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Two dogs attack, kill 4-year-old boy near Whitehall
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Two dogs attack, kill 4-year-old boy near Whitehall

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A 4-year-old boy was attacked and killed by two dogs believed to be Rottweilers at a house near Whitehall on May 9, Jefferson County Sheriff Craig Doolittle said Wednesday.

Doolittle said the case was still under investigation and autopsy results weren’t finalized, so there were things he could not comment on until they were complete.

But he told The Montana Standard the attack occurred inside the boy’s grandparents' house on Cedar Hill Road, off of Highway 2 west of Whitehall, shortly before 6 p.m. on May 9. He identified the boy as Elliott Sherwin.

“There was an ambulance called there from Jefferson Valley EMS, Life Flight was called and the victim was pronounced deceased at the scene,” Doolittle said. 

“We were not the first ones on the scene,” he said. “The ambulance showed up and they did work on him for a while but he was deceased.”

The two dogs were believed to be Rottweilers and both have been euthanized, he said.

Doolittle said specifics of what happened and whether the dogs had ever been aggressive were still under investigation, and all findings would be turned over to the Jefferson County Attorney’s Office for review and consideration of any charges.

When asked about the fatal incident Tuesday, Deputy County Attorney Andrew Paul told the Standard his office could not comment on an ongoing investigation and no legal proceedings had been initiated.

According to news reports, the last fatal dog attack in Montana occurred outside a house west of Bozeman on June 24, 2017. Melissa Barnes, 65, was doing yard work when two pit bulls owned by a tenant living on her property attacked her.

She was flown to a Billings hospital, where she later died. Both dogs were euthanized and the owner later pleaded guilty to harboring vicious and dangerous dogs and failing to have rabies vaccinations. He was ordered to pay $15,500 in restitution.

In a case with similarities to the one in Whitehall, a Rottweiler attacked a 4-year-old boy in a relative’s backyard in Ulm, a tiny town about 10 miles southwest of Great Falls, in 2006. The boy was rushed to a nearby hospital but died. The dog belonged to an uncle and was euthanized.

According to DogsBite.org, a national, nonprofit dog-bite victim’s organization that tracks dog attacks, those are the only two fatal dog attacks in Montana over the past 15 years.

Across the U.S., according to the group, 568 people were killed by dogs from 2005 through 2020. Pit bulls were responsible for 380 of those deaths, or 67%. Rottweilers were the second-highest breed, killing 51 people, or 9%. The rest were mixed breeds and other breeds.

On Tuesday, a 10-month old girl was killed in Willow Spring, North Carolina after she was attacked by the family’s two Rottweilers. Authorities told ABC affiliate WTVD that the child’s father left the baby unattended briefly to move a sprinkler in the yard when the attack happened.

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