Fatal Mastiff Dog Attack of Firefighter/Paramedic Dawn Brown Brings Discussion of Breed Safety, Temperament, and Dog Bite Force


Dawn Brown, a 44-year-old firefighter/paramedic with the Bristol Kendall Fire Protection District in Yorkville, was found dead by her husband in their Big Rock home about 4:15 p.m. Monday, November 12, 2012. She was attacked and killed by her male adult mastiff, one of three dogs in the home she shared with her husband. The 130 to 140-pound mastiff (specific breed identity not released) was identified as the attacker — based on bite marks.

There are Bull Mastiff attacks on record in medical journals, and the attacks are a specific category of “animal attack” personal injury lawyers, who are seeking cases of owner liability. One common thread of research in prevention of attacks is the search for a predatory trigger. Something about the victim’s behavior, movement or the environment is believed to trigger a predatory response.

Overall it is not only the breed’s temperament, but the potential for danger when risk is put into play — bite force. Obviously, children next to the powerful jaws of a pit bull, Rottweiler, or Bull Mastiff creates a potential for tragedy. A Pomeranian might be more likely to bite, but it’s less likely to cause serious injury. This underscores the risk of leaving children unattended with powerful dogs. In Maryland, researchers published an article in the Journal of Forensic Science regarding infants that were fatally attacked after they were placed in mobile infant swings. One case involved a pit bull, a second case involved a Chow Chow and/or a Dachshund combined attack, and a third case involved a Labrador-pit bull mix. The researchers raised the possibility that the mobile swings may have triggered a predatory response in the dogs.

In April 2012, a 3-year-old girl was attacked by a Rottweiler-Mastiff mix in Victoryville, California. A person caring for the dog brought the dog over to the home of the 3-year-old when the attack occurred. The victim’s mother reported her daughter’s head was inside the dog’s mouth. She punched the dog in the face while trying to rescue her daughter.

In January 2012 in Moreno Valley, California, a Bull Mastiff was captured after it attacked a mother and her 6-year-old son as they were walking with a stroller with an infant in the stroller. The 160-pound Bull Mastiff plowed through a fence in its owner’s yard. The 6-year-old child’s ear was torn and the back of his head was gnawed by the dog. The mother fell and injured her hip. A woman interrupted the attack by pulling up in her vehicle and honking her horn, which scared the dog away. The owners turned over the dog to authorities, and the dog was euthanized.

In October 2012, a Mastiff attacked a smaller Pomeranian dog at a Halloween pet parade known as the Spooky Pooch Parade in Lakewood, Ohio. A woman was walking her Pomeranian with her daughter and her daughter’s 3-month-old daughter when they were passing a woman who was sitting on the lawn with her male Mastiff and a female Rottweiler. The Mastiff then attacked the Pomeranian killing it with a bite and puncture wound to the abdomen and shaking it in its jaws — breaking the Pomeranian’s neck.

“My mother and I were walking on St. Charles heading to the Spooky Pooch Parade. She had her pomeranian Presley on a leash and I was carrying my toy poodle Spike (on a leash) and pushing my 3 month old daughter in her stroller and as we walked down the sidewalk to pass a woman with a bull mastiff and rottweiler sitting on the tree lawn, both on leashes as well, before we could even pass, they both raced towards Presley and attacked. The mastiff bit Presley in the stomach and from his blood curling scream we instantly knew he was wounded badly. My mother tried to pick him up but both dogs attacked again, the mastiff grabbed Presley by the neck, shook him and snapped his neck. Thankfully my mother, myself or my daughter were not injured as the dogs attacked Presley. As soon as he was dead they backed off and allowed their owner to put them in the car. The owner apologized and stated that that she had just adopted the mastiff a month ago. ”

— Victim’s daughter/witness account “Presley photo

A Manchester, England woman, Karen Greaves, was injured in August 2011 when she fought off a Bull Mastiff that killed her 10-month-old Cavalier King Charles Spaniel and turned the attack toward her four-month-old daughter. About the same time, the dog’s owner approached the scene and began punching and kicking her dog in the head. Eventually both women were able to control the dog, but Greaves suffered hand injuries that were serious enough to require surgery.

In April 2008 a 4-year-old was attacked on a church playground in Fairview, Alabama by a 120 to 125-pound Bull Mastiff. The dog lightly bit the girl’s 10-year-old sister first and then attacked the 4-year-old, as she was playing on a swing set. The dog pulled the girl off of the swing and began to drag her — causing life-threatening injuries. Several women nearby heroically began kicking the dog and hitting it with a chain from the swing set. The dog was scared off and later found by a Cullman County sheriff’s deputy and taken to a veterinary facility where it was later euthanized.

