71-pound pet dog bites, kills newborn in Independence

  • Article by: ABBY SIMONS and PAUL WALSH , Star Tribune staff writers
  • Updated: February 19, 2010 - 10:06 PM

Police say 11-day-old boy was alone in a bedroom when he was attacked by the Siberian husky.

An Independence family's newborn boy was killed by the family's Siberian husky, which jumped onto a bed where the 11-day-old was in a car seat and bit his head, authorities said Friday.

Robert D. Hocker "died of head injuries suffered in [a] canine attack," according to the Hennepin County Medical Examiner.

The attack occurred shortly before 12:30 p.m. Thursday, authorities said.

West Hennepin Public Safety Director Ray McCoy fought back tears at a news conference Friday as he said that none of the baby's four family members was in the bedroom when the 71-pound husky, named Dealer, bit the baby.

"As you can imagine, the family is grieving," McCoy said. "This is a horrible tragedy. The loss of their baby boy has had an extreme effect on everyone."

McCoy said emergency crews tried to resuscitate the baby for 40 minutes before pronouncing him dead. He declined to say how many times the dog bit the boy. Although an "active death investigation" continues, he said, the boy's parents haven't been arrested.

McCoy said authorities had been called to the home on Lake Haughey Road "numerous" times for nuisance complaints and code violations, but that none involved an aggressive dog.

He said Dealer was locked in a bedroom when emergency workers arrived and was not aggressive when removed from the home. A basset hound also lived in the home.

The dog was held in quarantine by the Wright County Humane Society, where it will be tested for rabies. After 10 days, it is likely to be killed.

Neighbors along the scenic road said they had seen two huskies in pens in the back yard. The home is owned by Sharon Dvorak, 59, who neighbors say lived there with her daughter, Laura, and Laura's boyfriend Dan, the baby's father. A young girl also lives in the home.

According to records, Daniel James Hocker, 48, lists the home as his address, as does Laura Lynn Dvorak, 33.

Court records show Daniel Hocker was convicted in 2006 of misdemeanor domestic assault and in 2002 of carrying a pistol without a permit.

No one was home at the small house on Friday. Across the street, Sally Bense said she has long known Sharon Dvorak, and that Dvorak's daughter and boyfriend moved in with her about a year ago.

Bense said she was startled by the sight of a helicopter landing on the road Thursday and emergency crews rushing into the driveway. Later she saw them wheel a tiny sheet-covered body outside and place it in the back of a vehicle.

Dr. Jerry Ahrendt, a veterinarian who practices in nearby Kimball, Minn., pulled over on the road Friday with his border collie, Annie, in the passenger's seat. Although he lives just up the road, he hadn't yet heard of what happened.

"That's not like a husky," he said. "Dogs sense youthfulness, and they tend to protect rather than harm. They tend to have good qualities and a husky has good qualities. It just doesn't match."

According to the website for the Siberian Husky Club of America, the breed "has a delightful temperament" and is "gentle and friendly."

However, Colleen Lynn, founder and president of an organization called DogsBite.org, said in an e-mail that while huskies kill only a fraction of the people that pit bulls do, "husky type" dogs have killed six people, including three infants, nationwide since January 2006.

"We call huskies 'crib snatchers' at DogsBite.org," Lynn wrote. "They have a higher prey drive than many other breeds of dogs and clearly are very unsafe around infants."

Abby Simons • 612-673-4921 Paul Walsh • 612-673-4482

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