By Leisa Zigman I-Team Reporter
ST. LOUIS COUNTY (KSDK) - A tip that came into our newsroom led to a story about a 4-year-old boy who was attacked by a dog at the Missouri Veteran's Home in north St. Louis County.
The dog was part of the Puppies for Parole program where Missouri inmates teach dogs obedience and socialization skills. Many of these dogs are placed in nursing homes for comfort and companionship.
In February of 2012, Arie White went with his grandparents to visit a friend at the Missouri Veteran's Home when he was attacked by the facility's 3-year-old black cocker spaniel.
His mom, who owns a pet grooming business, said the physical scars are still clear, while the emotional scars are hard to judge.
"The dog chewed his face. He has multiple puncture wounds inside the mouth, chin, up by the eye, and part of his lip was missing. Generally dogs give a warning bite when they are aggravated. That wasn't a warning bite, that was a mauling," said Gina Paro.
She continued, "Arie had to have surgery but he has a lot of scaring, deformity on his lip, constantly biting it and it hurts him, there is a deformity up top."
The home is one of seven owned by the state of Missouri. When officials with the Office of Administration did not respond to my calls I went to find answers.
The director started five months after the dog attack, but invited me into her office while she called Jefferson City for more information. Her boss on the other end said because of HIPAA privacy laws, I would have to leave.
According to Arie's mom, the state has agreed to pay his medical bills but she would have to sign an agreement releasing them from future expenses. At this point she says she doesn't know what to do.
"I would like to wait until he's a little bit older to see how it looks and if he wants to go ahead a fix that fine, but he's been through so much, I don't' want to force him into that again," said Paro.
A spokesperson with the Missouri Veteran's Commission which is the state agency that runs the Missouri Veteran's Home said the dog that attacked Arie has been adopted by a private family and that it never attacked anyone else while at the nursing home.
Dog bites are not uncommon. According to State Farm, lllinois averages about one dog bite a day with 337 and are second in the nation in attacks. Missouri ranks 14, with 80 dog bites in 2012.
The U.S. Postal Service reports Chicago is third in dog attacks of postal carriers, while St. Louis ranks 32.
NewsChannel 5 called the Missouri Department of Corrections to see how often dogs in the Puppies for Parole have had behavioral issues once adopted, but have not yet heard back.