Two young children are dead and their mother suffered major injuries after two family dogs attacked a baby and toddler at their West Tennessee home.
The mauling took place outside of the family’s Memphis-area home on Thursday, the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office reported.
Kirstie Bennard, 30, suffered critical injuries when she tried to intervene in the attack on her 5-month-old boy, Hollace Dean, and 2-year-old girl, Lilly Jane, family and police said.
“She put her body on top of Lilly’s to try and protect her after the attack started,” Bennard’s uncle by marriage, Jeff Gibson told USA TODAY on Saturday. “Both (dogs) started attacking her while she lay on Lilly.”
The two children were pronounced dead when officials arrived at the home, the sheriff’s office reported.
Their mother was taken to a local hospital in critical condition, officials said.
Gibson said his nephew, Colby Bennard, was not home when the attack took place.
It was not immediately known what provoked the mauling.
John Morris, the public information officer for the sheriff’s office, told USA TODAY Saturday the case remained an ongoing and active investigation. He did not say whether charges were pending in the case.
The mauling, Gibson said, lasted about 10 minutes.
Gibson wrote on Facebook Bennard suffered “uncountable amount of stitches and bite marks over her entire body, including her face.” He also posted a link to a fundraiser created by family friends on Friday to help the family.
The dogs – two pit bulls that belonged to the family – were euthanized at Memphis Animal Services Thursday.
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The family owned the pets, Cheech and Mia, for more than eight years without a violent incident, Kelsey Canfield, the mother’s best friend, told Fox News.
“I can promise you those children were her world, and if there was any inkling of danger, she would have never had those dogs near her kids,” Canfield told the outlet. “Those children were everything to them, and they just have a really long journey ahead.”
Contributing: Lucas Finton with The Commercial Appeal.
Natalie Neysa Alund covers trending news for USA TODAY. Reach her at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter @nataliealund.
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