Special Report filed by AAF Correspondent: Scott TingleyAnimal Attack Files Special Report
from Bergen County Record

      Grandparents' pet dogs maul toddler

Friday, October 13, 2000


CLOSTER -- Two pet Rottweilers mauled a 13-month-old boy on Thursday, tearing him from his stroller and dragging him across his grandparents' driveway.

After the attack, Thomas D'Ambrosio was airlifted to Hackensack University Medical Center, where he was listed in serious condition Thursday night.

The child suffered severe lacerations on his face, arms, and upper chest, and his left ear was nearly severed, authorities said.

"The attack was so severe that the child and the carriage both were being tossed around in the driveway," said Closter police Sgt. Alphonso Young. "At some point the baby was removed from the carriage and dragged across the driveway to the back of the residence."

The boy's grandmother, Joan D'Ambrosio, suffered gashes on her forearm and elbow. She was treated at the hospital and released.

The incident was the second in two weeks in which a Bergen County child was seriously mauled by a dog. An 8-year-old boy and girl were both hospitalized for injuries they suffered in a pit bull attack in Hackensack on Oct. 1.

Days later, a pit bull attacked two West Paterson girls, one 12 and the other 11. Shaken police shot that dog dead.

D'Ambrosio told police she had been pushing the boy in his stroller outside her Fourth Street home about 2 p.m. when the family dogs somehow opened the latch on their pen and broke out.

Although the boy was strapped in his stroller, one of the dogs tore him out, and the other latched on and dragged him to the rear patio, Young said. Pieces of the arms and feet of the white sleeper the child was wearing were torn off in the attack, the officer said.

D'Ambrosio fought with the animals until she was finally able to free her grandson. She then rushed him inside and dialed 911.

Young and Officer Don Nicoletti found the two dogs in the driveway -- one with a beard of blood -- and the grandparents in a frantic state.

"They were hysterical, screaming," Young said. "They were beside themselves."

The officers contemplated shooting the dogs as the animals scurried across the driveway, but they couldn't get a clear shot, he said. Eventually, D'Ambrosio managed to order the animals back into their pen, and the officers locked the gate.

They then placed the child on his side to keep his airway open until the ambulance arrived.

Tom McNamara, Closter Ambulance Corps first responder, could not say whether the boy's injuries were life-threatening. However, he did see promising signs.

"The baby was unconscious when we first got there, but there was respiration, so we knew [he] was breathing," he said. "The baby was crying when we took [him] out of the house, which was a good sign."

Thomas was conscious in a matter of minutes and was responsive, McNamara added.

It was unclear whether there were any internal injuries.

"We controlled the bleeding and got going as fast as we could," McNamara said.

Joan D'Ambrosio and her husband, Thomas, are longtime Closter residents who were baby-sitting Thomas and his sister while their parents, Thomas and Lenore D'Ambrosio of Washington Township, were at work, police said.

The dogs weigh between 150 and 175 pounds each, police said. They were so heavy it took two people to lift each of them into the Bergen County Animal Control van.

"The family told us they didn't want the dogs back," said Police Chief David Berrian.

Berrian brought in a team of volunteers trained in dealing with critical-incident stress to meet with his officers.

"I had my few tears already," Young said. "We're the first ones on the scene, and some of these things stay with you for an extended period of time."

"It's something you don't forget," McNamara added.

Copyright © 2000 Bergen Record Corp.

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