The story that 3-year-old Victoria Wilcher was asked to leave a KFC restaurant in Jackson, Mississippi may have been fabricated, but her scars from a pit bull attack are real and well documented.
Wilcher’s injuries became internationally known through reportage by Charlotte Alter of TIME.com, the online edition of the TIME magazine news weekly, published on June 20, 2014. Alter extensively quoted ANIMALS 24-7 editor Merritt Clifton’s 32 years of research pertaining to dog attacks in general and pit bulls in particular in “The Problem With Pit Bulls,” posted at: http://time.com/2891180/kfc-and-the-pit-bull-attack-of-a-little-girl/.
Opened Alter, “It’s horrible that KFC kicked out that 3-year-old girl, but let’s focus on the real problem: pit bulls were bred to be violent. The social media universe became furious at KFC this week after an employee asked a three-year old victim of a dog attack to leave one of their restaurants because “her face is disrupting our customers.” But it wasn’t KFC employees who broke down the door to Victoria Wilcher’s grandfather’s house and mauled the toddler until half her face was paralyzed and she lost the use of one of her eyes. Three pit bulls did that.”
Alter also cited perspectives from the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, the Annals of Surgery, PETA, the American Pit Bull Foundation, and Dogsbite.org.
“The heart-wrenching story of a disfigured 3-year-old child being asked to leave a Jackson KFC because her appearance was scaring other customers was a made-up story that resulted in the family bilking the public and professionals for more than $135,000 in cash, as well as gifts and free surgeries,” reported Sean Murphy of the Laurel, Mississippi Leader Call on June 23, 2014, citing “sources with deep knowledge of the investigation.” Murphy’s anonymous sources apparently had access to surveillance videos made at the two KFC restaurants near the Batson Children’s Hospital in Jackson, in the neighborhood where the incident was said to have occurred.
But while the allegation that Wilcher was asked to leave the KFC restaurant appeared to be fictitious, the April 10, 2014 pit bull attack that disfigured her was thoroughly documented by Sheriff Kenneth Lewis, Dustin Barnes and Terricha Bradley-Phillips of the Jackson Clarion Ledger, and Jessica Bowman of Mississippi News Now. Wilcher’s grandfather, Donald Mullins, and his girlfriend, Rita Tompkins, were both arrested on child endangerment charges, though both were also credited with saving Wilcher’s life after she was attacked. Mullins shot two of the three dogs who mauled Wilcher to end the attack.
A graphic assembled by Dogsbite.org from ANIMALS 24.7 data, included in the TIME article, starkly illustrated the rising numbers of pit bull attacks since the 2007 Michael Vick dogfighting case caused the Best Friends Animal Society and American SPCA, among others, to ramp up pit bull advocacy: