Young Brain Cancer Patient In N.J. Loses Service Dog

RIVER VALE, N.J. (CBSNewYork) — Two families came to terms on a heartbreaking decision involving two little girls and a service dog.

Nine-year-old Molly Kimball of River Vale is battling brain cancer.  In March, her German Shepherd Ava bit the 6-year-old girl next door.

WCBS 880’s Levon Putney: Molly Will Get A New Service Dog

Isabelle Gernhardt needed 100 stitches to close the gash on her face.

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,” said Paul Kimball, Molly’s father.

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.

Gernhardt 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.

A judge was supposed to decide the fate of the dog Tuesday, but the parents of both girls agreed to have the dog moved to Edgewater. The decision spared Ava’s life, but cost Molly her beloved companion.

“She was always with me, by my side,” she said.

“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,” Paul Kimball said.

“We didn’t want the dog put down. We wanted it to go somewhere it could be of use. We just didn’t want it back in the neighborhood,” said Mike Gernhardt, Isabelle’s father.

Molly will likely get another service dog, but one that is safe and can provide companionship.

More from Levon Putney
  • Deb G.

    “Blaming the victim is a universal phenomenon, it is nearly always the case in dog attacks. This may be true because dogs are a metaphorical “extension” of their owner.”

  • Guest

    Has anyone here making comments realized that there is a major discrepancy in the statements from the victims parent? Even another poster here states, “She stood like a tree standing almost 8 feet away.”
    The dog was on a 6 foot leash, and the child was supposedly 8 feet away, do the math. Unless this dog has developed the ability to fly, this is a major contradiction.

    • Jen

      The dog owner stated that the dog hit the end of the leash and her mouth snapped shut on the child’s face. A strong dog like that has the ability to pull an adult a couple feet when the adult isn’t expecting the jolt.

  • LImom

    Maybe Liz Gernhardt should teach her kids that service animals are not pats and to stay back.

    • Jen

      Service dogs are trained to deal with almost every possible situation. This is not a service dog. I can’t even imagine what would have happened if she had tried to take this dog to school with her.

    • Rob

      You should read more articles and stories about this case, cause the Kimballs dog trespassed onto the Gernhardt’s property in the first place and the daughter followed dog bit prevention better than most adults would have. She stood like a tree standing almost 8 feet away. Clearly the Gernhardt’s DID teach their children about dogs.

    • Cheryl

      Maybe the Kimballs shouldn’t call an untrained 14 month old puppy a service dog when it really isn’t one.

  • Trishe

    This is a tragedy. A pet of a dying child and a child with 100 stiches, hopefully they will fade with time but her parent will still have her for a long time. No sides, no win.

  • Sally

    How anyone can complain about the outcome of this is beyond me. The dog was set for certain death because the animal control officer wanted her put down. There are countless innocent animals that are put down every day in shelters because no one wants them but yet we’re supposed to shed a tear over a dangerous dog? Molly will bond with another dog within a matter of weeks. She won’t forget Ava but at least she’ll know that she’s still alive. Calling a little girl a brat and shifting the blame to her is just plain coldhearted. Be happy people this is a good thing.

  • Rodin

    “Every dog has his day.”
    Spanish author

    THREE CHEERS FOE AVA!!! Woof! Woof! Woof!

    I hope all you Canine “experts” will now give it a rest.

    May the Dogs be with you!

  • guest

    The bottom line is the neighbors lied about what happen. Ava is not viscous she is a puppy. Just like the six year old is a child. It is funny how it took 10 days for the animal control office to decide Ava was viscous. I wish the Kimballs did not settle so the truth would come out. But they have more important issue on the table. Dealing with bad neighbors is not important enough to them

    • guest

      At the end of the day, it’s a no win situation for anyone. There’s a comfort to both families that the dog was not put to sleep. Had this happened in a school environment, there might have been a totally different outcome. Pray for peace now between both families, Molly’s health and Isabelle’s healing. There’s always the opportunity to bring another dog home whether it’s adopted, rescued or purchased… The vile comments here serve no purpose.

    • Rob

      IF you actually looked into the facts surrounding Ava and her behavior you would know there were many other people who filled out police statements that had previous incidents with AVA and her uncontrollable ways. AS far as why it took 7 days, not 10 for animal control to take the dog was because the Kimballs refused to give a police statement and the police were waiting for that before contacting animal control. That had nothing at all to do with the dog.
      If the Kimballs had more important things to deal with than why didn’t they agree to hand over ownership from the beginning since that is what was asked of them; instead of contacting the media etc.? BTW, a puppy doesn’t cause those sort of injuries to a young girl!

