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Dog taken in from family member kills new owner, police say

(MCT) — CHICAGO—A firefighter found dead in her far west suburban home was killed by a dog she had recently taken in from a family member, police said Wednesday.

Dawn Brown, 44, was discovered by her husband about 4:15 p.m. Monday at the bottom of the basement stairs in their home in Big Rock, Kane County sheriff’s police said.

After an autopsy, police said Brown died from dog bites to her neck from a 140-pound mastiff, Lt. Pat Gengler said.

Brown and her husband, both part-time volunteer firefighters with the Big Rock Fire Protection District, took in the mastiff about a week ago from a family member, he said. The couple’s two other dogs, a boxer and a pit bull mix, weren’t involved in the attack, which police believe occurred sometime Monday morning because Brown didn’t answer phone calls from her husband, Gengler said. Four animal control handlers were needed to contain the mastiff, Gengler said.

Police still are trying to determine what prompted the attack, and whether the dog showed previous violent behavior. All three dogs remained in the custody of Kane County Animal Control, where they will undergo evaluations to help determine if and when they’ll return home, Gengler said.

Brown also worked full-time as a firefighter paramedic with the Bristol Kendall Fire Protection District in Yorkville. Acquaintances describe the couple as animal lovers who treated their dogs as if they were their children.

“We’re really having a hard time getting our hands around this,” said Bristol Kendall’s Chief Michael Hitzemann, who added the mastiff was having trouble getting along with one of the other dogs. “I’m not sure we’re ever going to find out.”

Fatal dog attacks are rare, especially against adults, according to local veterinarians.

John Ciribassi, a veterinary behaviorist at Chicagoland Veterinary Behavior Consultants, said while dog bites are common, they rarely are so severe they result in death.

Often times fatal cases involve situations in which the dog feels territorial, or more rarely, when the dog develops a predatory instinct, Ciribassi said.

And, aggression can span all breeds, he said. “It’s really more of an issue of the individual animal.”

Firefighters in both of the departments where Brown worked continued to grieve Wednesday.

“To pronounce one of your own dead is probably one of the hardest things we have to do,” said Cpt. Debra Raymond of the Big Rock Fire Protection District, which responded to the scene. “We’re like extended family.”

Raymond and Hitzemann described Brown as a nurturing woman with a flair for cooking and baking.

“She was just a great friend at the station,” Hitzemann said.

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