Thursday, June 28, 2012

Ohio Pit Bull Roundup 6/28/2012

Lima Ohio Police, assisting the Allen County Dog Warden in responding to a call regarding two pit bulls at large in a residential neighborhood, shot both pit bulls after the dogs lunged at police officers, and bit the dog warden.  One pit bull was killed and one was wounded and remained at large.  One of the bullets ricocheted and hit a neighborhood resident in the hand.  Ronald Keller, 64, was transported to St. Rita's Medical Center and was listed in fair condition.  Police later stated that they believe they have located the wounded pit bull but this has not yet been confirmed.

Ohio recently deregulated pit bulls but the City of Lima has retained their breed specific regulations.  Lima residents are required to keep their pit bulls confined, leashed and muzzled while off property, and are prohibited from walking more than one pit bull at a time.

A Chillicothe Police Officer was attacked by a pit bull while he was investigating the theft of a cell phone.  Officer Lucas Hansen was bitten on the face three times by the suspect's pit bull.  Police Capt. Keith Washburn stated "He apprehended the guy and told him he was under arrest, and when he took him to the ground, the dog bit him."  Responding  officers used a stun gun on the dog in an atttempt to subdue it but the dog did not react, and eventually left the area.  The Ross County Dog Warden found the dog at the suspect's home.  The dog was taken as evidence and the suspect was charged with receiving stolen property, no liability insurance for the dog, obstructing, resisting, and dog at large.  The liability insurance charge is expected to be dismissed, the Ohio Legislature recently changed state law and pit bulls no longer require insurance.  According to the Chillicothe Gazette, local officials appear to feel that insurance is not required until there have been three or more convictions.  Biting a police officer three times should earn this pit bull a dangerous dog designation and required insurance NOW.

In Youngstown Ohio, pit bull owner Delvin Williams is in Mahoning County jail.  As the story goes,  police were called to a South Side neighborhood by a man who stated he was bitten by a loose pit bull.  The victim did not want to press charges but did request that the owner keep his dog tied up so no children in the area would be hurt.  About a hour after the attack pit bull owner Delvin Williams approached the victim and asked why he called the police on the loose dog.  The victim stated Willliams punched him in the face twice, and then pushed him off his own front porch, causing him to hit his head on the concrete pavement.  The victim was taken to St. Elizabeth Medical Center for treatment, where he was listed in stable condition.  Williams was arrested at his home and charged with felonious assault, and for two warrants, one for failure to pay child support and another for failing to appear in court on a traffic violation.   This event should qualify Williams' pit bull as a dangerous dog.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Ohio's breed specific advoacte, Jean Keating

One constant in seven years of FOI documents relating to HB14, and previous attempts to remove regulation from pit bulls in Ohio is Jean Keating. There is never a point where Keating introduced herself by letter, no "Dear Legislator, my name is Jean Keating and I would like to share my thoughts with you." She turned up regularly with letters, pit bull advocacy material, and forwards of news stories on attacks by any other breed, but never comments on actual pit bull mauling deaths. Keating is a tremendous favorite of the Toledo Blade, she is frequently quoted and photographed. It is impossible to conceal her identity by simply calling her "the breed specific advocate" her public profile has been too high for too long. Keating is a co-founder of the Ohio Coalition of Dog Advocates and President of the Lucas County Pit Crew.

Keating is friendly with Barbara Sears, this is clear. Keating addresses Sears in letters as "Dear Barb." Some letters begin with business and end with status updates on Keating's children and mother. From the correspondence, it is not clear whether these two women have been friends in the community or their friendship is purely political. Keating wrote on several occasions "I will do anything to get this law passed." She pretty much did just that.

A letter to Representative Garrison, dated April 10, 2009 gives insight into what drives Keating. "I am a law abiding citizen and responsible dog owner, as such, I should have the right to own any breed of dog I believe I can properly care for. The failings of others should not restrict my rights. People can smoke and drink alcohol, even while pregnant. Those things have been proven to kill at alarming rates. There are millions of dogs in this country and less than 30 deaths per year from all breeds combined. That makes dogs remarkably safe. So why can't I own the dog of my choosing? I recognize that even though I am a responsible dog owner, others may not be. Why does their behavior destroy my rights?"

