Dog attack could have been fatal, father says

The Dec. 2 dog attack on a 5-year-old boy at Hoover Elementary School was "very, very close to being fatal," the boy's father, Greg Martin, said in an e-mail to friends.

If the dog had bitten the front rather than the back of Sean's neck, the deep incisions could have broken the artery or trachea, he said.

Martin elaborated on his conclusion in a posting on Town Square, the community forum at, which has logged more than 50 postings on the dog attack.

"My son could have easily been killed," Martin said after thanking those boys and men who helped rescue Sean Martin from the mixed-breed female dog. "As it is, he has 8 staples, 1 suture, a fractured vertebrae, numerous puncture wounds, and bruises all over his head, neck and knees.

"For now, only time will tell as to how much emotional damage was done to him and the other children who had to witness the unprovoked attack," he said.

As for the young rescuers, "All of these boys are either Cub Scouts or Boy Scouts, and I am quite proud of the actions they took in trying to minimize the severity of the attack. Despite facing the risk of personal harm from the attacking dog, they did what they could to pull the dog off of Sean," Martin said.

He especially thanked a nearby soccer player who helped pull the dog off Sean then called 911. Other adults, including the dog's owner, helped pull the dog off.

Martin was critical of the online posting leading off with the dog facing death for the attack and an implication in comments by the city animal control supervisor that children should always be under close supervision by parents.

Noting that he was only about 50 yards away from the site of the attack, Martin said, "Had I been closer, maybe I could have helped pull the dog off of Sean, but I doubt I could have prevented the attack.

"Also, let's not lose perspective -- it was the dog owner's duty to prevent the attack, not mine," he said.

"If our kids aren't safe on our school playgrounds, where can they go to be safe?"

Sean, a kindergartner at Barron Park Elementary School, is recovering from his wounds but has developed a fear of dogs, his father said earlier.

The dog, at the owner's request, was scheduled to be euthanized on Tuesday. The as-yet-unidentified owner of the dog may be charged with a misdemeanor leash-law violation, according to Sandi Stadler, animal control supervisor.

The man had let his two dogs off leash in an enclosed play area, police Sgt. Sandra Brown reported. One boy opened the gate to the play area but was chased by the two dogs and was unable to close the gate, Don Verplanke, a Cub Scout leader whose son was also involved, told the Weekly via e-mail.

Sean was treated at Stanford Hospital.

The dog's owner, whose name was withheld by city officials, apologized and said he felt quite badly about the attack, Martin said. The dog, a spayed female about 3 years old, did not have a history of violence, Stadler said.

Although she may be part pit bull, the dog "actually looks more like an Australian shepherd cattle dog, also truly one of your Heinz 57 (varieties)," she said.

Martin initially identified both dogs as pit bulls: "I'm definitely a supporter of dogs in general but it's completely irresponsible to have two pit bulls in a school area (off-leash)," he said.

"I love dogs, and until recently owned two myself, Martin said in his Town Square posting.

"They were great dogs, and in their 15+ years of life, they never bit anyone. Nonetheless, I never lost sight of the fact they were dogs and were to be treated as such.

"So, for everyone out there with a dog, pit bull or otherwise, that thinks your dog is 'special' and the leash laws don't apply to you, I urge you to think again and keep your dog on a leash when you are in public.

"Had you heard the screams of pain from my son as they were stitching him up, taking x-rays and such, it might have convinced you that the leash laws are there for a reason and no matter how special your dog is, you aren't above the law," Martin concluded.

— Palo Alto Weekly staff


Posted by Gabrielle Vachon, a resident of Palo Alto Hills
on Sep 14, 2007 at 8:03 am

It never ceases to amaze me. If it's an attack by a Pit Bull, there will be photo's, and the story is publicied everywhere, but any other breed attacks, generaly the breed isn't even mentioned, no photos, no one seems to care.

Posted by Huh?, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Sep 14, 2007 at 12:25 pm

Editor- why are you posting this again- and twice today? Please stop bringing up this pitbull thing- it's not even applicable to this particular story if I remember correctly. Why the repost from last year?

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