In August 2007, a caretaker who lived at the Brentwood, California home of Ving Rhames was found dead with bite marks after apparently being mauled. The victim, in his 40’s, was found dead in the front yard at about 7:00 a.m.

A fatal attack of a “Bull-mastiff” was also reported in 2005 in Dunedin, New Zealand by researchers with the Journal of Forensic Odontostomatology — the medical-dental science of teeth and the mouth, and the examination of dental evidence. Dental evidence can be used to identify a person by dental records, but it can also involve identifying bite marks to lead to the process of identifying the offender that left the bite marks.

In New Zealand, the dog’s owner — a middle-aged woman was attacked, and the attacker left the incriminating bite marks. Most of the injuries were found on the victim’s face, neck and skull. The bite marks were matched to the dog. Researchers speculated that because the owner suffered from Huntington disease, which involves involuntary movements and changes in mental status, that the dog may have reacted in predatory mode.

Two Bull Mastiffs get “freaked out” by a floating black party balloon.

According to the American Temperament Test Society (ATTS), a Bullmastiff has a rating of 78.9% (133 dogs tested with 105 passing and 28 failing). The higher the score, the better behaved the breed. German Shephards are currently at a score of 84.6% (3133 tested, 2,651 passed, 482 failed). Pomeranians are currently at a score of 75.8% (33 tested, 25 passed, 8 failed). Failure of the test is recognized when a dog shows:

Unprovoked aggression
Panic without recovery
Strong avoidance

More information about the test and scoring can be viewed at atts.org.

Some attention has also been directed at the bite force of different breeds, but the results are not well documented. In an episode of Dangerous Encounters with Brady Barr the bite force of different breeds was compared — including a wolf. A video compiled on YouTube shows clips to various claims of bite force of different breeds. In the video, the bite force of a Mastiff is higher than a wolf or a pit bull. Again the test is not well-calibrated and doesn’t meet the test of rigid scientific accuracy, but it’s interesting as a first look. See below …

Which canine has the highest bite force in world? It’s definitely not a wild dog or a wolf. It comes down to the larger breeds of domestic dogs: Mastiffs, Kangals, Tosas, bandogges, boer boels, and are other large breeds of dogs.

Scientist from Germany emphasized the vulnerability of children and infants to fatal dog attacks. They examined four cases involving children aged 6, 10, and 11, and an infant age three weeks. Deaths were due to exsanguination (blood loss), air embolism (air entering and obstructing the circulatory system via entry from large lacerations), and decapitation.

In February 2012, Kyle Dyer, a KUSA-TV morning news anchor was petting a mastiff on live television and expressing here gratitude that the dog was safely rescued, when the dog lunged forward and bit her in the face.

Kyle Dyer, KUSA-TV Channel 9 news morning anchor, talks about the injuries she sustained from a dog bite and her road to recovery.

This dog, an Argentine mastiff named Gladiator Maximus, attacked Kyle Dyer, anchorwoman at NBC’s KUSA Denver affiliate, during a live, in-studio segment on Wednesday that was meant to celebrate the dog’s rescue from an icy lake the day before.

Dog attacks are rare, and fatal dog attacks are even more infrequent. Many Mastiff owners swear that their dogs are harmless and “sweet” — a common word that describes the breed.

See also …

KTLA 3-year-old Girl Mauled by Dog in Victorville

CBS Los Angeles Bull Mastiff Attacks, Tearing Off Ear Of 6-Year-Old Boy In Moreno Valley

Cullman Times Dog mauls girl at church

Los Angeles Times Caretaker, mauled by dogs, found dead at actor’s home

FOX8 Cleveland Family Dog Fatally Mauled at Pooch Parade

BBC News Manchester woman Karen Greaves attacked by pet-killer dog

CBS Los Angeles Bull Mastiff Attacks, Tearing Off Ear Of 6-Year-Old Boy In Moreno Valley

Chu AY, Ripple MG, Allan CH, Thogmartin JR, Fowler DR. Fatal dog maulings associated with infant swings. J Forensic Sci. 2006 Mar;51(2):403-6.

Tsokos M, Byard RW, Püschel K. Extensive and mutilating craniofacial trauma involving defleshing and decapitation: unusual features of fatal dog attacks in the young. Am J Forensic Med Pathol. 2007 Jun;28(2):131-6.

Jennifer Lynn Ellis, Jeffrey J Thomason, Ermias Kebreab, and James France1. Calibration of estimated biting forces in domestic canids: comparison of post-mortem and in vivo measurements. J Anat. 2008 June; 212(6): 769–780.

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