Young Brain Cancer Patient Loses Custody Of Helper Dog After Attack

RIVER VALE, N.J. (CBS 2) — A young girl lost custody of her German Shepherd after it bit another child in the face, Emily Smith reports.

To nine-year-old Molly Kimball, Ava, her 14-month-old dog is more than just a pet.

“She helps me through all of it and when sometimes I’m really sad she comes up to my face and kisses my tears,” she said.

Molly is battling brain cancer. Ava is being trained as her service dog, but right now she’s a valued companion.

“When Ava goes and wakes Molly up, she rolls out of bed with a smile on her face and comes down and takes her medication,” said her father, Paul Kimball.

While Ava is apparently devoted to Molly, there are questions whether the dog is a danger to other children.  The German Shepherd is now living in a shelter, pending a hearing this week to determine if she’s vicious.

In March, an incident involving the dog and a girl living next door, left the six-year-old child with a gash to her face that took 100 stitches to close.

Molly’s parents said it was an accidental collision between the leashed dog and the child.

“It wasn’t the dog snarling and me jumping and dragging it away. That didn’t happen. It was very quick,” Kimball said.

The injured girl’s parents disagree.

“It was a dog attacking a child point blank,” said Liz Gernhardt, the victim’s mother.

She said the dog ripped skin off her daughter’s nose.

“And to be there and have them tie her down so they could perform the surgery and to hear her scream, I never want to hear anyone scream like that. And this could have been prevented,” she said.

Gernhard said Ava nipped her son last year. She’s worried that the incidents will be repeated.

“I just want my children to feel safe and be safe while outside. That’s the bottom line,” she said.

The Gernhardts said they don’t want the dog to be put down, but they don’t feel it should be in a neighborhood filled with children.

  • Dustin

    If this was a Pit Bull we were talking about everybody would be saying to “put that vicious beast down and punish the parents!!” i cannot believe people are saying it is the girl that got bit parents!! this is a SERVICE DOG we are talking about there is no reason it should ever bite a human. thousands of dogs of various breeds are put down for one time bites, but just because this dogs owner has cancer that makes it ok?!?!

  • Jen

    People would be running around with pitchforks demanding this animal be put down if it were a pitbull owned by some inner city family. The child’s illness is the only reason people are supporting this animal. Isn’t there some sort of dog bite law in this city? Most dog bite laws are absolute and they almost always rule on the side of safety for human beings.

  • njut

    Parents should teach their children how to act around dogs? Give me a break. Dog owners should teach their dogs how to act around people! If you can’t properly train your pet then don’t have one. And if you do, take responsibility for it’s actions.

  • WCK

    Count down to the Gernheardt’s filing frivilous lawsuits against everyone who ever had anything to do with the dog in 10….9………8…..7

    And to the person who keeps posting a link to the picture of the Liz’s poor little girl – get off of it. It is barely a scratch. If you knew anything you would know that the face bleeds more than anyother part of the body. Seriously, kids are not glass and she will be fine.

    My cousin had a wound like that from a dog – you know why? She put her face right into the dog’s face. But I am sure this little angel who is perfect never did anything. Because it would be so normal for a dog to bite a child on a face – oh no that’s right they would bite them on the arms or legs, if the child wasn’t right in it’s face.

    Liz G. should be embarrassed for her actions, and her horrible parenting skills. Teach your kids responsibility for their own actions Liz!!! Instead of making them pampered little brats.

    I think the neighborhood would be better off if they lost the Gernheardts and kept the dog.

    • Julie

      @WCK this isn’t a lawsuit it’s a municipal hearing as per town protocol. The rest of your comment doesn’t deserve a response.

    • Beth

      Barely a scratch? There’s a big puncture wound and cartilage!!

  • wallawall

    count down to the Gernheardt’s frivilous lawsuits against anyone who ever came near the dog in 10……9…….8…..7……………

    Seriously, parents need to teach their children to be accountable for their own actions. Not just turn around and blame everything on everyone else around them.

    I for one hope the dog stays. And please that picture you keep posting of poor little Liz’s daughter’s injury – it is not that bad. The face bleeds more than other parts, but way to get sympathy for the bullies of the neighborhood.

    My cousin got nipped in the nose like that – you know why? She put her face in the dogs face…..Hmmmm….but certainly that is not the case here right? I am sure the mother was right there watching everything and the child is an angel.

