ANTIOCH -- Rejecting an attorney's claim that a 10-year-old boy provoked two pit bulls to brutally attack him in August, an administrative appeals board unanimously voted Thursday afternoon to recommend that the dogs be euthanized.

"There are two lives at stake here," Mark McLaughlin, an attorney for the dogs' owners, told the citizen panel. "There is no dispute that (one of the dogs) bit the boy, but there are questions as to how it happened."

The mother of the injured boy, Melody Ralls, told the panel that her son had told the truth and that the dogs were vicious animals who should be put down.

"I don't feel like I need to say a whole lot," she said. "My son is an honest boy. He (is also) a survivor.

"If these dogs get back out, the next person they could attack may not be."

Ralls' son, Hunter Kilbourn, was visiting a friend on Reseda Drive in Antioch when the two dogs, Jewels and Duke, attacked him on Aug. 11. Hunter suffered a partially severed ear, serious lacerations to his face and the back of his head and bite marks on his arms.

Animal control officials seized the dogs after the attack and recommended they be euthanized, but the owners appealed.

Hunter attended the hearing, sitting in the front row, but did not speak.

McLaughlin, the attorney for Antioch residents Rodrick and Courtney De La Cruz, questioned the legitimacy of Hunter's account of the attack, saying Antioch Animal Control Supervisor Monika Helgemo fed him leading questions to validate her conclusions in the investigation.

"(Hunter) said 'yes' or 'no' to questions about where he was and what happened," countered appeals board member Mike Schneider. "This decision is a no-brainer."

McLaughlin also questioned the accuracy of bite measurements taken by animal control officers that led Helgemo to substantiate her belief that both dogs were involved in the attack.

McLaughlin recounted a statement from the dog owners' son, who witnessed the attack and said Hunter had "slapped Jewels in the face," provoking the attack.

"We all know that children are easily led on," McLaughlin added. "After a while, it's possible that children don't even know what the truth is."

A city staff report released in advance of the hearing revealed that one of the dogs had turned on one of the owners' son, a troubling development that an animal control supervisor said should weigh heavily in the appeals boards' decision.

The board deliberated in front of an audience mainly comprised of Hunter's family and friends, and took only a few minutes before endorsing the city's recommendation to euthanize the dogs and deny the De La Cruzes' appeal.

"This is obviously not what (the De La Cruzes) wanted to hear," McLaughlin said. "They are very disappointed and really wanted at least Duke back. But this is a very emotional case. There is little sympathy for pit bull owners, and little sympathy for pit bulls."

The owners, who did not speak during the hearing and left quickly once the decision was announced, have five calendar days to appeal the board's decision to the Contra Costa Superior Court. They have not yet decided if they will appeal, McLaughlin said.

Ralls was thrilled after the board's decision, hugging family and friends that had come to support her and Hunter.

"We won today, and there has been justice for Hunter," Ralls said. "This gives us some relief and some closure, and now we can finally start to move on."

Contact Katie Nelson at knelson@bayareanewsgroup.com. Follow her at Twitter.com/katienelson210.