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Deadly dog’s fate undecided

Bristol Kendall Firefighter Dawn Brown passed away Monday Big
Rock while off-duty.

Bristol Kendall Firefighter Dawn Brown passed away on Monday in Big Rock while off-duty.

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Updated: December 19, 2012 12:49PM

Kane County officials have not yet determined the fate of a dog that fatally attacked its owner earlier this week.

The Monday mastiff attack on Dawn Brown, a firefighter with the Bristol-Kendall Fire Department and a paramedic with the Big Rock Fire District, was the first fatal dog attack in Kane County in recent memory, said Kane Sheriff’s Lt. Pat Gengler.

Kane County Animal Control officials have not decided whether any of Brown’s three dogs, including the mastiff, will be euthanized, Gengler said. All three dogs are being held at animal control.

The two other dogs in the home, a boxer and boxer-pit bull mix who “were like children” to the family, did not attack Brown, according to Gengler.

“A lot of it is going to come down to what the family wants,” Gengler said.

“Dog bites are not uncommon, but with a fatal attack like that, we need to see what the law says (to determine a) procedure with animal control.”

Gengler said Thursday that Brown died from bites to her neck.

John Ciribassi, a veterinary behaviorist at Chicagoland Veterinary Behavior Consultants, said dog bites rarely result in death. According to the federal Centers for Disease Control, of the 4.7 million Americans who are bitten by dogs each year, only about a dozen will die from an attack.

Aggression in dogs can result from a dog feeling territorial, the dog being afraid of surroundings or the dog displaying a predatory instinct toward small animals and even small children or infants, he said.

People can also be injured when they get in the middle of two dogs fighting.

While it’s impossible to know exactly what happened in the attack at Brown’s Big Rock home, Ciribassi said the most likely scenario stemmed from aggression between the household dogs and the new dog, and Brown intervened.

Brown and her husband, Bob, took the mastiff in a week ago, according to Dawn Brown’s co-worker, Lt. David Denison of the Big Rock Fire District. Gengler said Thursday that dog had previously lived with a relative for six years since it was a puppy.

Police did not say exactly what type of mastiff the dog is, or release the dog’s name, but Gengler said the dog is tan.

Beth Peters, a Bolingbrook-based coordinator for Great Lakes Mastiff Rescue, said there are 20 to 30 different breeds in the mastiff category, including Bull mastiff, English mastiff and Great Dane. Most of the mastiffs that end up at the Great Lakes rescue come from families who can no longer financially care for the dog or have relocated to an apartment that has a weight restriction on dogs.

“Others have had a lifestyle change, like a lot of people when they start to have kids,” she said.

Ciribassi said determining the dog’s exact breed would not give clues about the dog’s temperament. Like people, dogs are individuals, he said.

“That’s like saying, ‘what is the temperament of Italian Americans?’” he said. “It’s a mistake to try to make a wide judgment pinpointed on a dog’s breed.”

Because Brown was home alone during the attack, the cause will likely remain unknown, Gengler said.

“We just don’t think we’re ever going to figure out what caused the dog to attack in the house,” he said.

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