    The Gernheardt mother is a disgrace. I say they get rid of her.

  • courtney T.

    Just scrolling through these comments, how angry this makes me! How myopic can you be? This isn’t about choosing sides, this is a terrible accident. As an owner of dogs that outweigh me I can say without a doubt, unless you are trained (Yourself, not the animal) to handle a large dog they will easily drag you around. The Gernhardts are doing whatever they can to ensure the safety of their children and those in their neighborhood. Molly’s family is trying to spare her from emotional turmoil as best as they can.
    The only party I can see as being completely at fault is whatever organization gave a 14 month old german shepherd puppy to a family without properly training them in handling a working animal. These dogs are bred to herd, they need constant training and stimulation in order to work to their full potential. Molly’s parents surely have their plates full dealing with a sick child, they didn’t deserve this. The Gernhardts certainly don’t deserve this sort of verbal attack for standing up and protecting their children.
    Whichever organization provided the family with this animal should be shut down.

  • Nadia

    Regardless of what happened or who was there…the dog attacked someone. End of story! Either put the dog down or ship it to somewhere where there are not any people present. Dogs that attack are dangerous, and it will attack again.

  • Tyler

    Maybe the parents of the girl who got attacked should keep a better eye on their child. Its always some one else fault than theirs right ? Bad parents, watch your kids and maybe they would be fine instead of blaming the dog for being a dog!

    • Julie

      Maybe people who comment on news forums should know what’s being reported before making baseless accusations.

      • Tyler

        @Julie I read the story and nothing changes, Parents need to watch their kids! Period ! Stop blaming other people when something bad happens to your kid! Be a parent and be in control always. If not don’t have kids! Simple.

      • Julie

        @Tyler: I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt because CBS didn’t do a very thorough job reporting the story. Look at the Record article where it reports that the dog ran to the Gernhardt’s property unleashed, the dog owner ran over, leashed it and began chatting with the little girl and her mother from eight feet away and the dog lunges at the little girl biting her nose to the point that the tip was hanging off.

    • wallawall

      You are so right!

      It clearly is just friends or the Gernheardt’s themselves who keep posting in here regarding how the parents have no responsiblity at all.

  • Pat

    I am with the Gernhardts on this one, my child was bit by a large dog at 3yrs old and I also had to hold her down every time we went to the doctor….it is horrible to witness your child suffer….when a dog attacks it will be doing it again. The dog needs to be put down

    • wallawall

      Then watch your kid and teach them to be respectful of other living things and not a brat and you won’t have to witness that.

      • njut

        How do you know the child is a brat? Molly’s parents called it an accident and never even said the neighbor girl provoked the dog.

  • bduce

    There was a case Nbpt where a child was playing with the neighbor’s lab as he had done for 2 years. They were wrestling and the dogs claw got caught in the boys ear and tore part of the ear causing the boy to under go surgery. Nbpt had a zero tolerance and was going to destroy the dog regardless of what anyone including the boy’s parents, requested. It was accident and there was no malice. They had to secretly ferry the dog out of state to save it’s life. Dogs only react when they feel threatened or they accidentally injure someone. This kid had to provoke the dog to act.

    • Julie

      @bduce: Did you even read the article? Nowhere does it say that the little girl provoked the dog. The dog owners are saying that it was an “accidental collision”. Even if it had been “provoked”, it’s supposedly a service dog, therefore should be able to withstand provocation.

  • Scott

    It is sad that this girl lose her beloved dog, but this animal obviously does not have the temperment to be a service or therapy animal. It needs to be with an owner who can handle it and not in a home and neighborhood full of children.

  • M-n-M

    Having done the basic training on many therapy dogs, I can tell you that once a prospective therapy dog causes an injury to a person or another animal, in professional therapy dog selection and training – that disqualifies the dog right there. Therapy work is just that – work. It involves stress and a prospective therapy dog MUST be psychologically rock solid to hold up under such stress.

    While I can aopreciate that this family loves both their child and this dog, if their purpose for getting the dog was to use it as a therapy dog, they must now be responsible enough to put a halt to that plan.

