Pit Bull Attacks. Will Stats and Lawsuits Change Opinions About Breed?

ANIMAL WATCH - Eleven-year-old Justin Gilstrap was out riding his bike on January 6 in Columbia County, GA—like children all over the U.S.—when three Pit Bulls grabbed his leg, pulling him to the ground and mauling him so badly that 70 percent of his scalp was ripped off, and he suffered other severe injuries, WRDW News (Augusta, Ga) reported. 

This could be anyone’s child! 

An 11-year-old who was attacked by three pit bulls Friday needed two surgeries because of his injuries, WRDW reported. 

His mother, Ericka Gilstrap told reporters one of the Pit Bulls grabbed his leg and the second attacked his lower torso, causing him to fall from his bike. Then a third dog dragged him into a ditch. 

Her 11-year-old nephew called 911 after discovering Justin in the ditch. 

She said Justin was rushed in for emergency surgery. “There’s a possibility he could be missing part of his ear. They can’t see it was his other ear. He’s got cartilage hanging,” she explained. 

“They had to quit taking his blood pressure because there was nowhere good to do it. So they finally put it on his arm and he was screaming, but they’re giving him fentanyl and morphine and he’s been pretty calm.” 

After being rushed to the hospital, Justin’s scalp had to be removed down to his neck and his leg has two large wounds that could not be closed.” Additionally his left ear was seriously damaged and became infected,” his mother said. 



The dogs belonged Justin’s neighbor, Burt Baker III. 

The Columbia County Sheriff’s Office reported, “three dogs were involved in the attack, and at least seven were taken from the owner’s home,” and that deputies “have responded to at least five incidents involving dogs in this area since 2014.” 

Justin’s mother said no one has ever come out to check on the reports and no actions have been taken to get the Pit Bulls controlled. 

The sheriff’s office turned each of these cases over to Animal Control, rather than responding directly to the owner of the dogs in this case. 

(See: Pit Bull Attacks are Not 'Accidents'.) 

Since the attack, Justin has been through two surgeries with more to come, but he told WRDW “he won’t give up.” 


On February 1, WRDW reported, “The family of a boy who was mauled by three Pit Bulls has sued the owner and is seeking compensatory damages along with punitive damages with “no limitation….” 

The dogs reportedly ripped off most of Justin’s scalp, and the boy suffered wounds all the way to the bone on his legs. He also lost one of his ears, while the other ear had to be reattached. 

“He has undergone and continues to undergo, extensive medical care and treatment,” the lawsuit said. “Despite this medical care and treatment, Justin Gilstrap will be left with permanent mental and physical injuries, including scarring and permanent disfigurement.” 

The Pit Bulls involved in the attack and several others with the same owner have been euthanized since the attack. 

Justin’s family is seeking punitive damages to deter the dogs’ owner, Burt Thomas Baker III, from ever letting something like this happen again. The family filed a lawsuit against Baker as well as a number of others believed to be involved and who contributed to the problem. 

“It’s about accountability for the people that are responsible for what happened to Justin Gilstrap. It’s about justice for Justin Gilstrap for everything that he’s been through and everything that he’s going to have to continue to endure,” said Adam King, of Nicholson Revell LLP. 


On January 17, 2023, KTVU Investigations reported, “Dog with history of attacking does it again; latest victim is child.” 

An eight-year-old girl, named, Layla Silva, was bitten multiple times Monday afternoon outside her home in Martinez, CA, by a neighbor’s Pit Bull. This was not the first attack by this dog—which is now impounded at the city shelter—but the latest in a series of attacks that have the community demanding action for the safety of all residents of the neighborhood. 

Last year, this same Pit Bull, named Spot, was reportedly placed on a “potentially dangerous animal” (PDA) list after attacking two adults in separate incidents. 

Spot attacked a homeless man in August and attacked and bit another neighbor who was in her driveway last October. After that attack the Pit Bull was reportedly placed on a “potentially dangerous animal” (PDA) list and the owner was ordered to leash and muzzle Spot anytime the dog was outside. 

After the attack on Layla, it has been impounded and quarantined at the animal shelter. 

Layla, was bitten on the back and arm while playing on a swing outside her Saxon Street home Monday afternoon. 

Heather Silva said she heard her daughter screaming outside and ran out of the house. When she opened the door, her dogs also ran out. Then she saw Spot biting her daughter. She said she didn’t think about her own safety, she just ran to get her daughter and her dogs all inside the house. 

She told KTVU, “I thought it bit her arm and so we were taking care of it and she said my back hurts and we lifted up her shirt. We didn't even know her whole back was attacked.” 

A neighbor told the reporter. “That dog is holding us all hostage.” 

