A mom has shared her devastation after four puppies mutilated her two-year-old daughter in a 10-minute attack.
Felicity Peden was left with missing chunks from her ear, while her face was covered in scratches after the Queensland Labrador puppies mauled her at the family home in California.
Mom Michele, 30, who lives with her husband, Michael and their three other children, Samantha, 13, Daisy, 11, and Daryl, one, had adopted the dogs just three weeks earlier in May 2022 from a friend.
And during that time the family said the animals – named Amarah, Negan, Gideon and Keerah – had showed no signs that they could become aggressive.
It is thought the animals – who have since been sent to a shelter for rehoming – may have been suffering from littermate syndrome, which can cause behavioral issues when siblings are raised together.
With Felicity now on the road to recovery, mom Michele has spoken out to avoid other parents going through the same ordeal.
It was on 3 June, while preparing for their youngest’s child’s birthday, that Michele stepped out to go shopping while her husband remained at home with the kids.
Soon after, she got the call every parent dreads – her daughter had been mauled by the animals.
The tragic incident took place within just 10 minutes.
Arriving at the hospital, Michele was horrified to discover Felicity unconscious with deep gashes, bloody scratches all over her face and chunks taken out of her ear.
‘They had eaten her ear and mutilated her face, neck and upper body,’ she told Jam Press.
Felicity is pictured before and after the incident, when four Queensland Labrador puppies adopted by her mother mauled the infant while her parents were away
The Labrador puppies are called Amarah, Negan, Gideon and Keerah – pets the couple had dreamed about having for years. The pups were taken into an animal shelter after local authorities decided they didn’t need to be put down and instead should be separated, as the pups were suffering from littermate syndrome
The child received plastic surgery in a bid to save her ear, but most could not be recovered. Felicity stabilized and the swelling on her face started to reduce, where scans revealed she hadn’t suffered any lasting damage to her internal organs or neck
‘All I could smell was puppy slobber all over her head, which made me want to cry and I felt sick to my stomach.
‘She was missing her hair and was covered in bandages and gauze.
‘There were stitches in multiple places, including her lip, neck and throat.
‘I cried, my heart was broken and I felt like I was going to pass out – the feeling of not being able to do anything to help my baby was overwhelming.
‘I blamed myself and the guilt of not seeing the signs was overwhelming.
‘At the time, I had no other information but I concluded that the only thing in the backyard that could have caused that kind of damage was the puppies.’
In a bid to raise awareness and to stop the tragedy from happening to any other families, the parents have shared their story on social media, where it has since gone viral.
They have also launched a GoFundMe to raise money for Felicity’s mounting hospital bills, which currently sits at $2,800 of a $25,000 goal.
Due to the child’s severe injuries, she was flown to a specialist children’s hospital with a trauma center in Fresno, California, where she received plastic surgery in a bid to save her ear.
Michele said: ‘After three hours of plastic surgery, they were unable to save much of her ear – except for her earlobe and inner ear.
‘She struggled to open her eyes and was crying for us, as well as signing that she wanted her ‘baba’ and that she needed to be sick – probably because of the morphine.
‘Medics informed us she had muscle damage to her face, arms and legs, where she will need many surgeries in the near future.
‘I wanted to hold her but we couldn’t as we were told her neck injuries were too severe.
‘Before the incident, she was full of joy, smiles and mischief, but initially we were worried she would be left with a different future ahead of her.’
Due to the child’s severe injuries, she was flown to a specialist children’s hospital with a trauma center in Fresno, California
The nightmare continued as doctors told the parents their daughter’s kidneys were failing and her body was beginning to shut down from the trauma, as they suggested putting her on dialysis.
Over the next few days, Felicity stabilized and the swelling on her face started to reduce, where scans revealed she hadn’t suffered any lasting damage to her internal organs or neck.
She has since improved and has been released from hospital after seven days – but is still attending appointments to have plastic surgery once a week.
After she turns seven, Felicity will undergo further plastic surgery on her face and have part of her rib removed to construct a new ear.
The family’s four pups were taken into an animal shelter after local authorities decided they didn’t need to be put down and instead, should be separated due to suffering from littermate syndrome.
Michele said: ‘Littermate syndrome rarely occurs in canine siblings who have been raised in the same household beyond the normal 10 weeks of age.
‘As a result, a whole host of behavioral issues can become present while they try to display ‘pack behaviors.’
‘They can turn instantly violent towards others, so after the attack on Felicity they ended up attacking each other as well.
She has since improved and has been released from hospital after seven days – but is still attending appointments to have plastic surgery once a week
Her mother says she is making a strong recovery. After she turns seven, Felicity will undergo further plastic surgery on her face and have part of her rib removed to construct a new ear
‘The pups also managed to get inside our chicken coop where they killed nine of my 15 chickens.
‘While we loved our little pups, we’ve now sent them to a shelter for rehoming and due to their young age, it’s believed they are unlikely to attack again if they are separated.
‘The cops and animal control were having a hard time believing puppies could have done this and thought for sure it was a bob cat or coyote.
‘If they can’t be adopted or still show signs of aggression after training, they will sadly have to be put down.’
Michele, who is an experienced dog owner, also owns an American Pitbull terrier, Jimmy, who the family love deeply.
She agreed to adopt the four crossbreed puppies from a friend who was moving away from the area and couldn’t take them along.
Michele added: ‘In the three weeks that we had the puppies, they showed no signs that they could become aggressive.
‘I would never have left Felicity alone with them [if I knew this] but we accept full responsibility and accountability for this tragedy – but are incredibly grateful to all who have extended their love and prayers of support.
‘She’s now doing great and will be in therapy to help her learn how to cope [with the trauma].
‘Our Felicity is a strong, resilient angel who will overcome all she has endured and we hope the trauma will be forgotten overtime as she heals.’
As she shares her daughter’s journey on Instagram, parents have flooded the comments with their reactions to the tragedy.
‘Omg my heart hurts about what happened but so happy for her recovery,’ one user commented. [sic]
Someone else added: ‘I can only imagine how scared she was! I’m so sorry this happened.’
‘Girl I don’t think I’ll allow my kids to play in front yard anymore man,” another person said.
The GoFundMe can be found here.
Michele had stepped out to go shopping while her husband remained at home with the kids
WHAT IS LITTERMATE SYNDROME?
Littermate Syndrome is a non-scientific term used to describe a host of behaviors that can occur if puppies from the same litter are raised together.
While there is a sparsity of scientific literature in the field, professional dog breeders such as guide dog charities generally avoid raising dogs from the same litter together because of the risk of developing co-dependency.
Many dogs raised in the same litter become shy and find it difficult to be separated from their siblings later in life.
Others manifest a host of behaviors, some of which can include aggressive play – and in rare cases fighting.
Among same-sex siblings, fighting can become severe, even dangerous, as they reach maturity.
Despite many trainers voicing concerns over the phenomenon, many dog owners say they have raised puppies from the same litter together and never experienced any issues.
Trainers recommend introducing a second puppy into the household after the first is properly trained, to set a good example for the new arrival.
At a minimum, two puppies should be crated and cared for separately, including separate walks, training classes, and playtime with their owners.