Surgeries continue for 11-year-old mauled by 3 dogs in Columbia County

11-year-old survivor of 3-dog attack in Columbia County continues through surgeries
11-year-old survivor of 3-dog attack in Columbia County continues through surgeries(Contributed)
Published: Jan. 9, 2023 at 2:14 AM EST
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COLUMBIA COUNTY, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) - An 11-year-old boy is going through multiple surgeries in the hospital after three pit bull terriers attacked him on Friday.

The Columbia County Sheriff’s Office confirms Burt Baker III, the owner of the dogs, was released on a $1,100 bond after being arrested.

Deputies met with him on Friday after the attack, where he told deputies the dogs were his and they like to chase people on bicycles.

That’s when deputies took him in and charged him with reckless conduct.

A muddy ditch off of Langston Drive is where it all happened between Appling and Grovetown.

Mother Ericka Gilstrap says her son, Justin Gilstrap, was riding his bike when one of Baker’s dogs started barking at him and grabbed his leg.

From there, other dogs showed up and pulled him into the ditch.

The family is now taking things day by day as Justin continues to fight through multiple surgeries.

There is now a “#JustinTough” circling around social media and that is how his mom describes him since the attack that changed his life forever.

Ericka wants people to know her story, so no mother has to go through this.

“Justin walked up to me, he was like ‘Momma, am I dreaming?’ and I was like, ‘Oh, my gosh, baby. No, you’re not.’” Ericka Gilstrap said.

“This is our life now. He’s going to be forever changed and life will never go back to the same for him, ever,” she said.

She says life for Justin changed in a matter of minutes: “He sat there kicking and screaming. Luckily, he was screaming loud enough that my 11-year-old nephew heard him. They brought him to me and one of my kids came running, ‘Justin has been attacked, Justin’s been attacked.’”

Since the attack, Justin’s been through two surgeries with more to come.

“He didn’t ask for this. He was just being a little boy playing outside like all the boys do. He should be at home right now riding his bike, you know, not sedated in a hospital bed. Just kills me, absolutely kills me. My poor baby,” she said.

Day by day, a hunting, fishing, and all-around outdoor-loving boy fights to get back to the life he loves. He loves to be outside.

“You couldn’t keep him inside,” Ericka said. “He’s a fighter. Had he not been a fighter right now, I could be planning his funeral instead of at the hospital with him.”

She says the truth is Justin is just lucky to be alive.

“I hope he’s still the same Justin he was before this, after this. Justin’s a happy little boy, everybody loves him. He’s a hugger, loves people. I just hope this didn’t break his spirits,” Ericka said.

She says his spirit is still fighting on.

“He can only mouth. We can’t hear what he’s saying. But he looked at me and he’s like, ‘Hug, hug.’ So they let down the rails and I was able to hug him and kiss on him and tell him I loved him. That’s all he wanted was a hug, was a hug and he got it, he got it,” she said.

Ericka says she is thankful for the support her family has seen so far, even complete strangers have reached out to her to show support.

More than $69,000 has been raised through a GoFundMe she started Sunday.

Justin’s school, Euchee Creek Elementary, is also showing support of the hashtag “#JustinTough.”