A little boy just two days shy of his sixth birthday was killed after he was attacked by two dogs and mauled to death in Texas, officials said.
Tanner Smith, a kindergartener who would have turned six on Tuesday, was severely bitten numerous times by two pit bulls around 7 p.m. Sunday while the boy was at a family friend’s Vidor home, the Orange County Sheriff's Department told INSIDE EDITION.
Tanner was bitten about 16 times, with one bit going through an artery in his neck, his grandmother, Melissa Phillips, told KFDM News.
An autopsy will determine the cause of death, but the boy's neck was so severely mauled, medical examiners were having a hard time making a final determination, officials said.
Tanner's mother brought her son along to a visit with her friend, whose father owns the home and dogs, police said. That man was assumed to be outside with Tanner, but he was not there when the dogs attacked the five-year-old boy in the fenced-in yard, cops said.
When Tanner's mother realized that the man was not outside, she rushed to the yard to discover her son had been attacked.
The man was told what happened, came home and put the dogs down, police said.
Tanner, who had a pre-existing rare heart condition, was rushed to a hospital in nearby Beaumont and was lightly breathing, but he could not be saved, cops said.
Family said Tanner was born with hypoplastic left heart syndrome, a rare defect that leaves the left side of the heart underdeveloped, for which the right side has to overcompensate. He had undergone three open heart surgeries in his short life, they said.
Students and faculty at Vidor Elementary School remembered the boy for his infectious smile and sweet temperament and planned to celebrate Tanner’s birthday Tuesday with a cake in his honor, KBMT-TV reported.
Mourners also took to social media to express their grief.
“Happy Birthday little Tanner. We all loved you so much. We know you are celebrating the greatest birthday of all on those wonderful streets of gold in Heaven with Jesus by your side,” wrote one woman who knew the little boy.
Criminal charges are not expected to be filed in connection to the attack since the dogs were appropriately confined to their fenced-in yard, police said.
The same pit bulls were quarantined for 10 days in December of last year after they bit a 9-year-old girl and her mother as the pair walked by the Aloha Street home, police said.
The dogs allegedly dug a hole below the fence in place and made puncture wounds in the victims' skin, but the injuries did not meet the criteria under Texas law to deem the dogs dangerous, cops said.
The dogs' owner paid the injured parties' medical bills and appropriately restrained his dogs after the incident, police said.