  • Maria

    I am Sorry but, I don’t believe that any dog would bite without been provoked. The animal would have to be a vicious pet to do that… ALL the time, not just this once. I grew up with dogs and I am a dog owner now.
    If my dog bites a child I am responsible. If my child provokes someone else’s dog, I am responsible.
    If my child whom died of brain cancer 9 years ago, had a therapy pet, and someone else tried to get rid of him/her? I’d do anything to save him/her.

    • Patty

      @Maria: You said it. You’d “do anything to save him/her” –including lie no doubt and that’s probably how the dog owners feel. Throw the words little girl, cancer and dog together and you have a winning formula to garner sympathy. If the headline said “girl” instead of “young cancer patient” none of this would even be news.

  • cc

    This woman is complaining about having to hold her child down screaming while they try to perform surgery on her while her neighbors are having to live with the fact that their child may not live past the age of twenty and has a great chance of losing her best friend and breaking her heart. Mrs Gernhardt should really overlook her comments

    • Cheryl

      So Molly’s illness gives her a free pass to let her dog attack people??? It’s terrible that she’s sick but it really has nothing to do with the case. A little girl got mauled. That’s the real issue.

  • Greg

    @Jim – I never claimed to be an eyewitness to the event. Related to the event, I was an eyewitness to the following: the dog running on the neighbor’s yard on other occasions; the behavior of the neighbor children around the dog; the injury prior to surgery; the sounds of the patient being treated; the doctor’s commentary on the nature of the injury; and the details of each telling of the incident via the various media or the mother of the injured child. All I have done is clarified incorrect information distributed here, according to my aforementioned eyewitness accounts in a fact-based manner. Please do not group me with anyone else and make generalizations. I speak for myself and no one else.

  • Sharon

    The dog bit a child. They took the dog and now a licensed animal control officer will do a series of tests to determine if the dog is a danger to society.

    The only reason this is in the news is because they (the news) is focusing on the owner of the dog being a child who has cancer.

    While I am saddened for this little girl, the rules should not be changed because of her medical status.

  • Robert

    Totally agree with some of the sane comments. A service dog should never attack and should be held to stricter consequences if it does. A sevice dog also should not run off it’s property away from its owners, or play “peek a boo”. That said, this is clearly not a good service dog.
    Also, no where any where does it say that Mrs. G wasn’t watching her daughter. Her daughetr wasn’t standing behind her and she was never quoted at saying that. She said her daughter was standing beside her. Which also shows that yes she was watching her children.
    It’s is very important for parents to teach their children dog bite prevention tips, by bottom line is the main person repsonsible for dog bite prevention is the owner of dogs! Besides, I believe Mr.s G is on record for saying her children have followed dog bite prevention tips ever since the dog first nipped their son back in Nov.
    So before you people go off blaming the parents for not teaching their children about how to act around animals, why don’t you start begging dog owners to take responsibility for their dogs and have proper care over them so they do not bite. Sounds like a much better idea! No children should have to freeze and stand like a tree and make no sudden movements or sounds when playing in their OWN yard! What is wrong with some of you???? Oh wait, you clearly don’t read all the facts we are being told and jump to the conclusion that a dog is NEVER at fault or their owners.

  • Vanessa Scalia

    Dying? Really? I think that’s a bit overly dramatic.

    • Jim

      @Vanessa–According to the article, the Kimball’s kid has a brain tumor. From the MEDCOMM website (though similar information can be found in numerous other places on the Internet):

      •Brain tumors are the deadliest form of childhood cancer. Brain stem gliomas, atypical teratoid/rhabdoid and glioblastoma multiforme have survival rates of less than 20 percent.
      •Even though survival rates for some childhood brain tumors have increased over the past 30 years, survivors often suffer from lifelong side effects of treatments such as surgery, radiation and chemotherapy.

      I.e., the long-term prognosis is often not good with brain tumors–seriously, I can’t believe anybody could be so completely ignorant nowadays as to be unaware of this. I mean, it’s not like the girl was reported to have the common cold–you do understand the difference, right?

      You guys sound like great neighbors…glad I don’t live anywhere near you!

      • Lobo

        @Jim — You’re being manipulated and you don’t even know it or you are/know the Kimballs. The fact that the Kimball girl has a brain tumor is irrelevant. Every news segment on this story has the same headline and the same format. They all start out by talking about her condition, her surgeries, then she talks about how happy the dog makes her and they show her playing with the dog. EVERY SINGLE STORY. Take out the part about the cancer and there’s nothing talk about– just another dog that bit another child.

