WARNING - CONFRONTING CONTENT: A young boy was savagely mauled by his babysitter’s dog and it wasn't until an hour had passed that someone thought to call an ambulance.
Stay-at-home-mum Tristin Pruitt, 31, and iron worker Jeff Pruitt, 33, from the US state of Ohio are the parents of 5-year-old Liam Pruitt, along with his three siblings, Jailynn, 14, Ryan, 8, and 2-year-old Knox.
When Liam was savagely attacked by a terrier-mix dog on April 28, 2021, the family found their life turned upside-down.
Now, the young boy is too scared of dogs to go to his friends' houses, where he lashes out by throwing things, screaming and growling.
Tristin, who was 13 weeks pregnant at the time of the attack, left Liam and Knox at the house of his babysitter to wait for the morning school bus while she attended an ultrasound. The babysitter was the mother of one of Liam’s classmates and so Tristin felt happy leaving her sons there.
Unknown to her, the babysitter’s husband kept a terrier-mix dog kennelled. The dog had previously attacked two other children. Despite this, they still kept it at the property and did not alert Liam’s parents to this fact.
It was when the babysitter’s husband decided he wanted to introduce Liam to the dog that the animal lashed out from his grip and brutally attacked Liam’s face.
Tristin hadn’t been away long when she received a call from the babysitter informing her that Liam was at the emergency room.
One side of Liam’s face was swollen and covered in blood where the dog had mauled him. His right eye was bleeding and in need of surgery, his cheeks were punctured by the dog's teeth, and his lips and throat were heavily damaged.
“When I saw his actual injuries my world shattered,” said Tristin.
“I pulled into the hospital and the babysitter pulled in after me. She was covered in blood and Liam was alone in the back of her van screaming.
“While I was trying to get Liam into the hospital and find Knox, she chatted away to me like nothing was wrong."
“She told me she hated the dog and it was the third time it had bitten a child but her husband wouldn’t let her get rid of it. I didn’t say a word to her, I just grabbed my baby and ran."
Long road to recovery for Liam
It took eight nurses to subdue Liam enough to allow them to clean his tear duct which had been severely damaged. That was followed by three-and-a-half hours of sutures and plastic surgery to close the wounds on his face and neck.
“In between my emotions for Liam, I was calling my other kids and trying to hold it together for them too. It was Knox’s first time with a babysitter and he’d been a witness to this attack and now his mummy hadn’t come home - I was so worried about how it would affect him," Tristin said.
“It was during this time that I found out via a text from the babysitter that the dog was unvaccinated so Liam was at risk of a number of diseases including rabies."
After the initial surgery and time in hospital, Tristin and Jeff learned the full extent of Liam’s gruelling recovery process. Not only does he require further plastic surgery, steroid injections and laser treatment, but the success of his healing relies heavily on staying out of direct sunlight.
Doctors expect Liam to need three to five years of possible treatment and in the meantime, Tristin and Jeff are paying for the medical bills out of their own pocket. As it was a third party that was at fault for the injuries, the insurance company claimed it was ‘similar to a car accident’ and it was the job of the other party's insurance to cover the costs.
Tristin worries that the effect of the attack on Liam will be long-lasting.
"So much changed after he was attacked. A few months ago he didn’t have an angry bone in his body but now he has nasty mood swings he never had before and we can’t even go out to dinner without him acting out.
“I fear that if his scars don’t fade away it will be the first thing everyone sees, besides his smile and beautiful eyes. I fear he may want a beard one day and not be able to grow one due to the scarring."
The mother says nothing was immediately done with the dog, despite its history of attacking children.
"Even when I called the police, nothing was done with the dog," she said. "No one came to take it or did anything. We didn’t even find out if it had rabies or not until it had been euthanised.
“We’re so thankful that those tests came back negative.
“I just wish that I’d asked if the babysitter had a dog before I left Liam and Knox there.”
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