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'We're still going to put up a fight': Mother of 5-year-old Michigan boy attacked by dogs reacts to charges being dropped

The prosecutor's office says there is no evidence in the case to prove that the dog's owner knew his dogs were "dangerous animals," so she's dropping the charges.

MONTCALM COUNTY, Mich. — The Montcalm County Prosecutor has dropped felony charges against the owner of two dogs who attacked and severely injured a boy earlier this month. 

According to Michigan State Police, Brian Ruthruff's two Pitbulls, 'Chief' and 'Nala,' attacked 5-year-old Hunter Callender. 

"After further investigation and review of applicable case law the following is the current state of the law-  The Michigan Court of Appeals has held that this charge is not a strict liability offense; rather, the statute requires proof that the owner knew that his animal was a dangerous animal within the meaning of the dangerous animal statute prior to the incident," Montcalm County Prosecuting Attorney Andrea Krause shared with 13 ON YOUR SIDE. 

The prosecutor said there is no evidence to prove that the defendant knew that his dogs were "dangerous animals" under the statute.   

"Prosecutors have a duty to protect the rights of both victims and defendants.  We could not in good conscience proceed with the criminal prosecution in this case under the current state of the law," she said.  

Hunter's mother Ashley White says she was shocked and angry when she heard the news, the day before the family was scheduled to attend a probable cause conference in Montcalm County court. 

"I think [Ruthruff] should take responsibility for what his dogs have done. I mean, there should be some type of criminal investigation," she says.

Hunter was at his grandmother's house in Winfield Township when the incident happened.

He was playing in the front yard with his little sister when his mother tells us Ruthruff's two pit bulls jumped out of his van from across the street and attacked him.

Hunter's mother says he suffered broken bones in his face and has undergone several surgeries so far. He's been recovering at home for more than ten days now.

"He's been up and down. He's got a lot more up because we're trying to keep them occupied with other things that keep his mind going on. More fun-related things that he can do, but we have had a lot of kind of concerning conversations with him about what's happened," she says. 

White says their medical journey is far from over.

"It's not just, 'Hey, we're going to the doctor for a minute then we're done,'" she says. "Because it's a whole lifetime of him getting back to a normal kid."

The state statute holds that the owner can't be held responsible for what happened because there was no proof the dogs have an aggressive past.

"It's always hard to second guess charging decisions," Attorney Kirsten Holz says.

She says while the statute should've been considered before the felony charges were filed, she believes that this decision came down at the appropriate time before more formal hearings began.

"Accidents happen and things are overlooked. And evidence can change, certainly, as a case continues on and is investigated," she says.

"It's not common for something like that to happen," Attorney Sarissa Montague says.

While fairly uncommon, Montague says this isn't the first time she's seen charges dismissed in a situation like this. 

"The constitution was put into place in order to protect people who are charged with offenses. Statutes are in place in order to make sure that people who have engaged in wrongdoing can be held accountable," she says. "And sometimes, the balance of those things appears not to be fair necessarily, or to the common person, appears not to be right."

While criminal proceedings are currently out of the question, White says they're not giving up.

"We're still gonna put up a fight and try to figure out what we can do to get justice for Hunter," she says.

Criminal charges could still be possible if evidence was collected about the dogs' behavior, like a previous attack or stories of aggression from neighbors. 

Both attorneys say that civil lawsuits often go forward, while a criminal case does not. That's an option that Ashley says her family is considering. 

A GoFundMe has been set up to help cover Hunter's medical costs, as well as a donation account through Community First Credit Union.

Community members have also set up a t-shirt drive to help the family.  

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