Special Report: Pit Bull Attack

By Lindsey Connell - bio | email | Twitter

COLUMBUS, GA (WTVM) -  Columbus Police say it is one of the worst dog attacks the city has ever seen.

It was so serious, investigators had to take special steps to make sure the right canine was captured.

It's been months and 13-year-old Brianna Watkins is still dealing with the scars you can see and others you can't.

Both of her ears are missing and she wears hat to cover a wound that stretches across her head.

Nerve damage has distorted the shape of her face.

"When something like that happens you don't know if you're going to live or die," she told News Leader 9.

The attack happened nearly six months ago off Buena Vista Road at the Celia Drive home where Brianna lives with her grandparents.

Columbus Police say a neighbor's pit bull got loose, climbed a fence five feet tall and made its way into Brianna's yard.

"I saw a dog outside and I went out and played with it. He grabbed my arm playfully. He took me around back and started to attack. He attacked my head. I tried pushing him off but I couldn't," she said.

Brianna and her grandparents thought for sure her young life was over- right there in the backyard.

"When you pick up your child and she's got bites and blood all over her you just don't know what you're doing," her grandmother, Melba Warren, said.

Columbus investigators feared the worst for Brianna as well. They say her injuries were so severe, they thought she was going to die.

Afraid they may never get the chance to talk to her about the attack, they found a lab in Texas that specializes in animal DNA and sent evidence off to find out which dog was responsible for the attack.

Authorities are still waiting for those results, which can take up to eight months.

But after weeks in the hospital, Brianna started to improve and police say she identified the dog that left her mutilated.

She pointed to a pit bull named Debo who lived two doors down.

He now lives in captivity at the Animal Control facility on Milgen Road where a court order issued by Muscogee County Superior Court Judge Bobby Peters is attached to his cage.

It says Debo cannot be released or put to sleep, as local officials wait for the DNA results to come in.

"It needs to be put to sleep. I don't want anything to happen to anybody else if that dog got loose," said Brianna.

The dog's owner, Demetrius Miles, has been charged with reckless conduct because police say his pet was unattended and endangered Brianna's life.

He's pled not guilty and his case is now in state court.

Miles' lawyer, William Kirby, says he too is waiting to see if the DNA is a match to Debo.

"We have a DNA test pending. In other words, we're waiting on the results of it. By DNA, I mean DNA on the dog. I think the case will likely not proceed until we get the results of that DNA test and determine if this is the right dog or not," Kirby added.

In the meantime, Brianna's family is taking action.

"The family has come to me regarding the possible follow up with a civil lawsuit against the owner of the pit bull. She was in her own yard, attacked unprovoked. She suffered extremely serious injuries as a result of this. We're looking into the aggravated nature of the injuries, compiling the medical bills at this time," their attorney, Richard Hagler, revealed.

After what happened to her, Brianna's grandfather, Marvin Warren, also thinks tougher laws should be on the books in the city and in the state for owners of dogs deemed dangerous.

"Nothing should happen to a kid like it happened to my granddaughter and believe you, me it's going to happen again- somewhere, sometime, someplace it's going to happen if they don't do something about it," he said.

As Debo's fate hangs in the balance, Brianna continues to heal.

A former student at Midland Middle School in Columbus, she's now being home-schooled as she recuperates.

So far, she's undergone two surgeries.

Doctors have removed muscle from her back to cover her exposed skull and replace her scalp.

A procedure scheduled for next week will help recreate one of her ear canals.

"She's got many, many more surgeries on down the road. It's going to take a long time for us to heal and for her to heal mentally and physically. When it first happened, we thought we were going to lose her. She's just an amazing child because she's never once cried or said she hurts anywhere so she's a tough little kid," her grandfather said.

"You just have to keep your hopes up and say you're going to make it through this because if you're not positive, you can't do it," Brianna added.

Ben Richardson, the Solicitor General who oversees the state court system in Muscogee County, tells WTVM his office is trying to upgrade the pit bull owner's charges to a felony.

Richardson says he is waiting on Brianna's medical diagnosis and whether or not she will be permanently disfigured.

He hopes to receive the word from doctors in the next thirty days.

A fund has been set up for Brianna.

You can make donations at any Sun Trust Bank under the "Rehabilitation Fund for Brianna Watkins".

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