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Community : Top Stories Last Updated: Jun 11, 2014 - 9:53:57 AM


DI family loses dog in alligator attack
By ELIZABETH BUSH
Jun 11, 2014 - 9:51:09 AM

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We have all heard about the dangers of getting too close to alligators. But what happened on June 5 to a beloved Daniel Island pet belonging to the Hutchins family brought that message even closer to home.
An attack by an alligator in a pond behind Bishop England High School claimed the life of the Hutchins’ 80 pound Blue Tick Hound, after the dog ventured too close to the water’s edge. According to Josh Hutchins, his 11 year-old daughter, Grayson, was walking “Delta Dawn Blue” when she decided to make a stop at some play equipment behind the school off Blakeway Street. The dog playfully ran down to explore the shoreline of the pond, unaware an alligator was lurking in the water.
“I think it was originally assumed that she was swimming in the pond,” said Josh Hutchins, of the four year-old dog.  “…But Grayson said she was playing on the bank which makes me think this gator came up to the edge of the water, grabbed the dog and pulled her in.”
Standing just about 10 feet away when the attack occurred, a traumatized Grayson immediately ran home to get her mother, Tia, who returned to the scene with her. Tia phoned Josh to ask him to contact the Daniel Island Property Owners Association (POA). Within minutes, POA staff members arrived.
“The alligator came out and grabbed the dog,” said Jane Baker, vice president of community services for the POA. “And pulled it under water.”
Gator Getters, the POA’s alligator removal contractor, was on scene within 45 minutes. The fatally wounded dog was removed from the pond and returned to its owners. The alligator was also retrieved “with the first cast,” said Baker, and removed from the area. Some residents who posted messages on Facebook about the incident estimated the gator to be about 8 feet long.
Alligators are currently in the midst of mating and breeding season, a time when their behavior can be more aggressive.
“They are wild, dangerous animals,” Baker said. “(During) …mating and breeding season, the most vulnerable prey are dogs off leash.”
Baker also noted that a nearby resident came forward after the attack and informed them that the alligator had previously traveled up to the fence in their yard and appeared to be looking at their dogs.
“It’s very sad, and so traumatic,” added Baker. “This was a terrible accident… If you see behavior, such as an alligator coming near property, call us immediately. Alligators have taken dogs on Daniel Island before. It’s just unfortunately part of living with that kind of wildlife. But there are some steps you can take to be as safe as possible and aware of your surroundings.”
Baker encouraged residents to make sure their kids are not playing close to ponds and to remember to keep dogs on leash, as is required by city ordinance.
“Delta Dawn Blue” came into the Hutchins family in early 2013, after they adopted her from Carolina Coonhound Rescue. Josh called her devastating loss a “crazy, tragic” event and hoped it would encourage all island residents to be more aware of the dangers of alligators.
“You get kind of complacent with their existence,” said Josh. “And not thinking that those are wild gators and there is a possibility of there being a run-in with them…When you see them around all the time, you start to downplay the dangerous possibilities …It makes you drop your guard down. It is still hard to believe that the gator came after that big of a dog.”
He hopes the island will consider implementing a special educational campaign every year to remind residents to exercise caution around ponds and other areas frequented by the reptiles, especially around alligator mating season.
“I think that maybe this should spark a Gator Awareness Month when spring time comes around…This is the time of the year that they are coming out and, being mating season, there is a very distinct possibility that there is going to be an aggressive alligator out there…One of these days it’s not just going to be a dog.”  

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