7-Year-Old Girl Dies After Dog Attack in North Carolina: "Horrible Tragedy"

A child has died and her mother hospitalized after they were attacked by at least one dog in North Carolina on Tuesday.

Police in Garner, the North Carolina town where the incident happened, said in a Facebook post on Tuesday that the 7-year-old and her mother were seriously injured during the attack. The pair were both taken to a WakeMed medical center in Garner for treatment.

The girl died as a result of her injuries, police said on Wednesday in an update on Facebook. The identities of the mother and daughter were not revealed.

Lt. Michael McIver of Garner Police Department said in a statement regarding the child's death: "This is a horrible tragedy for all involved. Our thoughts and prayers go out to both families and all those who responded."

Police said reports indicate the mother and daughter were helping to care for two pit bulls that belonged to their neighbors, who were out of town, when they were attacked.

"The incident occurred in the dogs' back yard, and the cause of the attack is not known," police said. It was not clear from the statement whether one or both dogs were involved.

Between 2005 and 2019, dogs killed 521 people in the U.S. according to bite victims' non-profit organization DogsBite.

According to the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), dog bites are a serious risk to health, and children are more likely to be bitten as well as severely injured than any other age group. Children are most often bitten by dogs they know, during everyday activities.

The AVMA states on its website that dogs of any size, age, and sex can bite: "Even the cuddliest, fuzziest, sweetest pet can bite if provoked." Breed is not a factor in whether a dog will bite, it said, but rather the dog's history.

A dog may bite for a range of reasons, including if it is under stress, feels scared or threatened, unwell, and if it is defending its territory or something it finds valuable such as a toy or puppies. Dogs may also bite to play, and unintentionally harm the person.

Socializing a dog so it feels comfortable in a variety of situations can help prevent dog attacks, according to the AVMA, as well as training pets correctly, exercising them regularly, and neutering or spaying them.

Following Tuesday's attack, Wake County Animal Control seized both of the dogs and took them to Wake County Animal Shelter.

Police are investigating the incident, and said there was no continued threat to the public.

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A stock image shows a pitbull, which was not involved in the incident. A 7-year-old girl has died following a dog attack. Getty Images