HAVERHILL — With her mom watching in shock, a 1-year-old girl was bit in the face by a pit bull, requiring the child to undergo extensive surgery and dozens of stitches.
Bianca Zangari-Dacey had surgery Wednesday night and is out of the hospital, but her grandfather is angry, saying the dog had bitten other people in the past and should have been seized by police before now.
Police said they have custody of the dog, which was removed from the 2 Jackson St. house where the girl was bitten. A detective will investigate and report back to police Chief Alan DeNaro and other officials in the department, who will decide whether the dog will be destroyed, said Deputy Chief Donald Thompson.
Bianca’s grandfather, Tim Dacey of Haverhill, said the girl and her mother, Katelyn Zangari of Haverhill, were visiting friends at the home of the adult pit bull when it bit the child’s face at 3 p.m. Wednesday.
Katelyn Zangari said her daughter had played near the dog named Duchess several times in the past, never with a problem. She said another person who was in the room with them on Wednesday apparently stepped on the pit bull’s tail. The dog then turned in the direction of Bianca and bit her face, Zangari said.
Zangari said people at the home took Bianca to Merrimack Valley Hospital. She was then taken by ambulance to Anna Jaques Hospital in Newburyport, where a surgeon stitched up the inside and outside of her face.
“She had a big gash down her cheek,” Dacey said.
Zangari said her daughter needed at least 50 stitches in total. She said doctors told her they will have to wait until Bianca heals to determine whether she will need other treatment, such as plastic surgery to improve the appearance of the scars. Bianca was released from the hospital Thursday morning.
“There was a lot of blood,” Zangari said of the attack, adding of the aftermath, “She was calm through the whole thing.”
She said her daughter was playing relatively normally yesterday, although she did occasionally say things like “Oh, oh, doggie.” Family members said they and doctors will watch Bianca closely for signs of emotional scarring.
“She’s probably going to be traumatized,” Dacey said. His son Justin Dacey is Bianca’s father.
Police said the dog’s owner is Elizabeth Kakides of 2 Jackson St. Yesterday, Kakides said she was not home when Bianca was bit, but that once the child was cared for she made arrangements to give up the dog, which is about 5 years old. She said she signed papers with the animal control officer giving permission for the dog to be destroyed.
“The MSPCA called me and told me the dog will be humanely put down,” Kakides said. “It breaks my heart, but it had to be done. Once a dog bites, that’s it. The baby got hurt and she was innocent.”
Kakides said the dog was up to date on its shots. She said the dog was actually owned by her former husband, who recently had gone to jail, and that she was caring for the dog. She said the pit bull has been around Bianca many times and there was never a problem. She said she has spoken to Zangari and her family several times since the incident.
“I told them how sorry I was,” Kakides said. “I feel terrible.”
Zangari said she does not want to cause problems for Kakides, and that she does not hold her responsible for the attack. But Dacey said he is angry that the dog had not been seized earlier by police and the city’s animal control officer, since it reportedly had bitten other people in the past, including an elderly woman in the Jackson Street neighborhood.
“They’re going to destroy the dog,”’ Dacey predicted. “It would be one thing if the dog never did this before, but it should have never been there (in the home on Wednesday) in the first place.”
Dacey said he also is angry because when he called police to report the bite after it happened, expecting they would immediately seize the dog, they told him the animal control officer was unavailable and that they had other responsibilities at that hour, which was near the time of the department’s shift change.
Yesterday, Thompson said the case is under investigation and, besides the future of the dog which is at the city animal shelter, police have not yet determined whether the owner will face any fines or criminal charges. He refused to comment further.
“We want to take a close look at this,” Thompson said.
Thompson said he would be happy to talk to Dacey about his complaint that police refused to respond properly to his phone call about the bite. Thompson said Dacey is welcome to contact him and police will review an audiotape of Dacey’s call to the station. All calls from the public are recorded.
Zangari said she expects the dog will be destroyed by police because of the attack.
“They are going to put the dog to sleep,” said Zangari, who added she was told by police to meet with them today to further discuss the incident.
The attack is the latest in a series of dog attacks on people in Haverhill in the last year that caused city leaders to review and toughen up local animal control laws. The attacks, several of which happened last year, involved various breeds, including pit bulls and a German shepherd.
Among the most severe attacks: Robert Stickney Jr., 11, of Haverhill was bit in the arm and leg by a 100-pound mixed breed mastiff/pit bull while visiting friends at a High Street house on April 24, 2008. He needed hundreds of stitches to close his wounds. Three weeks earlier, professional dog walker Kathleen McCorry-Moge, 45, of Haverhill was attacked by an unleashed pit bull while walking a dog on Powder House Avenue. The dogs that attacked Robert Stickney Jr. and McCorry-Moge were put to death, police said.