  • jmarie

    These are 2 VERY different stories & quite frankly I don’t find either side to be completely truthful. I am the parent of 2 special needs kids & train service dogs. Service dogs are not required to go by the same laws as other dogs. Each state can set their own standards but as a rule a leash isn’t required due to the nature of service dog tasks.

    This report called the dog a companion. The other reporte sai it was a service dog. There’s a difference. Companion/therapy dogs are not protected under federal law through IDEA (disability laws) Those dogs are ones that enhance life but have no specific duties to assist in life. (ie. helping stand, walk, pick things up etc) NJ states the dog has be trained by approved agencies before it’s considered a service dog.

    A trained service dog would have no need of a choke collar. In fact, we frown upon the use of them. So it doesn’t make sense for the dog to have 1 one & even less sense that it would cause jaw closure. No one should be chasing a service dog down the street to catch it as the other story reported. The service dog is suppose to be in the company of the disabled person but there’s no mention of the little girl being present when the incident took place. If she was not there that brings up the question of why was a child who is in need of a service dog not with the dog in question.

    If the victim’s mother knew her child was scared of dogs why in the world would she have her near the dog? Especially, if the dog “nipped” her son previously. And if the son was nipped before & this is a 2nd incident why are they not calling for the dog to be put down? 2 incidents in such a short amount of time is clear indication of aggretion. If this mom knew all this & her child was hiding behind her then she is negligient as well. Being on her property doesn’t protect her from failure to protect her child. If you know someone violent to kids is in your drive-way you don’t leave your kid there just because its your drive-way. You protect your child then address the threat.

    Bottom line? 2 children are paying a very high price for the actions and/or inactions of the adults that are supposed to protect them. Maybe the choke collar should be on them.

  • Beth

    Dog owners are responsible for their pets. If my dog bit a child, or an adult, leashed or unleashed, provoked or unprovoked, I would be responsible. That’s all there is to it. The Gernhardts are victims. The Kimballs are responsible. End of story.

  • Maria

    Some of us our posting over and over because of the misinformation that’s being spread around. None of us have said that we were eyewitnesses. We’re filling in the information that the 30 second news pieces have omitted because we know the story and we know the family. How are the Gernhardts guilty of any negligence by standing in their driveway? Furthermore, they didn’t contact the media. The news12 was the first to report it and the Gernhardts wouldn’t even go on camera.

    • Jim

      If none of you were eyewitnesses, then all the “information” you keep supplying to “fill in” the story is either hearsay or the product of your vivid imaginations. (This WOULD help explain the contradictions to your various stories, not to mention the implausibility of the whole “leashed dog flies eight feet at once to bite innocent girl hiding behind mother”-tale you guys have spun here.) And I’ll say it again, who cares that the Kimballs went to the darn media in a most likely vain attempt to save their brain cancer-stricken daughter’s dog?! Finally, if I were the Gernhardts, I too wouldn’t want to go on camera over this–watch your darn kids next time!!

    • Maria

      @Jim: You didn’t answer my question about how the Gernhardts are negligent. Show me the contradictions that you’re talking about. I’m also curious to know why you’re making accusations that the Kimballs aren’t making themselves. If you’re going to defend the Kimballs then you should be saying that it was just an accident like they are instead of shifting the blame to the Gernhardts.

    • Kay

      I have to agree with Jim on this one. If you weren’t there, then you do NOT know what happened. You only know what you’re being told.

      What’s important to remember is that even eyewitnesses are incredibly unreliable. Combine that with all the trauma involved and the way stories change, and the best thing you can do to help your friends is to find something useful to do for them. Passing off hearsay as fact is *not* useful. Indeed, the second- and third-hand information you post can be used *against* them.

      • Maria

        @Jim: Still waiting for your reply.
        @Kay: You’re right I wasn’t there so I didn’t SEE what happened but I do know the Gernhardts, have known the little girl since she was an infant, I know she has dog allergies and doesn’t approach dogs, I know her personality because of the countless times she’s been to my home and I know what was texted to me on the day of the incident and nothing was changed. Not really sure what I’ve written that can be used against them since 99% of it was already reported.

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