CORINNA — The dog that attacked and killed a 7-year-old boy Saturday was euthanized at the owner’s request and members of the boy’s family pleaded for privacy Monday as they grappled with the tragedy.

Hunter Bragg of Bangor was killed by the dog at the 207 Moody’s Mills Road home of Gary Merchant as the boy played in the yard with two other children, the Penobscot County sheriff said at a news conference Monday afternoon in Bangor. Sheriff Troy Morton said details of the attack are “sensitive” and are not being made public.

Hunter Bragg

Hunter Bragg

Hunter’s father, Jeremy Bragg, 35, was also at the home during the attack, but it wasn’t clear if he witnessed it.

Merchant, who owned the adult male pit bull, requested that the dog be euthanized by an area veterinarian, Morton said. The dog was not registered with the town, but seven other dogs Merchant had on the property were, said Town Manager Serena Bemis-Goodall.

“My understanding is that (Merchant) took the dog in for someone else just within the last couple of months,” she said. She said police told her the dog was a pit bull, which is a catch phrase for a number of different types of terriers and not a specific breed.

The attack was reported to police at 5:15 p.m. Saturday, Morton said in a news release. When deputies arrived, the boy was already dead, Morton said. No one else was injured in the attack.

Hunter was a student at Down East Community School in Bangor, an elementary school for kindergarten through third-graders.

Stacey Merchant, Gary Merchant’s wife and a relative of Hunter Bragg, posted a photo of the boy on her Facebook page Sunday and wrote, “My sweet little Hunter there is nothing we can say right now that will make this alright.”

She wrote that the guilt she and her husband felt was “heart wrenching,” and “I don’t know how I will ever recover from this. You were so young” to be taken from the family.

Asked at Monday’s press conference whether criminal charges are being considered, Morton said authorities are still investigating the case. A person who owns or keeps a dog that kills, assaults or injures another person is subject to a fine of $250 to $1,000 and can also be ordered to pay restitution, according to the state’s dangerous dogs statute. But other charges could also apply.

In a 2011 dog bite case in Maine, 7-month-old Annabelle Mitchell of Frankfort was mauled by the family’s Rottweiler. Her mother, Katrina Mitchell, was drunk and passed out on a couch at the time and the baby’s father was not home, the Portland Press Herald reported.

The dog was euthanized, and the mother was later sentenced to three months in jail after pleading no contest to endangering the welfare of a child.

The home at 207 Moody's Mills Road in Corinna on Monday where police are investigating the death of 7-year-old Hunter Bragg of Bangor, killed by a dog Saturday. The dog was euthanized at the owner's request.

The home at 207 Moody’s Mills Road in Corinna on Monday where police are investigating the death of 7-year-old Hunter Bragg of Bangor, killed by a dog Saturday. The dog was euthanized at the owner’s request. Staff photo by David Leaming

The Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention does not track the number of dog bites reported each year in the state, according to spokesman John Martins, but according to the federal Center for Disease Control, about 4.5 million people are bitten by dogs each year in the U.S.

The Corinna attack was the 14th dog-bite fatality in the U.S. in 2016, according to the group National Pit Bull Victim Awareness, a group that advocates for responsible dog ownership with a particular emphasis on pit bull-type dogs.

Dogs of any breed can bite or attack humans or other animals, but pit bull bites often result in severe injuries because of their physical strength, said Patrick Faucher, president of the board of directors for the Maine Animal Control Association and the town of Oakland’s animal control officer.

Children are most at risk of dog bites and among children, the rate of dog-bite injuries is highest among those 5 to 9 years old, the CDC says. More than half of dog bite injuries occur at home and involve dogs that are familiar to the bite victims. But without a complete picture of what unfolded at the Corinna home Saturday, Faucher said it is hard to evaluate the situation.

“Pit bulls are basically guard dogs and many people train them to be that way,” he said. “I’m not sure if that was the case here, but there are also many people who have great pit bulls. It’s socialization that makes the difference.”

Gould, the town’s animal control officer, was called to the Merchant home last year for a noise complaint related to the dogs, Bemis-Goodall said. In March 2015, Gould found four dogs at the property that were not registered, but Bemis-Goodall said that Merchant “did exactly what animal control asked him to do” and registered the animals.

She said she was not sure who the dog in the attack previously belonged to or why the person had asked Merchant to care for it.

‘WE’RE ALL GRIEVING’

At the home where the boy was killed, a man briefly stepped outside at about 11:15 a.m. Monday and asked reporters to give the family and their neighbors space.

“We’re all dealing with this as we have to,” said the man, who declined to give his name. “It’s family. We’re all grieving.”

Family of Hunter Bragg on Monday set up a GoFundMe page to help pay for the boy’s funeral expenses.

“Hunter was loved by so many people. He always had a huge smile on his face and brought joy to everywhere he went. He had a bubbly personality and was always a riot,” Jennifer McClure, one of the boy’s aunts, writes on the GoFundMe page. “He has so many people that are devastated that he is gone and so many people that loved him dearly. He was his Aunt Jenny’s ‘Cutie Patootie,’ his Nana’s ‘Little man’ and always nana’s boy, he was everyone’s buddy.

“He was taken from everyone at such a young age, but we all know that his mom is now with him and looking after him up in Heaven.”

The boy’s mother, Jessica Rose McClure, died in January 2012 at the age of 27. Her obituary in the Bangor Daily News said she had three children, Mackenzie, Justin and Hunter. No cause of death was given.

Joshua Eldridge speaks on Monday about the death of a 7-year-old boy at a neighbor's home at 207 Moody's Mills Road in Corinna. Eldridge said he was saddened and sickened by the death.

Joshua Eldridge speaks on Monday about the death of a 7-year-old boy at a neighbor’s home at 207 Moody’s Mills Road in Corinna. Eldridge said he was saddened and sickened by the death. Staff photo by David Leaming

‘EVERYONE SHOULD BE UPSET’

Complaints about aggressive or loud dogs are not unusual in town, according to Bemis-Goodall, but she said the severity of the recent attack has brought the issue to the forefront.

“No matter what town you live in, people should be shaken up,” she said. “A 7-year-old child lost his life. Everyone should be upset over this.”

Joshua Eldridge, who grew up across the road from the ranch home where dogs could be heard barking in a penned area in back Monday, said he was in Corinna helping his mother Saturday when the quiet rural road was suddenly full of ambulances and police cruisers.

Eldridge said he has seen a pit bull-type dog outside and that the home has a number of dogs.

“It’s just tragic,” he said. “This stuff doesn’t happen. I feel that it’s a horrific story. I heard there was possibly another child that witnessed it. That’s what’s getting at me a little bit – that little girl is possibly mentally destroyed for the rest of her life witnessing it.”

By late morning Monday, several television stations and other news media had gathered at the home, where the dooryard and grounds were cluttered with vehicle tires and toys.

Eldridge said neighbors do not know the Merchant family well. He said they have lived there for about two years.