The Schweders often walked the dirt road where they were attacked. The dogs were familiar to them and others who lived in the area, neighbors say.
“We never had a problem with them,” said Lanier Bridges, who lives on Elberton Road in Lexington.
But canines are keen to even the slightest changes.
“In a wild group of animals, members of the pack will spend different parts of the day in different territory,” Beaver said. “If their walks normally came at a different time of day, this may have been perceived as a threat by the dogs.”
Packs are considerably less predictable than individual canines. If one dog acts irrationally, the others are likely to follow.
“Often it takes only one or two dogs to spark the kind of attack you’re describing,” Ciribassi said. “It doesn’t take much.”
The pack that killed the Schweders was unusually large. which was attributed to the feedings administered by the neighbor. He was still feeding the dogs even after he moved away, and they did not appear malnourished.
“But if that normal food supply was interrupted only slightly, that might have caused them to get aggressive,” Ciribassi said.
August has been an especially deadly month for dog attacks in the U.S. Four days before the Schweders were mauled, a 20-year-old Virginia man was killed by pit bulls owned by his brother. And on Aug. 15, a 3-day-old infant was snatched from his crib in West Virginia by his parents’ pit bull.
The Schweders deaths were anomalies; most victims know the dogs who attack them, Beaver said.
According to dogbitelaw.com, there have been 21 fatal canine attacks so far in 2009, just two fewer than in 2008. However, there is no single clearinghouse that records such incidents.
“The data is fuzzy,” Beaver said.
If you ever find yourself on the receiving end of an attack, try not to run and avoid eye contact, experts say.
“That’s easier said than done,” Beaver said, “especially when you have a pack of dogs coming at you. You’re acting on instinct at that point.”
The dogs that killed the Schweders were euthanized Tuesday at the Madison Oglethorpe Animal Shelter.