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Roosevelt girl, 8, recovering from pit bull attack, family says

ROOSEVELT — A Roosevelt girl had to undergo surgery Monday after being mauled by a pit bull while walking to school with her cousin, according to animal control officials and the girl's family.

Opal Henley, 8, was walking to East Elementary School with her cousin, 10-year-old Braxton Blanchard, when the attack happened. The kids were about three blocks from the school when someone visiting a house on the corner of 400 North and 400 East opened a gate and a pit bull got free.

"It zoomed out of the fence and jumped on Opal," Braxton said Wednesday. "I don't think it even thought about anybody else."

The dog knocked Opal to the ground and clamped its mouth around her right leg, Braxton said. The woman who accidentally let the dog out and another woman were able to pull the dog off Opal once, Braxton said, but it escaped their grasp and attacked Opal again.

Unsure of what to do, Braxton said he began screaming. His sister, 15-year-old Bailey Blanchard, was still home and could hear the commotion outside.

"I didn't think anything of it because kids are always screaming with their friends," the teen said. "A couple seconds later it was really big, like scary screams. I could see out my blinds that there was a kid under the dog, so I knew it was going to be bad."

Bailey ran outside to discover the kid on the ground was her cousin. The dog still had Opal pinned to the ground despite the women's efforts to save the girl, she said.

"The dog was still kind of on top of her," Bailey said, "so I just grabbed her by the arm and ripped her out from under (the dog)."

Bailey took Opal across the street to the Blanchards' home and called her aunt and her mom for help. Opal was taken to Uintah Basin Medical Center in Roosevelt and then transferred to Primary Children's Hospital.

"I didn't think a dog could do as much damage as it did," said Shawna Henley, Opal's mother.

Doctors were forced to remove muscle tissue from Opal's right leg, using more than 100 stitches to close the wound, Henley said. Opal also suffered lacerations on her left leg from the dog's claws, a chipped front tooth, "road rash" on her chin and emotional trauma, her mother said.

"She told me she'll never walk to school again," Henley said.

Opal, who practices dance 12 hours a week and is the reigning queen of the Little Miss Uintah Basin In Celebration Pageant, said she doesn't remember much about the attack. She is expected to miss at least two weeks of school and six weeks of dance class as she recovers from her injuries, her mother said.

An effort to reach the dog owner for comment Wednesday was not successful. Roosevelt animal control officer Mark Cornaby said he issued the owner a citation after the attack.

The dog is in quarantine for 10 days to ensure that it does not have any communicable diseases, Cornaby said. After that, the owner has said she intends to have the animal euthanized, according to Cornaby.


Twitter: GeoffLiesik