A letter to Sears dated April 13, 2009 gives additional thoughts. "Where does all this leave a responsible dog owner? Personally, it infuriates me and causes me to look through the real estate pages of neighboring Michigan. My own family dog has been Canine Good Citizen certified, has a microchip and is never taken into Toledo for fear he would be killed. As an AKC registered American Staffordshire Terrier, he isn't even a pit bull. (note - An AKC American Staffordshire Terrier may be double registered as a UKC American Pit Bull Terrier, obviously they are one and the same) However, according to the ORC he is vicious, he has never displayed a single aggressive behavior and yet I am subjected to restrictions that other owners aren't. My own son was bitten by a dog a few years ago and that dog's owner has no restrictions. Where is the sense in that? I think that is the nonsense that has caused Ohio citizens great grief. The experts know why dogs bites (sic), why aren't we listening?"

Early 2009 is the start of advocacy overdrive for Keating. Many letters and forwards of information taken from breed specific advocacy websites, comments on attacks and bites from different breeds, but no mention of serious pit bull maulings or deaths. It should be noted that in the United States there were 14 pit bull mauling deaths in 2009, but Keating had no comment on them.  See notes below for an update on pit bull fatality statistics since 2009.

In a letter to Sears dated February 21, 2009 Keating wants the removal of the designation of vicious for pit bulls (which removes insurance and containment requirements). Due process was not a concern for Keating. (A bit later we will get to the reason for the due process addition to proposed changes in Ohio law.) Keating complains that despite the strong breed specific law in Toledo at that time, bite counts are going up so obviously the law is not working. A document provided by Lucas County and found in Barbara Sears records showing dog bite counts from 2001 to 2008 gives a different perspective.

In 2001 there were 697 dog bites recorded by the county
in 2002 there were 617 bites
in 2003 there were 550 bites
in 2004 there were 526 bites
in 2005 there were 432 bites
in 2006 there were 428 bites
in 2007 there were 329 bites
in 2008 there were 403 bites.

The trend is steadily downward for the period with a single year, 2007, as an outlier with a more significant drop in bites. In the setting of County dog bites, Keating's complaint looks dishonest. It must be noted that during the entire period covered by the table, Tom Skeldon was Dog Warden in Lucas County. Tom Skeldon was driven into retirement by personal and professional attacks from the Toledo Blade, and Keating's organizations. Attacks and service calls increased dramatically in the first year after Skeldon's retirement, as reported in the Toledo Blade. A January 31, 2011 Blade article by reporter JC Reindl states Dog Warden service calls increased to 5,427, up 162 from 2009. Dog attack investigations increased to 434, up from 357 in 2009.

In an additional letter to Sears, with the same date 2/21/2009, Keating gives her thoughts on changes to Ohio law. "There are also some states, like Virginia, that require "vicious dogs" to be registered differently and they pay higher license fees. I don't believe that people are going to like that, but it could be a concession later to appease some folks. If you search the Virginia Vicious Dog site, it lists the address, owner, breed, and offense the dog committed. That is harsh but it has created a safer state."

Keating does not think "people" will like to pay higher license fees for legally declared vicious dogs and a public listing of those dogs is "harsh"? What does Keating think about the medical bills generated by those legally declared vicious dogs? Without insurance the victims paid them, not the dog owner. A public listing of the dogs is "harsh"? That public listing allows neighbors to be aware of dangers in their neighborhood, it helps protect children. This is "harsh" for the dog owner? Has breed specific advocacy ever considered the rights of the peaceful public?

In a letter dated 3/19/2009 from Keating to Sears, Keating announces statements of support for HB79 (an earlier version of HB14) from Best Friends and the AKC. " I have put out requests to about 15 more national organizations asking for support. I should be able to give you a list by the end of the week of the responses I receive." It stuns me that a private citizen has taken it upon herself to negotiate Ohio law with special interest groups.

