EL PASO – Blood dripped on the car seat as Frank Romero raced through traffic to reach the closest hospital. Three dogs had just viciously attacked his four-year-old son and the boy’s face, bleeding profusely, was unrecognizable.
“They were family dogs, my brother-in-law’s dogs,” said his wife, Angie Romero, in disbelief.
Romero’s brother was out of town and had asked him to feed his three Shar Pei/Pitbull mix dogs while he was gone. Romero had done this multiple times before and the dogs were already used to him being there. However, this time one of the dogs ran out of its cage area and charged Romero’s son, knocking him on the ground and biting him.
As Romero desperately pulled the dog away from his son, the other two dogs brutally attacked the already hurt child.
The Romero family is not unique. Dog-bite cases happen frequently in El Paso, according to a recent ranking by the United States Postal Service. The study showed that El Paso is among the top 25 cities nationally where mail carriers suffer dog attacks.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, dogs bite 4.5 million Americans each year, and one in five dog bites results in injuries that require medical attention. The CDC also states that people with dogs in their homes are most at risk. Among children and adults, having a dog in the household is associated with a higher incidence of dog bites. Adults with two or more dogs in the household are five times more likely to be bitten than those living without dogs at home.
“I believe there are two different types of dog bites, attack bites and defensive bites,” said Dr. Trent Filler, an oral maxillofacial surgeon at the Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center.
Most of the patients that Filler treats are children that have suffered from defensive bites rather than the more aggressive attack bites as he has coined them.
“Dogs react by instinct like they would do in a pack and give a snap as a warning to back off, similar to a human slap in the face, unfortunately due to their sharp teeth it does more than just make the skin red,” Filler said.
Xavier Romero, the then four-year-old dog attack victim and now eight years of age, has impressively recovered from the attack after a series of surgeries that have only left minor scarring in his scalp.
“I think I’m more afraid of dogs now than he is,” said Mrs. Romero as she described her son’s recovery after such a traumatic and tough experience he had to endure.
Dog attacks are unpredictable as they could happen at any time, any place. Animals act on instinct, however, attacks can be prevented in many ways and are a largely preventable public health problem. People can learn to greatly reduce their chances of being bitten.
“Even though this happened, we’re still dog lovers,” said Mrs. Romero.