The mauling victim, a 6-week-old boy, is hospitalized in serious condition, and the dog, a family pet, is locked away in a St. Mary's County animal shelter and faces being destroyed. Yesterday, shelter workers said they didn't know the animal's name, age or weight. But they said it is a male.
A male dachshund.
Not a pit bull, not a Rottweiler, but one of those ungainly, waddling, floppy-eared creatures with sagging bellies.
"It's such a bizarre story," said Jane Lantz of Fairfax County, treasurer of Dachshund Rescue of North America, which tries to help dachshunds in trouble. "We all have our mouths hanging open. I have never known of a dachshund to behave that way."
Authorities declined to identify the boy, who was mauled Sunday, and the infant's parents, Michael and Andrea Meyers, have not commented on the attack.
Dachshund lovers are dumbfounded.
"I have to wonder if this dog is of incredibly poor breeding and therefore is not mentally stable," said the rescue group's founder, Jill Blasdel-Cortus of Shelbyville, Ind. Or maybe the dog envied the attention being given to the newborn boy, said Blasdel-Cortus, who owns six dachshunds. "I can understand the dog getting jealous. But it's usually a [mess] on the floor."
Early Sunday, police said, the black-and-brown dog chewed through the mesh of a playpen at the Meyers home in St. Mary's City. Police said the dachshund dragged the baby from the pen and mauled the boy's legs and feet. The child, taken by helicopter to Children's Hospital, also suffered a head injury, police said.
Maryland State Trooper Steven B. Koch said the child's bleeding had stopped by the time rescuers arrived, but he was unconscious. When he reached the hospital, he stopped breathing and had to be resuscitated, Koch said. Hospital officials said his condition was upgraded yesterday to serious.
The adult dog is caged at the Tri-County Animal Shelter in Hughesville, said Tony Malaspine, an animal control supervisor in St. Mary's. Only the worker who brings the dachshund its meals has contact with the dog, and employees at the shelter yesterday were unable to describe the animal. Standard dachshunds typically weigh 16 to 32 pounds; miniature dachshunds normally weigh 11 pounds or less.
News of the attack spread quickly through the four dachshund-welfare groups with nationwide memberships. Phone calls and e-mails buzzed from Virginia to Indiana to North Carolina as concerned dachshund-lovers sensed that a mission was at hand: rescuing the dachshund if its destruction appears imminent.
The boy's parents have not told animal control officials what they want done with their dog, Malaspina said. Under standard procedure at the shelter, if owners do not want a dog back after a biting incident, the dog is euthanized. Malaspina said he has received numerous calls from people wanting to save the dachshund. He said he was not sure whether the dog could be given to a rescue group.
"Normally, we don't like to have animals rescued out where they might be placed in another home if they have a bite record," Malaspina said.
Dachshunds originally were a hunting breed, trained to track badgers and dig for rodents. But Blasdel-Cortus said Sunday's attack was out of character.
Andrea Meyers, 36, left her son asleep in the playpen Sunday, and ran back downstairs when she heard cries coming through a baby monitor, police reports said.
By the time Maryland State Police arrived at Meyers' split-level home, she had locked the dog in a cage in the garage. It was not aggressive then, or when animal control workers arrived shortly after, officials said.
"If the dog is aggressive, then we don't want it," Lantz said. But "if there was some sort of horrible misunderstanding here, then we would be interested in taking it to another home."