An unwelcome visitor at an Oklahoma elementary school caused chaos on the playground and raised questions about the school’s security.
As KFOR News reports, on Monday afternoon, about 28 third- and fourth-graders were playing on the playground of Millard Fillmore Elementary School in Oklahoma City when a dog got inside the gates.
The animal, which was a pit bull mix, began going after the children, which caused general panic on the playground. Capt. David Macy of the Oklahoma City Fire Department told KFOR:
“The dog came on and started to attack some of the kids, and then of course the kids began to scream and panic, which excited the dog and scared the dog even more, so his natural instinct was to keep biting and going after the kids.”
Soon, the calls began rolling in to 911 from the school.
“We have a mad, out-of-control dog on our playground,” the caller told dispatchers in one of the calls. “It’s already bit a teacher and some kids, and we need somebody to come get the dog.”
In the confusion, several children were hurt trying to get away from the dog. Sixth-grader Sebastian Zermeno told KFOR:
“I was coming over here, and we were all running, and there were kids behind me, and I fell and I got trampled by kids. I was just so scared. I didn’t expect for this to happen today.”
The dog even managed to get inside the school before special education teacher Lee Hughes caught it and was able to tackle it, preventing it from attacking anyone else.
Other teachers are now calling Hughes a hero, but he told KFOR he was just doing what had to be done:
“I had it pinned, and my arms locked around his head so he couldn’t move. Everybody did what they’re supposed to do.”
In the aftermath, 12 students had to be taken to the hospital. Five were taken there by ambulance and seven by their parents. Fortunately, none of the injuries were life-threatening. Macy told KFOR they were generally minor, caused as much by the panic as the dog:
“Some superficial bites. Some of the students had scraped knees and sore elbows as they fell trying to get away from the dog.”
Oklahoma City animal welfare is holding the dog and is trying to locate its owner. Jon Gary, the superintendent of animal welfare, told KFOR that the animal is about a year old and has no tags or microchip, but he doesn’t believe it’s a stray:
“We believe it’s somebody’s pet just because of the health and condition of the dog, and more than likely lives close to that school area.”
State law says that the animal can be held for three days then euthanized and tested for rabies. Alternatively, animal welfare has the option to hold, quarantine, and observe the animal for 10 days. Because of the number of victims, Gary says it’ll likely euthanize the dog after the third day.
If the dog tests positive for rabies, all of the children who were exposed during the attack will need to undergo treatment. If the owner is located, he or she may be subject to dangerous dog charges.
The incident raised questions about the school’s security, namely how the dog was able to get through the gate. One parent told KFOR he has no issues with the school but has noted that it has been lax about the fencing in the past:
“Me and my wife came the other day to bring my daughter some snacks, and I was driving down Blackwelder, and I had seen the kids on the playground, and I saw my daughter, and I was driving and I saw the gate wide open.”
School officials say they have plans to put welded chains on the gates that cannot be cut off. The fence at Millard Fillmore Elementary has already been repaired, with new locks added to the gates. The district is also evaluating the fences and gates at other schools.