11-year-old lost ear and part of scalp during dog attack. Now, family sues neighbors

A Georgia mother is suing after her 11-year-old son was brutalized by a neighbor’s dogs, court documents show.

Justin Gilstrap was on a bike ride in his neighborhood on Friday, Jan. 6, when three dogs charged him, pulling him off his bike and dragging him into a ditch, a report from the Columbia County Sheriff’s Office said.

The 11-year-old lost his right ear and a portion of his scalp and suffered deep wounds to his legs, his mom, Ericka Gilstrap, said in a Facebook post. He has had multiple surgeries since the attack.

Now, Ericka Gilstrap is suing the dogs’ owners for punitive damages.

The suit, which was filed Jan. 30 in Superior Court, calls the dogs “vicious and dangerous” and says the dogs’ owners were negligent, which resulted in the attack.

Fifteen John/Jane Does — “the presently unknown individuals, companies, or entities whose negligent actions and/or omissions contributed to the violent and brutal attack” — are also named in the suit.

Columbia County officials previously said the dogs’ owner had received warnings about letting the dogs run free, according to a Jan. 7 news release from the board of commissioners. The county did not have any records of the dogs being aggressive toward people before Justin Gilstrap’s attack.

At the time of the attack, the dogs’ owner told officials that his dogs were prone to chasing people on bicycles, The Augusta Press reported. He was charged with reckless conduct.

The three dogs described as pit bulls that attacked Justin Gilstrap, along with four other dogs belonging to the owners, were euthanized on Wednesday, Jan. 18, according to The Augusta Chronicle.

All 17 defendants are liable for medical expenses, physical and mental pain, and permanent disfigurement caused by the attack, the suit says. It also says the defendants acted in bad faith, acting with intentional misconduct.

Columbia County is to the northwest of Augusta.

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