to find out whether that human or pet has been exposed to rabies.
"In general, offending animals that are pets are placed under a 10-day quarantine at the owner’s home to be monitored for signs of rabies," DHEC said, in a statement.
If the animal doesn't show any signs of rabies by the end of that period, then testing for the disease, which requires euthanizing the animal, isn't needed, according to the statement.
In the Summerville-area incident, the owner of the two dogs provided proof that the animals were up to date on their vaccinations, according to a Dorchester County Animal Control incident report.
For Joe Elmore, CEO of the Charleston Animal Society, a key step in preventing attacks and other aggressive behavior is convincing dog owners to spay or neuter their pets.
The aggression that a dog is showing to strangers as well as another family dog can be minimized with proper training, consistency and diligence.
"When you spay or neuter a dog, they tend not to be as aggressive," Elmore said.
A bill introduced earlier this year in the S.C. House of Representatives would require pit bull owners to spay their female dogs, or pay a $500 registration fee if they wish to keep a female dog "unaltered."
Elmore also noted that spaying or neutering pit bulls is needed because of overbreeding and overpopulation of those breeds.
For several years, attacks by pit bulls have come under increasing scrutiny and have prompted worries over alleged breed aggression.
A lawsuit filed Aug. 6 in Dorchester County Court alleges negligence by the caretakers of a pit bull that attacked and seriously injured a young girl at a dog park at Wescott Park, 9006 Dorchester Road, on Feb. 16.
"At the time of the pit bull attack, defendants had actual and constructive notice and knowledge of the pit bull’s propensity, tendency, and disposition to attack unprovoked," according to the suit.
While pit bull-type dogs are not among those that bite most often, they can cause significant damage when they do, Elmore said, speaking generally about the breeds. He was not asked to comment about the lawsuit.
In addition to spaying or neutering their pet, dog owners need to be vigilant about securing any animal under their care, he said. Owners should regularly check fencing and enclosures where their pets stay.