On April 2, 2009 Keating writes to Sears Legislative aide about a "letter writing party." "Annie, we had the first of our scheduled "letter writing parties" tonight. We had a great turnout and got coverage from two TV stations. I have about 150 letters to stuff in the mail." Were legislators made aware that the letters that were turning up in their mail were not spontaneous letters of support, but were generated wholesale, at the request of Keating?

A revealing letter from Keating, undated, but the letters she supplies were dated April 2009, gives additional insight into Keating's unbounded advocacy. "Some of the kids at the school where I work are doing a government project. They are upset that I don't bring my dogs to school anymore. I explained why to them and they wanted to help. Their teacher helped them but didn't understand that Barb introduced the bill. They worked so hard on their letters I said I would send them. Thanks, Jean" Jean Keating is using her job at a school to influence children to write to legislators in support of her own pet project. Were the children's parents aware of the manipulation of their sons and daughters?

Keating is the connection between Representative Sears and Best Friends Animal Society's Senior Legislative Attorney, Ledy Vankavage. In a Toledo Blade article dated 11/6/2009, "Dog Advocate says 'pit bulls' are unfairly demonized. Canine Profiling cited as ineffective approach" Blade writer Carl Ryan states that "Vankavage is Senior Legislative Analyst for Best Friends, the group that rescued disgraced NFL player Michael Vick's approximately 50 "pit bulls" which have been rehabilitated and adopted out."   This statement is clearly not factual, Best Friends had little to do with the seizure of Vick's dogs. Best Friends took 22 of the dogs, most were to be lifelong sanctuary dogs.  Reporter Ryan goes on to say "Ms. Vankavage was in Toledo at the invitation of Jean Keating and her organization The Ohio Coalition of Dog Advocates." Barbara Sears attended this meeting at the invitation of Keating.

I am going to digress a bit here, Please hang in there with me.  Best Friends signed a contract as part of the process to receive the 22 high profile Vicktory pits bulls. One of the terms of contract stated that the dogs were not to be used for fund raising purposes but Best Friends has used  these dogs in shameless solicitation of donations. A 2012 revision of Best Friends Terrier Initiatives page has removed acknowledgement of their agreement with the Federal Government not to use the Vick Dogs for fundraising and has removed the "Donate Now" button.  The contract may be read here, the non fundraising clause is located on page 5 under Indemnification and Publicity, section H.  Records are difficult to come by but it appears that only a few of the dogs taken by Best Friends have been placed but  Best Friends has a new marketing program for some of the aging Vick pit bulls.  Best Friends has put the Vicktory pit Layla on Petfinder.  In the Petfinder ad Best Friends states that Layla is aggressive, should be the only "pet" in the household, and that she has Babesia, a communicable disease common in fighting pit bulls.  Just what every neighborhood needs.  The contract between Best Friends and the United States Government has this stipulation "The Rescue Organization will be prohibited from transferring the dog or dogs to another rescue organization without the written consent of the United States Department of Agriculture.  This stipulation is located on page 8 of the document. Has Best Friends obtained the consent of the Federal Government to offer an acknowledged aggressive dog with a communicable disease on Petfinder?   But I have strayed too far from my original story.

A letter dated 11/30/2009 from Vankavage to Representative Sears begins "It was a pleasure to meet you at the presentation on canine profiling...... As promised, here is a first draft of an amendment for HB79 (an earlier bill introduced by Sears to deregulate pit bulls) that might enable you to garner more support from urban legislators. (The addition of due process) Lauren Gallagher, our new public service attorney crafted the amendment. ... Please let me know if you need any more help. If you need me to come to testify at any hearings do not hesitate to call me." The attached document is an early form of HB 14. The article, letter, and document make it clear that Representative Sears worked with the Utah based animal rights PAC as early as 2009. Sears allowed an out-of-state animal rights PAC to write Ohio law, to suit the agenda of that PAC.

