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Large Dog Mangles 8-year-old at School

By Amy C. Rippel, Orlando Sentinel

March 5, 2003 ORLANDO, FLORIDA -- A 50-pound dog mauled a Ridgewood Park Elementary second-grader Tuesday afternoon as his horrified classmates looked on and school staffers hit the dog with umbrellas.  Daniel Decembre, 8, of Orlando suffered severe face and head injuries, and his left ear was ripped off, Orange County sheriffs Detective Carla Fraser said. The boy was in critical condition at Orlando Regional Medical Center on Tuesday night. 

The pit bull-Labrador mix named Solomon will be quarantined for 10 days to ensure that the dog doesn’t have rabies, animal- control authorities said. The owner told investigators the 7 1/2-month-old dog has up-to- date shots. Fraser said an investigation will determine whether criminal charges will be filed. 

Witnesses said the dog came tearing across the school grounds and latched onto Daniel. 

It took several people beating the dog with umbrellas to free the child, witnesses told authorities. “The kids were crying and hysterical,” said Marlene Magee, a school-staffing coordinator. Principal Jackie Massey said crisis counselors will be on campus today to help staff members and students cope. The attack happened about 3:30 p.m. as dozens of students were playing near the playground and basketball courts on the west side of the school at 3401 Pioneer Road, off Silver Star Road, west of Orlando. 

School had been dismissed about a half-hour earlier, and the remaining 150 or so students, including Daniel, were part of an after-school care program. The dog lives at a home adjacent to the school grounds. Owners Clyde and Gloria Salle said Solomon bolted from the house through the front door. Usually, the dog is chained in the backyard, Clyde Salle said.

Once students spotted the brown dog, they ran screaming to the school building Massey said. Daniel and a friend were also running, but Daniel tripped. The dog jumped on the boy, ripping off the child’s left ear and wounding his head and face, Fraser said. Magee, who was inside the school when the attack began, heard the screaming and ran for help.

Two school staff members pummeled the dog with umbrellas. When the dog finally let go of Daniel, he turned on Magee, who had an umbrella in her hand, she said. “When I came with the umbrella, he chased me,” she said. “I never ran so fast in my life.”

Clyde Salle said the dog has never bitten anyone in his family. “I don’t know how to tell Daniel’s dad and mom I’m sorry,” he said. “I would never have intentionally left that dog out. It was an accident.”

Fraser said Tuesday night that Daniel was conscious and stable but receiving morphine for the pain. Daniel’s parents were at his hospital bed while classmates and his teacher were in a nearby waiting room. His teacher said he was too upset to talk after visiting Daniel for a few minutes.