Dad of 9-year-old Detroit girl mauled to death by pit bulls had argued with owner, family says

Three pit bulls escaped through dilapidated fences and attacked the girl while she was riding her bike Monday.

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By Elisha Fieldstadt

The father of a 9-year-old Detroit girl who was mauled to death by three pit bulls Monday had recently argued with the dogs' owners about properly fencing them in, her family said.

Emma Hernandez was riding her bicycle near her home in Southwest Detroit on Monday when the three pit bulls escaped through dilapidated fences and attacked her, according to police.

Emma Hernandez.Family photo via WDIV

One neighbor threw a brick at the dogs, while another bystander also tried to intervene. Hernandez was rushed in an ambulance to the hospital where she was pronounced dead.

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Hernandez's aunt, Claudia Stapleton, told NBC affiliate WDIV in Detroit that a week before the attack, the girl's father had fought with the dogs' owners about the animals getting out of their yard.

"He actually had an argument with them (being) properly fenced and not roaming about," Stapleton said. "They didn't do anything."

"She was a very happy child and she is going to be very, very missed," Stapleton added.

Detroit police respond to the scene where three dogs attacked a young girl who later died of her injuries in Detroit on Aug. 19, 2019.Max Ortiz / Detroit News via AP

Detroit Police Chief James Craig said at a news conference Tuesday that the owner of the dogs has been arrested and charges are under review. Craig called the incident "tragic."

"The owner has a responsibility when they have violent animals that those animals need to be secured at all times," the police chief said. "I believe that if you can’t secure the animal, you shouldn’t have the animal. Period. Not open for conversation."

"I can tell you frankly that I’ve not experienced anything like this in any place I’ve worked," he said. "This should not have happened."

The dogs will be euthanized, animal control officials told WDIV.