  • Eric Myers

    The dog is not a trained service dog. It escaped from their yard and went to the neighbor’s yard. The owner chased her and leashed her and was talking with the victim and her mother. Suddenly and for no reason, the dog lunged and bit the 6 year old girl needing 100 stitches. Bergen County Animal Control determined the dog was vicious and stated is should be put down. The owners of the dog came up with this compromise which allows the dog to live. This was not the victim nor the judge who came up with this compromise. It was the Kimball’s idea for this settlement.

  • guest

    “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.

    Since when is a parent allowed to be in an OR with a child or anyone else for that matter. Wouldn’t they put her to sleep to do a surgery?

    • @guest

      The ‘surgery’ is done in the ER. I was there for my granddaughter when she needed stitches. They do not put a child to sleep with stitches needed in the upper area of the body such as the head or face. I also heard my granddaughter scream for like an hour. I hope I never have to experience it again.

    • Bridget

      No one is put to sleep for stitches (stitches are classified as surgery). They do them in the ER by an ER doctor or a plastic surgeon and parents are allowed to be there. Even in an OR situation parents can come into the room until they put your child to sleep.

  • gerry

    The child was standing behind her mother on her own property and the owner was holding the dog on a leash. The owner’s disease is not releveant to the facts. Its a vicious pet, not a service dog.

  • Jen

    I can’t believe the immaturity of many of the posters on this article. Think about what you are saying…you are calling a 6 year old child a brat because she was bit in the face by a dog. None of this can be her fault. Grow up.

  • douglacandy

    I hope Molly’s parents totally shut out their next door neighbors for ever and make them feel unwelcome in the neighborhood. I would forever ban them from my home and not permit my children to play with them. Their daughter is suffering from a potentially fatal disease and this dog was her world. They should have been watching their own child. How horrible for both Molly and Ava.

    • njut

      And the little girl with 100 stitches in her face is not suffering? The fact that Molly has cancer has nothing to do with the story. Dog visciously attacked little girl. THAT is the story.

    • Rob

      Molly’s parent
      s should have been watching their dog and not let it trespass onto the Gernhardt’s yard, and take better handle of their dog so it wouldn’t lunge or attack anyone. Mrs. Gernhardt was watching her child! They were standing right next to each other. Who was watching Molly while this was all happening, oh wait she was inside with a peer w/o adult supervision or w/o her dog. Really? The Kimballs need to wathc their dog and take responsibility and also watch their own children and not trespass!!!!

  • Maria

    CBS should shut down the comments on this article. The mud-slinging is uncalled for especially when two children are involved. I can’t find a way to email CBS or the reporter so if someone knows please let me know.

  • JuJu

    @Beth: The Kimballs admitted that the dog ran off the leash,. All you people “defending” the Kimballs really are a sorry lot. You don’t even use the defense the Kimballs are using, that the “choke” collar caused her to clamp down on the girl’s face, instead you shift the blame to a little girl and her parents who’ve been nothing but supportive of Molly over the years. I’m glad the Kimballs finally came to their senses and offered to remove the dog as they should have a month ago. Their poor daughter not only has cancer but has to deal with consequences of her parents poor judgement. The Kimballs are so accustomed to their victim status that when victim and her family were asked to come forward at the hearing, the Kimballs stepped forward!

  • kristen bonazzo

    Ava was boarding at the kennel I work at until her fate was determined. She is a gentle loving dog. Unfortunately accidents happen and that’s what this was…an accident. Ava is a wonderful dog and showed no signs of aggression whatsoever. People need to have compassion about the whole situation…Ava is a great loving dog and she is helping a sick child in need. That poor little girl…Ava was her world. It breaks my heart to see her lose her dog not only as her service dog but she just lost her best friend.

    • Julie

      Of course no one is going to tell you about the other incidents with the lunging at another neighborhood boy and other dogs. Some don’t want to come forward because of Molly.
      I’ve had dogs that were wonderful and loyal and I loved them to death. It ddn’t change the fact that they would snap at anyone that came close to me.

    • Beth

      People need to have compassion Kristen? Yes… people do need to have compassion… for the little girl who had her face ripped down to the cartiladge and has been afraid to leave her own house because that dog was next door. Accident or not, it happened. And you can’t change that fact.

    • Becky

      Kristen, It is a shame all around. I feel bad for Molly loosing her dog. Her parents should have taken more responsibility and control over their dog. By the way it was not a certified service dog, I also heard the trainer wasn’t even licensed. An accident is when it could not have been prevented. The Kimballs should have prevented it. I feel bad Molly lost her dog because her parents weren’t good owners!

