Dog-mauled boy sends heart-melting message from hospital
EVANS, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) - Young dog attack victim Justin Gilstrap underwent surgery Friday, one of many operations he’ll need during a long hospitalization as he recovers from the Columbia County mauling.
The 11-year-old remains in good spirits as the community rallies behind him – even recording a video from his hospital bed, telling people, “Hey, everybody. I love y’all. I just want you to know, I’m OK.”
He’s awake and able to talk in small intervals, his mother says.
Meanwhile, we learned more about the dog owner’s surrender of the animals.
Burt Baker of Langston Drive surrendered a total of seven pit bull terriers and pit bull mixes, according to documentation of the transfer, which cited “cooperation with Columbia County” as the reason for the surrender.
Surrendered were Grace, 10 months; Deebo, 4 months; Tequila, 4 months; Diogee, 3 months; Rolex, 2 years; Grace, 2 years; and Diamon, a year and a half old. At least Grace and Diamiond were vaccinated for rabies, according to the documentation.
It’s been a week since three of the dogs attacked Justin as he was riding his bicycle, ripping his scamp from his head and causing numerous other injuries.
After talking to Justin’s aunt about prior incidents involving the dogs that attacked him, we’re hearing from Columbia County about why there didn’t seem to be a follow-up after the dog’s owner received the final warning.
There were multiple calls for animal complaints in the area where the attack happened. The county says they did everything they could to patrol the area leading up to the attack.
“I’m not saying Columbia County always does everything right. But in this instance, we follow the protocol,” said Columbia County Manager Scott Johnson.
There have been three calls of complaints on the dog’s owner, but it takes multiple calls for the county to act.
For the dogs at Burt Baker’s address, on Jan. 2, 2022, dogs attacked a neighbor’s Yorkie. The dogs were found roaming the neighborhood again a week later, and a final warning was issued.
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“If we’ve been to your house two times, three times, we’re getting to the case of ‘OK, this is your final warning you’re getting about letting your dogs out,’” he said.
In July, they had another complaint about the dogs being out. Since the final warning was issued, Baker was cited, and one of his dogs was impounded.
He then paid the fees to get the dog back. Per state code, in order for dogs to be impounded for good, the dogs have to attack a human.
“We’re not naive to the fact that there may be vicious dogs out there. They just have to attack somebody before the county can do anything,” said Johnson.
As for the most recent situations, Columbia County says they acted when they were able to when Gilstrap was attacked.
“If we were dealing with a situation where we’ve had dogs attack people in the past, and the county did nothing, then we’d be dealing with a different incident. In this particular case, we have a child that was attacked. We immediately responded by impounding the animals and issuing 15 citations and turning it over to the sheriff’s office who made an arrest,” said Johnson.
Moving forward, the county says they haven’t discussed changing or keeping any of their current ordinances when it comes to dogs.
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