The pictures of the little boy are jolting.
Lucas Harrison, a beautiful 15-month-old from Clinton, has sustained devastating facial injuries.
On March 15, the boy was attacked by a dog that had been adopted just hours earlier from the Clinton County Humane Society, according to the gofundme page set up by family and friends (gofundme.com/lucas-harrison-picu-recovery).
As of Sunday night, more than $169,000 had been raised, and the goal was $100,000. Between the heartbreaking photos and the following description, it's easy to see why so many people want to help:
"While playing with a friend's newly adopted dog, 15 month old Lucas was suddenly attacked, with the dog biting off a large portion of Lucas' face. He was airlifted to the University of Iowa Childrens' Hospital where he had a 6 hour surgery involving at least 3 surgeons. A large part of his gum/bone including permanent teeth were ripped out, most of his nose cartilage was destroyed, and he will have lifelong damage. He will not have any upper front teeth, will need dental reconstruction to hopefully support false teeth when he is an adult, and have more facial surgeries in the future.
"Lucas will stay sedated for many days and remain in the hospital for weeks to come. Holly and Tyler (his parents) remain at his side while their other two boys stay with family. They are from Clinton, Iowa, and will need all the help they can get with paying for medical bills, transportation costs, food, and everything else that comes up in emergency situations like this one.
"The extent of damage is beyond belief, and the pain associated with it all is unimaginable! Pray, pray, pray! He has a long road of recovery and many surgeries ahead."
Though the dog has been described by some as a boxer-Labrador mix, it appears in photos and has been described by activists as a pit bull mix.
In fact, members of the National Pit Bull Victim Awareness campaign emailed us at the Quad-City Times this past week, urging an investigation. The campaign's website indicates its mission is to bring "awareness and attention to the injuries and deaths caused by pit bull-type dogs in the United States and Canada."
On Friday, Clinton Police Chief Kevin Gyrion confirmed an investigation has been completed, and the owners of the dog have been cited for having a dangerous dog. We can presume this will be challenged, given the Clinton Humane Society permitted the dog to be adopted. And this also is the source of considerable controversy.
The dog that attacked Lucas was a rescue dog. He came to Iowa from Louisiana in late February, according to reports, which is quite typical. Many Iowa dog rescuers travel to southern states to collect death-row dogs. In states like Missouri, spay and neuter habits are woefully lacking.
But, according to one rescuer, they have to be picky about what dogs they spare, because they have to find them homes.
Diane Guy Viaene is vice president of Davenport-based Ruff Life Dog Rescue. She said all dogs are temperament tested, but that's no guarantee aggressive behaviors won't arise.
"I don't know what tests were done with this dog, but a thorough temperament test means exposing the dog to (human) males and females, dogs, cats and children," she said. "These tests are an indicator, and that's about it.
"They are a safeguard, but they are not 100 percent."
Ruff Life will not accept any dogs with a bite history, she said, acknowledging rescuers can't always be sure whether a dog has previously shown aggression.
"In the case of owner surrenders, you're dealing with someone who left their dog at a shelter, so who knows?" she said. "Not wanting them euthanized, they're not always forthright.
"The other alternative is strays, and you know nothing about them."
While Viaene wanted no part in blaming anyone for what happened to Lucas, she did say, "We do try to remind people there's a transition period. Usually, our dogs are in foster care first, so we have a good idea of temperament.
"You can't tell a dog's temperament in a shelter."
Little information has been made available, regarding the circumstances of the attack. Whatever happened, the result was devastating.
"I'm sure those poor parents are wondering about all the what-ifs," Viaene said. "It's every dog rescuer's worst nightmare.
"I just feel so bad for them — from shelter workers to transportation people. I'm sure they're just beside themselves. And I'm sure everybody in the case thought they were doing the right thing.
"I feel terrible for everybody involved. Those parents; I can't imagine."
A Facebook page devoted to Lucas's recovery had 8,100-plus followers on Sunday. When the administrator of the page posted that the boy had "an unexpected setback," hundreds of people offered their prayers.
Chief Gyrion said the dog was in quarantine Friday at the Clinton Humane Society. Even so, according to the Facebook page, Lucas has been undergoing rabies shots.
While some will use the attack as more evidence that pit bull breeds are inherently dangerous, others will come to their defense. Some will blame the well-meaning rescuers, and some will point to the shelter as responsible. Some will even blame the parents.
Fortunately, it has become obvious that most people are thinking only of Lucas.