Owner of pit bull that killed 5-year-old could face cruelty charges

The owner of a pit bull that mauled to death five-year-old Arianna Jolee Merrbach could face animal cruelty charges, according to Herbie Christmas with the Florence County Environmental Services.

Firefighters on scene say the child walked up to the dog, which was on a chain in the backyard of a home on Fork Road in the Effingham community, Tuesday morning.

The girl was pronounced dead on the scene.

Autopsy results show the child died of multiple, sharp, blunt force injuries as a result of the bites.

The dog involved in the attack was euthanized.

Two other pit bulls at the home were turned over to the custody of Florence County Environmental Services.

Christmas says they're looking at charging the owner of the dog because of a violation of Florence County's tethering ordinance.

"What we found at the scene yesterday, obviously, the two dogs that were there, the one that attacked and mauled the child was on a chain. And obviously the dog has been on a chain for a quite some time. That's a violation of Florence County Section 6-N-1A which prohibits someone from leaving a dog on a chain for more than eight hours in a 24 hour time period. So, we probably are going to pursue those criminal charges for animal cruelty," said Christmas.

He says there are signs around the property that leads him to believe the pit bull had been on a chain for a long period of time.

"You can just look at the area where the dog is, I mean, the ground is completely bare. All the grass had been killed, I guess by way of the chain dragging across it. Just indicative marks of an animal being chained indefinitely," Christmas explained.

Florence County passed the tethering ordinance in 2008 for safety and cruelty reasons.

"I'm not saying in any manner that the reason the dog attacked the child was because it was on a chain. It's just a proven fact that animals do become more aggressive when they're forced to be on chain all of their life than if they were in a pen or inside of a house."

Environmental Services is working with the Florence County Sheriff's Department in this investigation, Christmas said.

It could be a few days before a decision is made if charges will be filed.

Funeral arrangements for Arianna Jolee Merrbach are incomplete at this time.

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