A 6-year-old girl mauled by pit bulls in early June returned home Tuesday after 60 days in the hospital.
Zainabou Drame has been through multiple surgeries at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital since the dogs attacked her June 6 in the 2900 block of Aquadale Lane in Westwood.
Family members gave WCPO the first photo of Zainabou as she heals from the attack.
“When you see Zaina today and since this happened there is a big difference,” her father, Abdou Drame, said. “I’m happy to see her back home.”
Abdou said his daughter is getting stronger each day and uses a Touch Chat app installed on her tablet to communicate. She returned home Tuesday at about 4:30 p.m.
WCPO spoke to Zainabou over the phone. She was able to answer by making sounds.
Abdou said Cincinnati Children’s Hospital did a “wonderful job” treating his daughter.
“They did great,” he said. “They showed me how to clean her neck, how to change the trach (tube in her neck) and how to help her and to feed her.”
Officials said Zainabou was playing with her 9-year-old brother when the dogs spotted her and began tossing her in the air.
Gina Tyus, Zainabou’s aunt, said the 6-year-old still struggles to communicate, but family members are thrilled with her progress.
Zainabou Drame, 6, after several surgeries at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital. She is with her 7-year-old sister Mariama Drame (right).
“It makes me smile to see her do as well as she is because there was a time we didn’t know what the outcome was going to be,” Tyus said. “I’m grateful and thankful.”
Zainabou’s grandfather, Leslie McElrath, Jr., said the girl’s jaw was wired shut and she has injuries around one eye. He said she will need more surgeries in the future.
Zainabou and other members of her family were living with McElrath during the attack. They have since moved to an apartment in College Hill to live in an area without the threat of dogs, Abdou said.
“She’ll be loved here,” new neighbor Veronica Pearson said. “There’s no dogs here. She don’t have to worry about that… I have grandkids that she can play with so she’ll love it here. It’s peaceful and quiet.”
Zainabou Drame before the June 6 attack.
Pearson said she is afraid of the breed and hopes something can be done to remove them from the city.
“They need to do something about them dogs,” she said. “They either have to get their teeth out of just kill ’em all. Get rid of them.”
While many agree with Pearson, the debate surrounding pit bulls in the Tri-State is not a new one — and both sides have been very vocal about the issue.
During a Monday night council meeting, elected officials in Fort Thomas, Kentucky voted 4-3 to keep a 1988 ban on the breed in place. Mayor Mary Brown broke a tie between six council members.
The issue originally came before the city’s public safety committee earlier this year. That committee recommended the ban stay in place as well. The ordinance prohibits dog owners from keeping pit bulls and dogs that resemble pit bulls within Fort Thomas city limits.
Stephanie Holstein frequents the Fort Thomas dog park with her dog, Lacey. Even though Lacey is not a pit bull, Holstein said she believes the ban should go.
“I think all dogs are beautiful and awesome,” Holstein said. “The way a dog behaves is a reflection of their training and their trainer.”
In another pit bull attack Monday, a family dog mauled a Madison Township woman to death in front of her 2-year-old grandson.
Zainabou’s mother, Tanina Drame, said she saw news of the attack on television and thought of her daughter. She said she was also upset after learning a 7-month-old boy was attacked and killed by a pit bull in Dayton in July.
“My heart is saddened by this incident and the 7-month-old baby who died the same way,” Tanina said. “The law in Ohio really needs to be changed about this breed of dogs. I believe it is in their DNA to be vicious.”
The pit bulls that attacked Zainabou were shot and killed by police during the incident.
Two owners of the dogs were charged with drug and weapon offenses. Cincinnati police said they were using them to guard a drug operation.
Despite the horror his family has endured, Abdou said he doesn’t blame the pit bulls’ owners.
“What happened to my daughter hurt my heart, but (I’m not) angry with them,” he said. “I know it is an accident that can happen any time.”
Zainabou’s family set up a Facebook page titled “Zainabou’s Voice” to share updates on her condition.