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Deputies reveal new details in deadly dog mauling

Published: Mar. 23, 2022 at 11:40 AM EDT|Updated: Mar. 23, 2022 at 4:24 PM EDT
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MARTINEZ, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) - We’re learning more about a dog attack that killed a 7-month-old girl in Martinez and left a family and the community in mourning and disbelief.

The attack by a dog in the household happened Tuesday afternoon at 3701 Columbia Drive, where the girl — identified by deputies as Serenity Garnett, of Grovetown — was being watched by her great-grandmother.

The Columbia County Sheriff’s Office on Wednesday afternoon released an incident report that revealed new details about the case.

The report says deputies responded around 12:15 p.m. Tuesday to the home and found the great-grandmother and the girl being treated by fire crews for injuries.

The 56-year-old great-grandmother had lacerations and puncture wounds on her arms. Her wounds were not life-threatening and she continues to recover at a hospital.

The child, also with multiple lacerations and puncture wounds, was not breathing when deputies arrived. Fire crews were performing CPR.

To authorities’ knowledge, the great-grandmother was renting the property, and she was the only renter living there. The dog belongs to a woman who splits ownership of the residence with her brother, deputies wrote.

The female co-owner of the home is incarcerated, but her brother responded to the scene and was told what happened, deputies said.

The child’s mother arrived before the ambulance’s departure and followed the girl to the hospital, where Serenity was declared dead.

Columbia County Sheriff’s Office Maj. Steve Morris said the investigation is still incredibly fluid and in the early stages. Authorities are still gathering information, and charges are possible.

Meanwhile, Serenity’s aunt Kendal Crawley started a GoFundMe campaign to raise money for funeral expenses. Within 17 hours, it had surpassed its goal of $10,000. Also in Serenity’s memory, the family is planning a balloon release and vigil at 6:30 p.m. Thursday in front of the house.

A key question for investigators is what led to the attack by the dog, which is in quarantine for 10 days.

Attorney Vic Hawk says he sees dog attack cases more than you think.

“We probably get calls every month to a month and a half about a dog case that has resulted in a serious injury,” he said. “These can be very serious, very tragic consequences as a result of owning a dog.”

In Georgia, any dog that breaks the skin is deemed dangerous, so the dog must be registered with the state if not euthanized. In Columbia County, an animal can be euthanized at the discretion of Animal Services if the animal represents a danger.

“As a result, if the dog bites someone else, then the owner is subject to a high and aggravated misdemeanor charge,” he said.

Owners of what the state calls “dangerous or vicious dogs” are required to have liability insurance of at least $50,000.

Neighbors told us about the Great Pyrenees-American bulldog mix at the home, which bears a “BEWARE OF THE DOG” sign on a backyard chain-link fence.

During a previous incident where paramedics had to respond, one neighbor had to intervene.

“My friend and I had to occupy the dog for them to get in there and get the woman to the hospital,” said Tim Jardine, who lives down the street.

His sister-in-law, Amanda Jardine, who also lives on the street, said: “It won’t let anyone come near anybody. I guess dogs are supposed to be protective, but that dog can be a little more overprotective, like in a vicious way.”

They just hope something like this won’t happen again.

“My heart goes out to their family,” she said.

A dog mauled a 7-month-old girl in the 3700 block of Columbia Drive in Martinez, authorities...
A dog mauled a 7-month-old girl in the 3700 block of Columbia Drive in Martinez, authorities said.(WRDW)

The attack comes as equally vicious ones have made recent headlines in the two-state region and elsewhere:

Although many dog attacks might be provoked, some attacks on small children can happen without warning. Experts say a small child may trigger a predator instinct to hunt prey. Or if a small child disturbs a dog, the dog could attack in a misguided attempt to deliver discipline.

Although all these incidents go far beyond just a dog bite experts say most dog bites are rooted in one or more of these reasons: fear, being startled, trying to protect something, frustration and pain. Experts also say there are warning signs for aggressive behavior that can include a hard stare, ears back or up, bared teeth, a tense stance and raised fur.

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