Neighbors are now calling for the dog to be euthanized, stating that they want the dog put down for the safety of the neighborhood and the 16 kids who play there. 



While some neighbors blame animal control for not euthanizing or removing the dog after the last attack, Contra Costa County Animal Control’s Capt. Jane DeMay Andreotti said “the agency did not fail in any way,” according to the KTVU report

“There are permit conditions in managing that animal,” she said. “At any time when an owner has shown that they have not followed the permit conditions, we have options around not renewing that permit.”

Andreotti said the owner is to blame for a dog not being managed properly or if it becomes loose or attacks and bites. For now, Spot has been impounded while the owner decides if he wants to surrender him. 

A neighbor told the reporter, “Is it going to take a child being killed in this neighborhood before animal control will take it and do the right thing?” 


On January 19, KTVU reported that the Pit Bull responsible for at least three attacks, including a little girl, was surrendered by the dog’s owner and euthanized by Contra Costa County Animal Services on Thursday.

According to this report, the Pit Bull, Spot, was leashed at the time of the attack on Layla Silva, but the owner’s friend could not control the 15-month-old dog. 

(Also see: 2023 Dog Bites.org Fatalities) 


The Hidden Dangers of America’s Pit Bulls SCRUBS 

Scrubs Magazine for Nurses: The Nursing Blog for Healthcare Professionals has published an important list of statistics and valuable information for EVERYONE

Here are a few of the very important advice and statistics cited: 

The iconic pit bull isn’t exactly America’s favorite breed of dog. In fact, it’s one of the most reviled. Pit bulls are known to bite humans more than other breeds, which makes it difficult for them to find a home. These dogs deserve to live a happy, healthy life just like any other animal, but they need to be sheltered in a way that reduces their threat to the public. 

So, are these dogs really as big of a threat as they seem? 

Unfortunately, pit bulls are known to bite more humans than other breeds of dogs. From February 2013 to the present, animal control agencies and health departments in 19 U.S. states report that pit bulls are leading all breeds in biting incidents. From 2008 to 2018, pit bulls killed or maimed 3,569 people in the U.S. and Canada

Pit bull bites are also more deadly than those of other breeds. When they bite, they bite hard. 

From 2011 to 2019, 14 peer-reviewed retrospective medical studies from Level 1 trauma centers from all four corners of the U.S. all came to the same conclusion: pit bulls are inflicting a higher prevalence of injuries than all other breeds of dogs

But some pit bull owners aren’t carrying their weight. In fact, pit bull owners are more likely to be irresponsible than the owners of other dogs. For example, they may not have insurance to cover the damages caused by their dog. 

Several published, peer-reviewed studies in authoritative journals of psychology and forensic science report that pit bull owners on average are more likely to be socially deviant, engage in crimes involving children, domestic violence, alcohol abuse, and violent crimes against other persons. 

Read in entirety at Scrubsmag.com here


Something not mentioned above is that many Pit Bulls are still bred for dog fighting, which is a major gambling industry; and all carry the early genes of the breed to varying degrees. Their actions are often influenced by genetics and nature—rather than nurture and training—which can make behavior unpredictable. 

Sadly, some that have lived with an owner or family for years can suddenly attack and kill them or someone else they love. One of the ironies of the breed—and why they are so often “forgiven and given another chance”—is that, once an attack has ended, the dog often returns to its “normal/loving” behavior, and thus owners seek a reason an incident occurred and take the blame. But, once the dog has dominated and won, it has acquired a satisfaction it is likely to repeat. (See: Pit Bull Awareness Day 2022—Victims’ Families Plan Funerals.) 

If you own a Pit Bull, the law holds you to the same level of compliance as any breed and you are responsible—legally and morally—for it and its behavior. 

This may require heavy-duty fencing and security doors so that the dog cannot run out. Spay/neuter is essential to safer behavior. License and microchip your Pit Bull dog or puppy because they are often stolen (sometimes by someone with whom you are  acquainted.). Be sure to carry insurance that includes this breed and is adequate to cover the high costs of a lawsuit and payment for injuries or death. Be sure you are aware of dog-bite law and dog ordinances in your community, so you do not become another statistic—and remember that a victim of a Pit Bull attack—if he, she survives-- is not just injured, but often crippled and disfigured for life. 

Be sure the dog—and yourself—get professional training in order to maintain as much control as possible. Be careful about adopting a dog with a history of ANY aggression—no Pit Bull is only animal aggressive or human aggressive—often an attack is just a matter of “opportunity.”


(Phyllis M. Daugherty is a former Los Angeles City employee, an animal activist and a contributor to CityWatch.)