A two-year-old girl was viciously attacked by a dog on Wednesday, March 18, marring her face and upper body with severe wounds that may require cosmetic surgery, according to reports. The attack happened near the intersection of 177th Rd. and 120th Rd. in Western Suwannee County. The girl, Marina Aldama, was treated by medics at the scene until she was life flighted to UF Health in Gainesville. She was in stable condition when she was transported, according to Public Safety Director James Sommers. As of Thursday, March 19, she remained stable after undergoing hours of surgery according to her father, Jose Aldama.
“It was a significant dog attack,” said Sommers. “Her face, shoulders, upper torso, and back of the head were wounded.”
According to reports from the Suwannee County Sheriff’s Office and statements by Jose, the incident started while Marina was with her mother in the backseat of a parked van around 1 p.m. on Wednesday. Jose explained they were at a pine field to have lunch with his brother, who worked there. Jose opened the door of the van to pick his daughter up because she was calling for him, and then he sat her back down on the floor of the vehicle. He said he walked about 50 or 60 feet away from the van when he heard screams.
“I ran back, and my wife was screaming ‘the baby, the baby!’” Jose said. “When I got back, the dogs had my daughter. It took less than five seconds, it was just so fast. Those 50 or 60 feet I walked seemed to take an eternity to run back through.”
The attack was unprovoked, according to reports. The only explanation Jose could think of for the dogs to attack his daughter was she had eaten chicken earlier in the day and the dogs might have smelled it on her.
Jose’s coworker got the dogs off Marina with a stick which prompted the dogs to turn on the coworker, Jose said. The coworker continued to scare the dogs off while Jose went to pick his daughter up.
“She was all full of blood,” Jose said. “I told my brother to call an ambulance because there was blood everywhere.”
On Thursday, March 19, Jose and his wife were with Marina while she underwent a six hour surgery at UF Health to fix wounds on her eye, ear, and cheeks. Marina also had gouges on her back, Jose said.
The official report states Marina received a large laceration on her back left shoulder and an “unknown extent of injury” to the right side of her face.
“The doctors don’t think she will lose her sight, but we won’t know until she is conscious again,” Jose said of his daughter’s eye injury.
Jose was also unsure whether or not Marina would need cosmetic surgery; the doctors were still deciding on it, he said.
Jose said his daughter is a very excited, very active little girl who always loves to play, and her favorite cartoon to watch was Pocoyo.
“Even though we speak Spanish, she would always yell for me in English, ‘Daddy, Daddy!” Jose said.
It is unclear whether Marina was attacked by just the dog who pulled her out of the van or two other dogs who were also found with blood on them at their owner’s residence, according to the SCSO report. Marina’s parents said all three dogs were on top of their daughter.
The dogs were described as “white with brown on them” in the report. Officers found blood on one dog’s face and neck while two other dogs had blood splatters and streaks on them. Animal control officers made contact with the owner of the dogs regarding the attack and, as of Thursday, the dogs were under quarantine in a kennel at the owner’s residence.
“They were mixed breed dogs and looked like bulldog mixes,” said Janice Hunter, an animal control officer who responded to the scene. “It was a ‘mama’ dog and the other two dogs were her grown puppies. They were outside dogs, somewhat guarded, and by no means friendly.”
According to an animal bite investigation report, the owner of the dogs reported that one of the dogs, a three-year-old female, was vaccinated against rabies and had not bitten anyone before. Jose recalled hearing dogs barking at the worksite previously, but had never seen them. His coworkers had seen them, however, and said the dogs had tried to bite them before.
Hunter said the future of the dogs is yet to be determined. If the owner surrenders the dogs, they would be euthanized, Hunter said.