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from The Atlanta Journal-Constitution


Animal Attack

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    Foster family had been asked to get rid of pit bull

Thursday, July 27, 2000

Bill Montgomery, Michael Pearson and Ron Martz - Staff

Child welfare workers asked a Griffin family to get rid of its dog two days before the animal mauled one of the family's foster children, state officials said Wednesday.

The July 23 attack left 4-year-old Cody Few hospitalized with 500 stitches in his face and head. Hospital officials declined to discuss his condition, but Division of Family and Children Services officials said the child was awake and asking for pizza Wednesday.

Although a second family dog --- a mastiff --- may also have attacked the boy, investigators with DFACS are focusing on a pit bull/Labrador puppy called Oreo. "He had maybe nipped or shown some aggression, but nothing where they thought they had to act immediately," said Renee Huie, a spokeswoman for the Department of Human Resources, which oversees DFACS.

State foster-care guidelines do not restrict the kinds of pets foster families may keep. The family, which got the child through Clayton County DFACS, obtained Oreo three weeks ago for a foster child who has since left their home, Huie said.

Wilfred Hamm, DFACS state director of social services, said the foster parents had agreed to remove the dog. He said the agency will look into whether caseworkers acted properly. The lawyer for Cody's birth mother, Dana Roddy, declined to allow her to be interviewed Wednesday.

State investigators are attempting to determine whether the foster parents, identified by sheriff's officials as Bill and Tina Doerfler, acted negligently.

No charges had been filed, but DFACS has reassigned Cody and two other foster children living with the family pending the investigation, Huie said.

No one answered a knock on the door of the Doerflers' home Wednesday afternoon. There is no telephone number listed for the couple in Spalding County.

The attack happened while the boy was playing in the family's yard in a well-kept neighborhood.

According to sheriff's investigators, Tina Doerfler heard Cody screaming and ran from the house to see Oreo attacking the boy. She saw the family's mastiff, named Tank, on top of the other dog. A third dog owned by the family apparently was not involved.

Neighbor Sara Smith said she often saw Cody playing in the fenced back yard with the dogs, many times under the supervision of an adult.

"The child and the dogs seemed to get along, " Smith said. "I never saw any problem."

Oreo will be killed after a 10-day quarantine period expires next week.

The mastiff's fate remains unclear, said Carol Westbury, director of the Spalding County Animal Shelter.

"We don't know if the mastiff was taking part in the attack, or maybe trying to defend the child," she said.

"We've asked the parents to press (the child) for answers, but he is the only one who knows what really happened."

© 2000 Cox Interactive Media

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