Tuesday, August 21, 2018
Public safety

Plant City toddler hospitalized after being trapped in dog's mouth

PLANT CITY — A toddler was seriously injured when he was attacked and mauled by a dog Tuesday morning along the Hillsborough-Polk county line.

It happened about 8 a.m. outside H.D. Budd Farms, a cannery at 3701 E Trapnell Road, just 6 miles south of Plant City. Hillsborough sheriff's Detective Jeffrey Harris was visiting the business to warn the owner, Teresa Budd, about car burglaries in the area, according to the Sheriff's Office.

As the two talked, Budd said they noticed a dog, a 50-pound boxer, carrying something in its mouth near the cannery's loading ramp. When they walked closer, the dog turned to an angle, and Budd said they could see the child's leg trapped in its mouth.

She said the dog appeared to be "tossing" the child back and forth.

Budd and the detective ran toward the dog. The detective screamed at the dog, authorities said. The dog then dropped the child and ran away. Harris stood between the boy and the dog while Budd ran to summon the boy's mother, who lives across the road.

The Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office later identified the boy as Michael Diaz, who next month will turn 2 years old. He was flown to Tampa General Hospital for treatment. The child was listed as being in serious condition, according to the Sheriff's Office, but they did not disclose the extent of his injuries. Budd said she heard he was undergoing reconstructive surgery.

The boy lives at nearby 3735 Kendrick Court. The dog belongs to his family, officials said.

The boy's mother was visibly distraught when she learned what happened, Budd said.

Marti Ryan, a spokeswoman for the Hillsborough County Pet Resource Center, said the county's animal control agency has no record of complaints about the dog.

Agency officials said Tuesday afternoon that the dog was being quarantined. Its fate was uncertain.

Hillsborough sheriff's spokeswoman Debbie Carter said detectives are treating the case as a dog bite and do not expect to file charges against anyone.

"We're still looking into what exactly transpired," she said.

Sheriff's records show deputies have been called to the Diaz home a number of times in the last two years. But none of the calls appear to have been related to an animal complaint.

Carolyn Jones, who lives across the street, said she has often seen the dog wandering the neighborhood. It never struck her as an aggressive animal, she said. But she added that about a month ago, the injured boy's older brother knocked on her door. He told her the dog was trying to kill him. She let the boy come inside, she said.

Pet Resource Center personnel could be seen pulling the dog by a leash after the attack. They also collected several boxer puppies from the home.

A man who shares the same address as the victim, Eduarleidis Diaz-Matos, 34, was arrested in Polk County in October 2013 on an animal neglect charge, according to state records. His relation to the injured boy was unknown.

According to an arrest report in the 2013 case, deputies serving a search warrant at a Polk City home found a "black and brown shepherd mix" dog chained in the back yard without food or water. They also found about 40 chickens running free.

Diaz-Matos told investigators he was the caretaker for the animals but had not fed them in two or three days, according to the report. In a Polk County courtroom, he later pleaded no contest and was fined $320.

Times news researcher John Martin contributed to this report. Contact Dan Sullivan at [email protected] or (813) 226-3386. Follow @TimesDan.

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