Lifestyle & Human Interest

Family's Four Puppies Maul 2-Year-Old Girl while 'Playing,' Eat Half Her Ear


Editor’s Note: Our readers responded strongly to this story when it originally ran; we’re reposting it here in case you missed it.

On June 3, mom Sierra Michele Peden from Onyx, California, was driving with a friend to a store when she got a horrible call from her husband.

“He said, ‘I found Felicity unconscious laying under a tree! I think she’s missing an eye!'” Peden recalled, according to USA Today.

Felicity, the couple’s 2-year-old daughter, had been outside on the family’s half-acre property while the rest of the family was also outside, getting the yard ready for a party.

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At some point, some of the family went inside, including Peden, who took a very short shower and then left to go shopping with her friend. Peden herself was only gone from the house for a few minutes when her husband found their toddler in that sad state.

“All of this happened in a 10-minute span; from the time I went inside to shower to the time I called 911,” she shared on a GoFundMe page.

WARNING: The following descriptions and photos contain information and images which some may find disturbing.

But in that time, the family’s four puppies had done a serious amount of damage. Peden said they’d adopted the puppies, described as labrador/red heeler/pit bull mixes weeks ago. They were just 12 weeks old and had never shown any signs of aggression.

“At that time, to our knowledge Felicity was never alone with the puppies,” she continued on the GoFundMe. “We have a doggie door, so they would come and go as they pleased. Tragically, we have all learned how everything can change in an instant when everything was going fine.”

Felicity had cuts and injuries to her face, neck and upper body, and was missing a good part of her upper ear, which the family scoured the backyard looking for.

“The cops sat out here for 15 minutes with us trying to find it,” Peden told USA Today. “Even the doctors told us they thought it was puppy play because if they were really attacking her there would be chunks missing from her, but they were just scratches and bite marks.”

“Today around 5:20pm Felicity was outside playing with our puppies and the puppies (only 12 weeks old) took it too far… felicity was air lifted to childrens hospital in Fresno,” Peden posted on Facebook. “Her face was mutilated and they ate part of her ear.

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“I blame myself. This was not the puppies fault! They don’t know any better. I am her mother. It was my job to make sure she was safe.

“As of right now she is in surgery to try to clean the wounds and stitch her up and plastic surgery is trying to fix her face.”

The puppies were turned over to animal control. Peden is adamant that it had nothing to do with breed, as she also has a “trained, registered service dog” named Jimmy that is a pit bull and has protected the family in the past — though sadly, he was not outside at the time of the incident.

The GoFundMe page also states that the cause of the incident was something called “Littermate Syndrome,” where dogs that are siblings and grow up together tend to “pack up” and bond more with each other than their owners, causing themselves a lot of stress and pushing them to lash out.

“I heard from someone on Facebook about littermate syndrome and I had never heard of it so I looked it up on Google and then when animal control came out she was explaining that sometimes when more then one puppy is in the home they start to exhibit pack like behaviors,” Peden said. “I asked my follow up questions and told her everything that happened and that I researched it and… she agreed. They didn’t diagnose the animals with it they just explained what can sometimes happen when they aren’t separated to bond with their owners.”

However, according to some vets and behavioral experts, the syndrome is not a real condition or this case didn’t fit the definition, as the puppies were still too young. All signs seem to point to rough play — puppies are notorious for their razor-sharp teeth — morphing into play that was far too rough or became predatory.

According to posts from Peden, Felicity is doing well and hasn’t become fearful of dogs.

“She’s doing great,” Peden said. “She’s super. She’s a wild child. CPS (Child Protective Services) came by today and were surprised how fast she is healing.”

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