‘I blamed myself, and the guilt of not seeing the signs of mutilated was overwhelming.’
A mum-of-four has shared her traumatic ordeal after several puppies mutilated her daughter in a matter of minutes – with her ear missing chunks and face covered with scratches.
In May 2022, Californian mum Michele Peden, 30, and her husband Michael adopted four Queensland labrador puppies called Amarah, Negan, Gideon, and Keerah.
The couple, who have four children – Samantha, 13; Daisy, 11; Felicity, two and Daryl, one – had dreamed about having the pets for years.
On June 3, while preparing for their youngest’s child’s birthday, Michele – an experienced dog owner – stepped out to go shopping while her husband remained at home with the kids.
Soon after, she received the call every parent dreads – the animals had mauled her daughter.
The tragic incident
They took place within just 10 minutes.
Arriarriving at the hospital, Michele was horrified to discover Felicity was mutilated 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.
“All I could smell was puppy drool all over her head, making me want to cry, and I felt sick.
“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.”
So, what happened next?
To raise awareness and stop the tragedy from happening to other families, the parents have shared their story on social media, where it has gone viral.
They have also launched a GoFundMe to raise money for Felicity’s mounting hospital bills, which currently sit at $US2,800 of a $US25,000 goal.
Due to the child’s severe injuries, They flew her to a specialist children’s hospital with a trauma center in Fresno, California, where she received plastic surgery to save her ear.
Michele said: “After three hours of plastic surgery, they could not save much of her ear – except for her earlobe and inner ear.
“She struggled to open her eyes and was crying for us and signing that she wanted her ‘baba’ and 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 shortly.
“I wanted to hold her, but we couldn’t as they told us her neck injuries were too severe.
“Before the Felicity wasmutilated, she was full of joy, smiles, and mischief. But initially, we were worried she would be left with a different future ahead of her.”
Over the next few days after Feli mutilated, Felicity stabilized, and the swelling on her face started to reduce.
Scans revealed she hadn’t suffered any lasting damage to her internal organs or neck.
She has since improved and has been released from the hospital after seven days. But is still attending appointments to have plastic surgery once a week.
They took the family’s four pups to an animal shelter. Then, local authorities decided they didn’t need to be put down and instead should be separated due to suffering from littermate syndrome.
What is littermate syndrome?
Littermate syndrome – also known as Sibling Aggression or Littermate Aggression – is a non-scientific term. It refers to a host of behavioral issues that tend to present when dogs are raised in the same household beyond the usual eight to 10 weeks of age when puppies are usually rehomed.
“They can turn instantly violent towards others – so after the attack on Felicity, they ended up attacking each other as well,” Michele said.
“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, we belive that 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 bobcat or coyote.
“If no one adopts them or they still show signs of aggression after training, they will have to put them down.”
Michele said that in the three weeks they had the puppies, the animals showed no signs they could become aggressive.
“I would never have left Felicity alone with them [if I knew this],” she said.
“But we accept full responsibility and accountability for this tragedy.
“[We] are incredibly grateful to all who have extended their love and prayers of support.”