Keating was also the go-between to pass on the 2011 version of Ohio law, as written by Best Friends Animal Society to Barbara Sears. On February 17, 2011 Keating sends this to Sears "Barb, I am attaching comments from Laura Allen on Best Friends draft of Ohio's Dangerous Dog law for your review. Laura Allen is the founder of Animal Law Coalition and is an attorney who specializes in animal issues. She is also reviewing the due process language. Thanks, Jean Keating" Keating, a private citizen, appears to be working independently of the Ohio Legislature to negotiate changes to Ohio law.

We have looked at a great deal of background on the major forces behind HB 14. I will close this post with the story of Wendy the "Service Pit Bull in Training." Wendy made a personal appearance at the December 6, 2011 Senate hearing on HB 14.  She was brought into the hearing room by Jean Keating. There was nothing subtle about Wendy's entrance, it was "enthusiastic" for lack of a better word. The white pit bull made a bee line for the row of seated pit bull advocates. She was welcomed by each one of them, it appeared that each one of them had food for the dog. Keating began to speak, Wendy paid no attention to her whatsoever.

"I have brought Wendy with me today. Wendy is being trained as a service animal for a young child with post-traumatic stress disorder, sensory integration dysfunction, low muscle tone, and panic attacks. Wendy was chosen because she has the temperament and physical characteristics to perform the work needed to assist this child in leading a more normal life. Those same physical characteristics currently identify Wendy as a vicious dog under Ohio law. The American Staffordshire Terrier, which is a breed commonly referred to as a pit bull type is a popular choice for a service animal because of some unique qualities. They are hardy, athletic, and very socially connected dogs. They are also very easy to train as they are eager to please."

During Keating's testimony Wendy stood at the end of her leash and looked about the room, wandering a bit and returning to her line of friends, and their handsful of food. Wendy proved to be such a distraction that Keating was unable to remain in the hearing room after her testimony. She took Wendy out into the hall, where Wendy killed time by barking.

Interestingly, this was not Wendy's first appearance at a Statehouse hearing. Wendy accompanied Keating to a hearing in the Ohio House in June of 2011.  Actual service dogs in training are taught to remain quiet, lay down upon command, not seek attention or food from strangers, and focus attention on their handler. Wendy had none of these skills in December, what kind of "training" did she receive in the previous six months? This dog was chosen because she was "easy to train and eager to please?"

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Updated fatality statistics.
In 2009 there were 32 dog mauling fatalities in the United States.  Of this total 14 were due to pit bulls, 44%

In 2010 there were 33 dog mauling fatalities in the United States.  Of this total 22 were due to pit bulls, 67%

In 2011 there were 31 dog mauling fatalities in the United States.  Of this total 22 were due to pit bulls, 77%

In 2012 there were 38 dog mauling fatalities in the United States. Of this total 23 were due to pit bulls, 61%

In 2013 from January 1st to March 1st there have been 5 fatal dog maulings in the United States.   Of this total 5 were due to pit bulls, 100%

Monday, June 18, 2012

Ohio pit bulls in the news, 6/18/2012, and United States pit bull mauling deaths so far this month

In Oberlin Ohio, home of very expensive Oberlin College, an Oberlin Police officer shot a pit bull while he was attempting to arrest 20 year old Lewis Wade.  Wade originally had one loose pit bull and was given a warning by the Police Officer.  Wade did not see the warning as a positive and responded with obscenities. He told the Officer "I got something for you" and turned two more pit bulls loose.  The Police officer attempted to draw his taser but was bitten on the hand, he was forced to shoot one of the pit bulls.  Wade was charged with assault on an officer, resisting arrest, obstruction of official business and animals at large. Biting and menacing a Police Officer merits a dangerous dog designation per new Ohio law.

In Sandusky Ohio, a twelve year old boy was 'bitten at least five times." Bites were found on the boy's chest, arms and legs.  The boy was treated at a local hospital, the pit bull is still at large.

