Dog Kills Kaua'i Toddler
By Jan TenBruggencate
February 24, 2004, MOLOA'A, Kaua'i — A chained dog attacked and killed
17-month-old Truston Heart Liddle as he played Saturday near where his
parents and grandparents were working on a farm plot.
The family was still in shock yesterday. "We're pretty confused," said noted
surfboard shaper Greg Liddle of Kapa'a, the child's grandfather. The child
evidently wandered away from where the family was doing farm work at about 5
p.m., and onto a neighboring farm lot, where several dogs were chained or
caged. The young boy apparently got too close to a chained, 40-pound,
mixed-breed male dog, which bit him repeatedly around the face and upper
"An unneutered chained male dog — that's the No. 1 biting dog in our
community," said Becky Rhoades, veterinarian and director of the Kaua'i
Police officer Eric Caspillo said the child's parents, farmer and KKCR radio
announcer Damon "Dove" Liddle and his wife, Raven, told him the child had
been playing near the adults, and that when he wandered away, they thought
he was with his 6-year-old brother. But then the 6-year-old ran up, saying
that the younger boy had been bitten by a dog.
"They found the dog still biting their son as he lay motionless on the
ground," Caspillo said. The parents put the injured child into their car and
called for help on a cellular phone as they headed north. There is a medical
clinic in the nearby community of Kilauea. Police dispatchers instructed
them to pull off the road near Kula School in Waipake as police, fire and
emergency medical teams approached.
Caspillo said he arrived to find the child's father performing
cardiopulmonary resuscitation on his son on the ground alongside the
family's car. Firefighters took over, and eventually handed the child off to
emergency medical technicians. The child was pronounced dead at Wilcox
Memorial Hospital, having suffered severe injuries to the head, neck and
Kaua'i County spokeswoman Cyndi Ozaki said police know the identity of the
dog's owner, but would not release it. The dog that bit the boy and four
other canines on the property were removed by the Kaua'i Humane Society and
will be confined at the animal shelter until the attack is fully
investigated. Ozaki said no determination had been made about possible
criminal or civil charges against the dog's owner. She said that state Child
Welfare Services also is investigating. Liddle, the toddler's grandfather,
said yesterday the family was not ready to comment.
Saturday's attack was the second fatal dog mauling in Hawai'i in less than
three years. On June 9, 2001, 18-month-old Tyran Moniz-Hilderbrand was
killed when a friend's pit bull got loose and attacked him at home in the
Hawaiian Acres subdivision in Puna. The boy's mother, Luana Moniz, was
seriously injured while fighting off the animal.
In 1981, a 6-year-old boy was killed by a pit bull in Kaimuki.
The Kaua'i dog attack occurred in an isolated agricultural area that was
formerly pineapple fields until the early 1970s, and later mainly papaya.
Much of it fell fallow before farmer Mike Strong, his wife, Candace, and
partner Paul Huber bought the nearly 700 acres from Amfac/JMB in 1996. They
cut the property into smaller farm lots using an agricultural condominium
process rather than subdivision to keep prices affordable. Irrigation water
is available, but roads are dirt and many of the lots cannot be used as
Much of the land is covered in an array of crops separated by windbreaks.
The rough, dusty roads are mostly unmarked and many of the farm lots have no
signs indicating their ownership. The site of the dog attack was down an
unmarked dirt lane along a bushy ironwood hedge.
Caspillo estimated the dogs were restrained about 50 yards from where the
Liddle family had been working. He said he saw two dogs on chains and
another in a fenced area.
Rhoades of the Humane Society said although the animals were well-fed and
watered, it appeared they spent most of their time restrained. She said a
dog that is constantly chained is a risk for biting.
"All dogs are capable of attack if they are treated in certain ways. Intact
male dogs kept chained are the No. 1 biting dogs in the nation. They can be
very territorial and very aggressive," she said.
Rhoades said pet owners should spend time with their dogs, and spay or
neuter them to reduce the likelihood they will become aggressive. Puppies
should be taken to socialization classes and adult dogs to obedience
classes. Humane societies offer these classes or can help pet owners find
People should report stray dogs, and should avoid dogs on chains, in cars or
protecting their homes or owners.
"A dog on a chain that's not taken off and exercised regularly — anyone may
be at risk of being injured if they get within the limits of this dog's
territory," she said.
Reach Jan TenBruggencate at firstname.lastname@example.org or (808) 245-3074.