  • sillyoldbear

    Thanks to the Gerhardts, this poor sick child lost her beloved dog. Service dogs are highly trained and tested for temperament. I’m sure the Kimball’s wouldn’t have wanted the dog back if they thought she would hurt their daughter.
    The judge is wrong, the Gerhardts are wrong. What lesson did they teach their children? To be vengeful and unaccountable. I believe that the Gerhardt girl really did catch the dogs tooth in her skin, pulled back in panic, and it resulted in needing 100 stitiches.If you don’t know dogs, you wouldn’t understand. It’s a shame. The dog and child had a bond. Shame on the Judge and shame on the Gerhardts. Kimballs, keep those troublesome people away from your yard, before they cause you more heartache. I hope Ava found a good home.

    • DFDK9

      Yes, Service Dogs are highly trained and tested for temperament. This is why it’s so wrong for the news media to consistently label Ava as a Service Dog because she is NOT a Service Dog.

      Ava is a 14 month old PUPPY who is working with a trainer to, in the FUTURE, become a Service Dog. At BEST, she is a Service Dog IN TRAINING. At worst, she’s simply a companion who may or may not be able to be a Service Dog when she grows up and is physically and mentally mature enough to do brace/balance work and other Service Dog tasks.

  • Max

    Are you people CRAZY
    whether this dog is a service dog or not, whether the child provoked the dog or not , this poor kid had to have 100 stitches and be traumatized for the rest of her life and the dog needed to go.
    Children provoke dogs. They are kids and sometimes do not know any better. A german shepherd is a powerful dog. trained or not they bite
    My best to both families

  • Jay

    As previously stated, service dogs are highly trained, and screened for behavioral issues. This was clearly not the fault of the service dog. I think the parents of the bit child should be held accountable. THE Gernhardts are at fault for not keeping closer supervision of their own children. SHAME ON THEM.

    • DFDK9

      I’m so sick of hearing how Ava is a “highly trained Service Dog.” Why does the media keep running with the “Service Dog” label?

      The families themselves have said that Ava is IN TRAINING. She is a 14 month old puppy that the family got at 8 weeks old. They’re working with a private trainer, but the dog is not physically OR mentally mature enough to be considered a Service Dog. They can’t even tell yet if she will have the necessary structure (good hips/elbows) to do brace/balance work until she is 18 months to 2 years of age!

  • Joe

    My guess is the little brat provoked the dog.

  • Beth

    Ava did not attach a 6 year old child. The Gernhardt’s are not telling the truth. He was not runing lose he was on a leash. Ava never nipped their son. This was an aciend between a 6 year old girl and a puppy. I am very sad that the Kimballs will have to start all over with a new service dog to help Molly. The Kimball’s have been in crises mode for 3 years battle cancer.

    • The other Beth

      The Gernhardts are not telling the truth? I don’t know where you got your information from because you are the one who’s not telling the truth – – the Kimballs have already admitted that the dog was off the leash, ran into the Gernhardt’s yard, and that Patricia ran after it to put the leash on, which then led to the incident happening while the dog was leashed. You should get your facts straights before making comments you know nothing about.

  • Jerry

    I hope the family of this child adopts 3 adult pit bulls as a replacement, lets see what the neighbors do then.
    Probably drop the charges and bring the shepherd back.

  • Bell Toller

    the victim and her family area at fault

  • morning glory

    I don’t think a six year old should have had a german sheperd. NOW they give her a more suitable service dog. I’m glad the dog will not be put down.

  • Micha

    Hate to break it to the Gernhardt parents, but if a service dog bit their kid, it was most likely the kid who provoked it. This was not some mutt tied up in someones yard… Service dogs are trained to be gentle and good companions for small children like Molly. A service dog would NOT bite a small child unless the child did something to the dog to make it feel threatened. I find it odd that according to this article, the only people to be bitten by this dog are the Gernhardt’s two children.. Maybe instead of sending the dog to Edgewater, the Genrhardt’s should have been sent away. Word to the wise for the Kimball’s, when you get your next dog, don’t let those children play with it or you’ll be replacing another innocent animal.

    • DFDK9

      Again, this dog is not a Service Dog. The dog is a 14 month old PUPPY that is being trained BY THE FAMILY and a private trainer to BECOME a Service Dog. Way too young to make a statement about the dog’s temperament or training as the dog is still a puppy.

    • Rob

      Micha, are you a moron? NO one was playing with this German Shepherd. Your’re right a real service dog would not bite. That said, this AVA was NOT a real service dog!!!! The dog was never invited to the Gernhardt’s, it ran off leash unwelcomed. The girl who got bit was standing almost 8 feet away. The Kimballs should be grateful the Gernhardt’s didn’t agree to let the dog be put down like Animal Control wanted.

  • Bridget

    At least they came to a decision. The dog did not just nip this child. She need 100 stitches to close the wound. This dog should not have been given to anyone as a service dog. A judge probably would have had the dog destroyed. I just hope its not put with another child as a service dog.

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