In Dayton Ohio, a two year old pit bull named Louis Vuitton killed a chihuahua named Mr Socks, in full view of the chihuahua's owner, Melissa Clark and her seven year old son.  Clark stated "I turned and looked and out comes  this big (expletive) brown and white pit bull.  He comes charging at my chihuahua and he didn't even stop."  Louis Vuitton dragged the little dog into the woods behind the apartments and killed it.  The pit owner, Jerrica Lewis, apologised and offered to replace the Clark's pet, stating "He's never attacked any other small dog." 

Louis Vuitton has now killed a small dog in an unprovoked attack.  Will County Dog Warden Mark Kumpf take appropriate action to protect Dayton residents from further "accidents," per Ohio law?  Dog Warden Kumpf strongly supported HB 14 as a way to take action against dangerous dogs.

Just south of the Ohio state line, in West Virginia, two year old Jack Redin was killed by pit bull mix dogs contained by an underground electric fence, on the property of a neighbor.  Jack wandered into the yard and was quickly missed by his family.  Jack's father Lonnie found his son's body.  Funeral services were scheduled for June 16th in Parkersburg.  The owner of the property claims that the dogs do not belong to him, he was taking care of them for his brother.  The death of this beautiful child is a tragedy.  Electric fences are inappropriate for containing pit bulls, and for protecting small children from them.

An eight month old California infant was killed by 3 pit bulls.  The dogs have a history of killing cats and have now killed a baby boy.  Pit bull advocates continue to defend the breed, per their comments posted on news sites. Details are not clear, the mother may own the dogs or they may be owned by a roommate.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Ohio pit bulls in the news, June 11, 2012

The family owned pit bull that killed a three day old Lima Ohio  infant has been euthanized by request of the owner.  In comments following news accounts of the death of this baby, pit bull advocates launched a shameless attack, placing blame on the young mother. 

This family has been victimized multiple times.  First, by acceptance of the "nanny dog" myth and the ever popular "it's all in how you raise 'em" myth.  Second, by the violent death of a new, and loved baby.  Third, by breed specific advocacy's attempt to deflect blame from the breed by demonizing the family, and shrill demands for negligence charges to be filed.

The Portsmouth Daily Times reports an attack by a pit bull upon a three year old girl.  Madasyn McAllister  was bitten in the face by a neighbor's pit bull, nearly severing her nose.   Madasyn's family reports that this is not the first incident with this particular pit bull.  Another child was bitten by the same dog two months ago.

Portsmouth Ohio recently passed a vicious dog ordinance. Health Department spokesman Andy Gideon stated  “Unless it’s something severe, on the first offense we will give the owner a copy of the ordinance and educate them on how you are supposed to confine your dog. If we find it not confined that way again we could possibility issue a citation.”  Please click on the link and see what you think.  Is this a "severe" injury"  Are local officials initiating legal action to declare this particular pit bull dangerous, per new Ohio law? 
Read more: Portsmouth Daily Times - Girl 3 recovering from dog bite

In Columbus Ohio, a 37 year old man fired a single shot killing an unleashed pit bull reportedly attacking the man and his family.  Citizen shootings of attacking pit bulls have increased dramatically over the last few years.  A interesting phenomonon.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Ohio Pit bull roundup

Pit bulls have been in the news in Ohio over the last week. In Riverside Ohio police shot a pit bull mix that had charged a woman and a child, then charged the police. The dog survived, but by Ohio law has won the official title of "dangerous dog" will soon require insurance. The pit bull owner had a very short respite from that requirement. The article also notes a March 28th attack by a pit bull mix in Riverside.
"On March 28, police in Riverside shot and killed a pit bull mix that attacked a man and was so aggressive that they had to shoot it several times, finally with a shotgun.

Responding officers said a large dog had a man on the ground and was attacking him. When they tried to get the dog away, it charged at them and went back and forth between the officers and the victim.

Reiss said an officer shot the animal twice with his gun, but the dog did not die. So, another officer got a shotgun and put the animal down.

The victim was taken to a hospital suffering from severe cuts to his hand."
In Butler Ohio a baby was bitten on his face by dog reported by the father to be a pit mix. The eight month old baby was playing with his father in the family back yard when he was bitten by a stray dog. The child was taken to a local hospital and received 4 stitches above his left eye. The dog is still at large.

