Monday, October 23, 2000

Wolf hybrid kills grandson, 5

OHIO -- A 5-year-old Cincinnati boy was killed Saturday morning when his grandmother's pet wolf hybrid attacked him at her home here.

Joe, an 18-month old female wolf hybrid,attacked the boy, Oberen “Obie” Burgin, after he strolled too close to the chained animal, authorities said.

Mavis Miller, the hybrid's owner, might face charges, pending further investigation, according to Lt. Nick Coyle with the Hamilton County Sheriff's Office.

Hamilton Couty Park Districk Ranger Joyce L. Walters (kneeling)
consoles the sister of the boy killed by the wolf hybrid.

Ohio does not have a law forbidding owning a specific animal breed, said Andy Mahlman, operations manager of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) in Northside. Hamilton County likewise has no such law.

The last killing in Hamilton County of a human by a pet occurred in 1983, when Marcellus Hampton, an 11-year-old Fairmount boy, died from a pit bull attack.

Ms. Miller's residence, in the 4900 block of East Miami River Road, is directly across from the Miami Township Fire Department. Firefighters arrived while the leashed wolf circled along a worn pathway near the lifeless child.

The boy's uncle, Mike Golden, 27, shot the 85-pound gray-and-white wolf with a .22-caliber pistol as firefighters arrived. SPCA officials asked sheriff's deputies to finish off the animal.

Miami Township Fire Chief Jim Hughes said the boy's only visible injury was a bite to the abdomen, leading authorities to speculate the boy died from internal injuries. An autopsy will be performed.

Firefighters said he did not regain consciousness while being treated. A University Hospital Air Care doctor pronounced the boy dead at the scene.

“It's kind of hard,” said Rob Street, the first firefighter on the scene, tears in his eyes. “I've got a 10-year-old at home.”

Paul Strasser, head of the Red Wolf Sanctuary in Dillsboro, Ind., called the attack a tragedy. The wildlife expert, however, said the child's death comes as no surprise; these types of accidents typically happen when people try to domesticate wild animals.

“Every year you have a kid killed in some part of the country by one of these things,” said Mr. Strasser, who holds a bachelor's degree in wildlife management from Montana State University and a master's degree in education from the University of Cincinnati.

“People need to learn that it is not a good idea to try to keep these types of animals as pets, especially around children.

“A child is dead because someone had an animal that had no business being there.”

Family members said Oberen liked dogs, and apparently was being curious when he was attacked.

Sher Amrein, 26, a neighbor, said she complained about the creature to the SPCA three weeks ago. She was worried because her four daughters routinely play outside. The hybrid had been chained closer to the road, but was moved to near the back of Ms. Miller's lot, she said.

“We checked our mail and (the animal) looked up at us like, "You gonna feed me or not,'” Ms. Amrein, 26, said. “I think my husband pet the dog once.”

In 1994, the City of Cincinnati passed a law prohibiting ownership of animals “not customarily domesticated in the city.” Wolves and wolf-dog hybrids are included in the ordinance.

In 1986, Cincinnati voted to ban pit bulls, but did not enforce the law until August 1995, after a pit bull mauled an officer. The ban was lifted in November 1999.

(Enquirer - Oct 22, 2000)