According to the Los Angeles Daily News:
Disneyland brought in a “not very social” dog from a local shelter to use in its petting zoo two years ago, and the dog mauled a 2-year-old girl, leaving her permanently scarred, according to a lawsuit filed by a Valencia attorney.
The suit, filed Tuesday in Orange County Superior Court, alleges that Disneyland adopted the 6-year-old red-and-black-haired German shepherd and labrador retriever mix named Hemmingway from the Orange County Animal Shelter, where facility workers said he was “not very social” and had a history of aggression.
Disney officials did not return calls today seeking comment.
Nobody knew anything about the dog when he came into the shelter, and he wouldn’t let anyone near him for five days. A shelter veterinarian even noted that he couldn’t pet the dog, according to the suit.
A month later, on Sept. 23, 2006, a Disney employee adopted Hemmingway. The company placed the leashed dog on a box in the Big Thunder petting zoo and assigned an employee with no animal training to watch over him while children played with him.
It was there, less than two weeks after being adopted, that the dog lunged at Lena Dickerson, biting her face several times, permanently scarring the girl, the lawsuit alleges. Her family lived in Valencia at the time but recently moved to Illinois.
“It is atrocious what Disney did, and the public needed to be warned,” said Michael Bishay, the attorney representing the family, who declined to comment. “You don’t invite kids to pet stray dogs.”
On the afternoon of Oct. 3, 2006, Lena Dickerson, her parents and two siblings walked up to Hemmingway. Anna, her 9-year-old sister, began petting the dog’s head, her 5-year-old brother Eli stroked his back and Lena, 2 at the time, stroked near his rear.
The family continued to play with the dog – who Disney also used in parades as fireworks exploded overhead, the suit alleges – for a few minutes before Lena’s parents decided to leave. Lena leaned in to say goodbye when the dog lunged at her, knocking Eli in the chest and biting Lena’s face several times.
Hemmingway finally locked his jaws underneath her right eye before her father, Shane Dickerson, pried the animal loose, according to the suit.
Lena is now 4, and the family is seeking unspecified punitive damages as well as reimbursement for their medical cost and trauma imposed by the incident.
“She is doing better than we had all hoped,” Bishay said.