Four-year-old Mia DeRouen was watching television with her mother Tuesday in their Houma apartment when the family pit bull attacked, police said.
DeRouen and her mother, Megan Touchet, 27, were each mauled by the 130-pound dog, sustaining injuries to their upper torsos, necks and faces. Touchet was attacked while trying to rescue the girl, police said.
DeRouen died at Terrebonne General Medical Center. She would have turned 5 on April 3. Touchet was treated and released.
Sudden attacks are a hallmark of pit bulls, said Colleen Lynn, founder and president of DogsBite.org, a nonprofit group that raises awareness about dangerous dogs, focusing particularly on pit bulls.
"Unlike other dog breeds, pit bulls will attack without warning signals. It will always look like the attack is sudden. One minute it's on your lap, the next minute it's attacking you. It's unusual for most dog breeds to attack their owners, but pit bulls have a history of that in spades," she said.
Niko was likely an American Bully, a breed specifically designed for its weight and aggression, Lynn said.
"When these dogs bite, it's a hold-and-shake bite style. When they start an attack, it's virtually impossible to get them to stop," she said.
It took 12 shots to kill the dog, which remained aggressive after officers arrived, Houma Police Chief Todd Duplantis said.
"This was a very large dog. A monster," Duplantis said in a Wednesday afternoon news conference held at police headquarters. At 130 pounds, the dog was about four times larger than DeRouen.
A second pit bull in the apartment, a 6-month-old female, did not attack, police said. That dog was taken to the Terrebonne Animal Shelter, where it remained this morning.
It's not clear yet if criminal charges will result, the chief said, but detectives have consulted with prosecutors.
DeRouen lived with her mother at Houma Highlands, 461 S. Hollywood Road. Her father, Christifer J. DeRouen, lives in New Iberia.
Visitation for Mia DeRouen is 4-9 p.m. Friday and 7 a.m. to funeral time Saturday at Pellerin Funeral Home in New Iberia. The funeral is at 10 a.m. Saturday at Our Lady of Prompt Succor Catholic Church in Coteau.
Officers on the scene, who described it as "horrific," were offered counseling, Duplantis said.
An online effort to raise money for the girl's funeral had collected nearly $29,000 in less than 24 hours. Donations can be made at www.gofundme.com/7tmy5k.