- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 24, 2005

NEW ORLEANS — Rocking your baby to sleep in a mechanical swing may trigger a deadly attack on the child by the family dog, a coroner warns.

At least two such deaths have been documented in Maryland over a four-year period, Dr.Albert Y. Chu of the state’s medical examiner’s office said Wednesday at a meeting in New Orleans of the American Academy of Forensic Sciences.

The back-and-forth motion may activate the dog’s instinct to chase prey, he said. “Think about dogs chasing cars or tennis balls. They can’t control their behavior — they just go,” Dr. Chu said.

In 2003, a 2-week-old boy was dragged from his swing and killed by the family’s pit bull in Baltimore after the baby’s mother left him to answer the front door. In Edgemere, Md., in 1999, a 3-month-old boy was fatally mauled as his parents slept in another room.

Another baby-swing fatality involved an 18-day-old girl in Tampa, Fla., who died in 2000 after her mother left the room to warm a bottle for her.

There have been at least two nonfatal attacks related to baby swings across the country in the past few years. In one of those cases, in Summerville, S.C., in 2003, the dog lunged for the baby and bit her in front of the child’s mother.

In 2000, Sabrina Williamson of Peru, Ind., had gone to the store while her husband napped in another room, about 6 feet away from 9-week-old Alex. She walked back in and found her husband wrestling their pit bull off the baby. They had had the dog eight years, since Alex’s brother was 4.

“I think it could be a key factor. Our dog had never been mean towards a child before,” she said in a telephone interview.

The baby’s face was bitten and bloody, and his collarbone was broken and protruding from his shoulder, police said.

Catherine Mills, a Marshall, N.C., dog trainer with 25 years of experience, and John C. Wright, an animal behiavorist at Mercer University, said pets should be conditioned to ignore baby swings before a baby is put into one.

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