3-year-old survives canine mauling in Southwest Alaska; mom says authorities have been gradual to take motion

A 3 year old Chevak girl was seriously injured last week when loose dogs attacked her while she was playing outside her home.

Since Sunday’s attack, Amaya Santillana has traveled to Bethel and Anchorage for treatment and underwent two surgeries, her mother LaVerna Paniyak said.

No charges have been brought against the neighbor who owns the dogs, although the investigation is ongoing and the Alaska State Troopers are seeking witnesses, said Austin McDaniel, a soldier’s spokesman.

It is unclear what will happen to the dogs. Soldiers have no authority over local animal control issues and cannot interfere in decisions about the dogs, McDaniel said.

KYUK Public Media at Bethel reported that Chevak city ordinance requires that animals that bite a person be quarantined for rabies before euthanasia. An email message to the city from the Daily News was not returned and officials could not be reached by phone for the story.

On Sunday afternoon, Amaya jumped out of the house looking forward to playing in the yard with her 10-year-old brother, said her teenage cousin Aaliyah Paniyak-Hill. As Paniyak-Hill prepared to join them outside, she looked out the window.

“I saw three dogs on her and ran out to get her,” said Paniyak-Hill, 16.

LaVerna Paniyak said she was in her bedroom taking care of her 2 month old daughter when she heard her niece scream. She ran to the window and saw her neighbor leading the three pit bulls away from her yard with a snow machine, she said.

On the floor, Amaya was bleeding profusely from several wounds on her face and head.

The following moments involved a burst of emotion. Paniyak said she and her niece called for help – they reached out to local health workers and tried to contact the village police, who Paniyak said hung up the phone. Paniyak called the Alaska State Troopers for help.

The 15 minutes the family spent waiting for health workers to arrive was terrifying, Paniyak said. She feared her daughter would die from losing so much blood.

“I grabbed my daughter and I held her and she said to me, ‘Mom, I’m cold. Mom, I’m getting tired, I want to go to sleep, ”said Paniyak.

Both she and her niece took care of the girl, tried to keep her awake and talk.

Tensions between Paniyak and her neighbor have increased recently, Paniyak said. She said his dogs previously acted aggressively towards their children and he violently threatened them and their family.

Paniyak said she was sure the neighbor owns the dogs that attacked her daughter and seen her with him countless times, but the neighbor told KYUK that the dogs were not his. The neighbor hung up when a Daily News reporter called him on Thursday.

The neighbor returned home while she waited for health workers to arrive, Paniyak said. She said she furiously confronted him but he threatened her family and eventually grabbed a gun and fired four shots in the air at her home.

Paniyak said she took Amaya to the health center, where it was decided that she should go to Bethel for treatment. For reasons unclear to Paniyak, Amaya was not medically evacuated, but flown in a commercial plane to Bethel, where she underwent her first operation on Sunday evening.

At Bethel, the doctors decided that she should be treated in Anchorage. Mother and child boarded a commercial flight on Monday. In Anchorage, Amaya underwent a second operation and spent the night in the hospital.

Amaya was able to leave the hospital on Tuesday, but medical appointments and examinations continued, Paniyak said. Her mother flew to Anchorage with Paniyak’s three other children earlier in the week.

On Thursday afternoon, thick staples protruded from Amaya’s thick black hair and her face had stitches.

“No, no, you can’t touch them,” Paniyak reminded Amaya as she moved her daughter’s hands away from the wounds.

It was hard to see her daughter in so much pain, but Paniyak said Amaya is recovering well.

Amaya Santillana, 3, is in Anchorage for medical treatment this week after being attacked by a dog outside her home in Chevak on April 18. (Marc Lester / ADN)

A wound is closed on Amaya Santillana’s scalp. Santillana, 3, is in Anchorage for medical treatment this week after being attacked by a dog outside her home in Chevak on April 18. (Marc Lester / ADN)

Paniyak said she was upset with how the village police handled the case. She said she feared the dogs could harm others if they weren’t knocked down.

Paniyak served as a police officer in Chevak village for about seven years before leaving in 2019, she said. She served as the boss for several months.

When Paniyak initially called for help on Sunday, no one answered the phone in the public security office, she said. After several calls, the dispatcher who answered the call hung up, she said. Finally, an officer arrived at home after being told to do so by the health worker.

But when the officer arrived, Amaya and Paniyak were already at the health clinic. When he got to the clinic, Paniyak said she told him what happened and showed him photos, but she has not heard from the police since.

Messages left with the department for comment on this story have not been returned.

Paniyak said rumors of the dogs’ whereabouts had spread in Chevak and it was not clear whether they had been knocked down. She said she hadn’t heard from the city about official actions.

The soldiers are still investigating and Paniyak hopes other witnesses will speak to the authorities about the situation. She said several people were in front of her neighbor’s house during the attack.

“If this were your child, I would be pretty sure you would be doing the right thing,” she said.

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