A mom and her two children in South Carolina were attacked by a pit bull while helping a neighbor with dementia return home.
Bethany Hastings and Lainey, 4, and Wesley, 2, were just about to play outside after dinner around 6:30 p.m. on April 26 when they noticed an elderly neighbor had wandered into their driveway. The woman was unable to make it back to her home alone, so Hastings and her children used their golf cart to escort the woman home.
In an interview with TODAY, Hastings said that when she and her children pulled up in the neighbor's front yard, she noticed that the front door of the house was open and that her dog had gotten outside. The pit bull then jumped into the golf cart.
“At that time, my son was sitting next to me in between me and this lady and my daughter was on the backseat,” Hastings said over the phone. “He kind of looked at me, and then my son, and then he lunged at my son twice and I got between them. Then my daughter screamed, and he went around to her and pulled her down to the ground."
Hastings said that after the dog attempted to lunge at her daughter again, she was able to restrain him and hold him down until they were able to get help. Because they live in a rural area, over 10 minutes passed before a neighbor drove by and noticed the incident.
“He took the children into his truck and then about five minutes later, another neighbor showed up and took the dog from me,” Hastings said. “At that point, all of EMS and Animal Control and them showed up.”
Looking back on the attack, Hastings said that she was “shocked” by the day’s events, explaining, “I didn’t even know what was happening and I looked at my son and I’m like, ‘Did you just bite my kid?’ And that’s when he lunged a second time.”
Hastings noted that she had previously been around their neighbors' dog before and said that she and her family were not strangers to the animal. Every other interaction with the dog in the past, Hastings described as “fine."
"There's no telling what provoked him," Hastings said of the dog. "I literally still have no idea. I've thought about it a million times and I can't think of anything that we did that would have caused him to react."
All three of the family members experienced injuries, but Hastings said that she and her son are “mostly healed” and just have a few spots that are superficial on their bodies. Lainey, however, sustained more serious injuries that required multiple days in the hospital.
“She’s feeling well,” Hastings said of her daughter. “Every day she gets a little bit more facial control on her left side ... They were worried about nerve damage on the left side. That is still something that we're going to have to over the next year keep an eye on and keep track of that may require difference procedures and possible muscle grafts to get her to be able to smile and have control of her face on her left side."
Hastings said despite that, overall, Lainey is healing and appears to be in good spirits, all things considered. Since the attack, she’s been able to play around in the family’s backyard, but her mom notes that she’s still wary about being out in the open.
“That’s something that we’ll just have to continue to work through, her and I,” she said.
Hastings said she hopes by sharing her story, she can spread awareness on safety as a dog owner to prevent incidents like hers in the future.
She also emphasized the importance of being aware of your surroundings at all times.
"I wish that I had looked up and noticed her doorway open sooner, but even then the dog was not tethered so he would have come out to the road," Hastings said. "There wasn't much that I could do on that end."
NBC affiliate WYFF in Greenville, South Carolina reported that the dog was euthanized, according to authorities.