Monday 2 October 2023

Relatives of the baby who died in a dog attack could face criminal negligence

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The mother, grandmother and uncle of the 11-month-old girl who was attacked by an American Stafford dog, on January 28 of this year in Calle Blancos, are being investigated by the Fiscalía del II Circuito Judicial de San José (Prosecutor’s Office of the Second Judicial Circuit of San José) for breach of parental authority.

The dog, an American Stafford, was usually kept tied up in the garage,

In Spanish, “delito de incumplimiento de la patria potestad”, means that the people who were in the care of the child would have incurred negligence – failure to take proper care girl, whom the dog bit on the head when she went crawling to the garage where the animal was tied up.

In that house, authorities found, in addition to the American Stafford that attacked the girl, a dog of the same breed, as well as three others: a cocker, a Maltese and a schnauzer, all in improper condition.

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After the attack, the mother and the grandmother transferred the baby to the Clinica Chorito Picado, in Cinco Esquinas de Tibás, where she went into cardiac arrest and transferred to the Hospital Nacional de Niños (Children’s Hospital), where she later died from her injuries.

The Fiscalia asked the Homicide Section of the Organismo de Investigación Judicial (OIJ) for a report of the case in order to establish if there criminal negligence that resulted in the ending the life of the minor.

The determination has yet to be made. The Fiscalia saying they are still in the stage of collection and analysis of evidence in the case.

The family, in addition to losing the little girl, could face prosecution and could end up in prison from six months to two years, according to Article 188 of the Criminal Code.

According to criminal lawyer Daniel Vega, who spoke to La Nacion, the lack of care of the adults resulted in the death of the little girl.

He recalled the case of another infant, a seven-month-old baby who died, on March 27, 2014, in Alajuela, when the father inadvertently left the infant in the back seat of his car in the parking lot at his work. The infant died of neurological damage due to the heat stroke, being locked up almost two hours.

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A guard discovered the child and warned the father, who ran to take him to the nearby San Rafael Hospital, where he died shortly afterwards.

The lawyer explained that, according to the Constitution, the Penal Code and the Family Code, a parent has the function of protecting their child; by failing to comply with that duty, they can be penalized for violating the rights of the child.

“Probably, what the prosecution is doing, in the case of the 11-month-old girl, is that if (the adults)y had given her the necessary care, she would never have been exposed to the attack (by the dog),” explained Vega.

He added that in some cases and after the corresponding hearings, the Fiscalia applies criteria of opportunity or natural penalty, and asks to release the person under investigation from responsibility (dismissal of charges), feeling that the loss of a loved one is sufficient punishment.

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In the case of the 11-month-old girl, it is unclear yet if the family could go to trial; although, if condemned, they would not go to prison – because it is a penalty of less than three years – though their judicial file is stained and a precedent set.

What happened with the dog ?

According to the Servicio Nacional de Salud Animal (Senasa) – National Animal Health Service  –  the dog that attacked the little girl is in their hands and is being fed and taken care, being part of the investigation.

The future of the animal will be up to the courts, based on the technical report by the Senasa.

For Rubén Rodríguez, president of the Federación Canina de Costa Rica (ACAN) – Canine Federation of Costa Rica – “That dog already claimed the life of a human being. We need to know if they (Senasa) are applying the ‘noxiousness table’ published in December 2018 for any dog that has bitten”.

Based on that, the dog is classified as noxious or not. If the form they are using is not adequate, “that dog is going to bite again,” he said.

The ACAN head added that the protocol states that if a dog has irreversible aggressiveness, euthanasia should be applied and that it’s Senasa’s obligation to report where they have it and what behavior modification technique they are using.

He added that whenever Senasa picks up a dog like that, it’s like if it is swallowed up by a black hole; You do not know where it is.

“As that dog showed aggression against the little girl, the only way to work on that impulse or stimulus that generated the attack is with children. Who will lend a child to perform a test to determine if the dog is going to generate aggression or not? That is very difficult,” said Rodriguez.

In the Calle Blancos case, the report indicated that the dog was tied up in a corner of the house, with little socialization and stressed.

“That evidences the bad handling, carelessness and total ignorance on the part of the family. We saw that it is powerful because it took the life of the girl,” Rodriguez said.

American Staffords are among the breeds considered “powerful”, that can be lethal in an attack against a human.

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