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Dog detective examines fatal dog attacks

7:26 PM, Feb 28, 2013   |    comments
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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Last year, more than 30 people died in fatal dog attacks in the U.S., many of them children. Why these attacks continue to happen? That's a question local Canine Crime Scene Detective Jim Crosby has traveled the world to answer.

Last March, a 17-month-old boy was attacked and killed by a Rottweiler in a Northside Jacksonville neighborhood. In September, an 83-year-old man in Alabama was mauled to death by two dogs. The youngest of the fatal dog attack victims was a 2-day old baby in Pennsylvania.

These are the cases retired Jacksonville Sheriff's Office deputy Jim Crosby investigates as a canine crime scene detective. After he retired in 1999, he started working as a dog trainer and that was the first time he had heard of fatal dog attacks.

"The cop in me said what's happening here ... I mean dogs have been living in our homes for somewhere between 50 to 60 thousand years. For them to do something so massive as to kill somebody is not common."

That's when Crosby's second career as a dog bite detective was born. He said as far as he can tell, he has been on the scene of more fatal attacks than anyone in the world.

"No one had ever handled the dogs afterwards to try and figure out what was going on in their minds, what behaviors led to this horrible outcome."

And so instead of authorities euthanizing animals that were blamed for fatal attacks, Crosby began evaluating them. One of his early cases was right here in Jacksonville where a five-week-old baby was killed by his grandmother's dogs.

"What we were able to find later by analyzing the bites, was that one of the dogs had grabbed the child by the head and the other had grabbed by the arm, and they had pulled like it was a toy -- it wasn't a vicious attack, it wasn't aggression"

One of the vital steps in a dog evaluation is to take molds and measurements of the dog in question's teeth to determine whether or not it was a part of a fatal attack.

Crosby said he's had cases where he could exclude a dog from an attack based on the bite marks -- proving it was not involved in the attack.   

Crosby said not all attacks are preventable. But it's important to note the signs when an animal may attack. The most common cases involve children who don't notice the warning signs, that's why

Crosby said parental supervision is key to avoiding any attack. And the best prevention in any case is as a dog owner -- be responsible for your pet.

"People have been killed by anything from Pomeranians to Great Danes, the breed is not that important -- the environment is important."

First for you, the Jacksonville Humane Society has resources available for dog training, as well as behavioral experts. If you think your pet is showing signs of aggression, contact a professional dog trainer. You can also contact Animal Care and Protective Services to provide you with referrals.

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