Twinsburg Ohio police report the killing of a pet cat by an escaped pit bull. The pit bull owner was cited. I imagine the cat owner was devastated by the loss of his pet. The most common victims of pit bull attacks are domestic pets and livestock. Breed specific advocacy gives no thought to these losses. The death of this cat in a unprovoked attack should jump start the process of declaring this dog dangerous. This pit owner only had a one week respite from insurance requirements but should be looking for a new policy very soon.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Pit bull politics in Maryland, or "the sky is falling!!!!!"

The Maryland Supreme Court Ruling in the Tracey v. Solesky case has pit bull advocacy in an uproar. As expected, Best Friends Animal Society has circulated a bogus analysis of the financial impact of the decision, the Economic Impact and Tax Implications of Tracey V. Solesky. This analysis has been circulated to a great many people and the same points are questioned.

The analysis, produced for Best Friends by John Dunham and Associates gives "expected" financial impacts of the decision on Maryland rental properties, and on the State of Maryland economy. Dunham and Associates must realize that the Supreme Court decision only impacts pit bulls and pit mixes but the "analysis" pulls numbers out of the air that include not only ALL dogs, but all pets. Yes, the Dunham analysis includes every Golden Retriever, Collie AND cat in the State of Maryland. This is a direct quote from the analysis "By placing restrictions on PETS, landlords will lose their competitive advantage in the marketplace, forcing them to lower rental rates. This will, in turn, negatively affect state and local business tax revenues, income tax revenues, and property tax revenues, by as much as $30,190,946. In addition, as many as 1,108 jobs could be lost in the real estate industry and other supporting industries if landlords are unable to rent to PET OWNERS." Emphasis is mine, the numbers are pure fantasy.

Dunham goes on to an odd list of different scenarios. The first scenario shows landlords evicting owners of all large dogs, regardless of breed. Why? Good question, the decision only impacts pit bulls but apparently Dunham does not think landlords can tell the difference between a pit bull and a Standard Poodle. A second scenario has only owners of pit bulls and pit mixes evicted. Scenario #2 impacts a total of 4,538 units statewide, per Dunham and Associates. This is hardly an Armageddon in the making. Having said this, the analysis moves on to turnover costs a bit later and gives a figure of 3,631 pit bull owners evicted... from 4,538 units?? Don't give up yet, Dunham also throws out 31,408 OTHER DOG OWNERS in scenario #1. The Supreme Court decision only impacts pit bulls.

The Best Friends report makes a great deal of the rental price premium paid for pet friendly units. This quote from the report "Landlords with no pet restrictions enjoy a significant price premium in the marketplace." This is true, many people will pay more in rent to keep their pets, but it is not a universal business truth. If this concept was universally accepted all landlords would allow pets. In practice, renting to pet owners has built in headaches and costs. Damage to the unit, noise complaints, odors, tenant conflicts, refusal of tenants to pick up animal waste, insect infestations due to spilled pet food, there are so many reasons that landlords may refuse to deal with pet owners.

The analysis gives no allowance for the negative economic impact of pit bulls and pit bull breeding operations. In the Solesky case, the Tracey property was rented to a pit bull breeder. (The discussion of this was one of my favorite parts of the trial. One of the Justices asked about this breeding operation. I don't remember the exact words, something about "this was a pit bull breeding set up?" The attorney for the Traceys answered "I wouldn't call it exactly that." Justice says with an eye roll... "what would you call it? A male dog, a female dog, and puppies.") The dog from the Tracey property got loose twice in a very short period of time and attacked two children, almost killing one of them. It would be fair to suspect that this was not the first time this dog was at large and menacing neighborhood residents. What impact would this have on adjacent units? Most people do not want to live next to this. The rentals adjacent, and even on the same street would be expected to have lower rents and be harder to fill because they are just not desirable. There is no "Price premium" here.

We move on to a discussion of high rental unit turnover costs. It is very possible that both rental unit and neighborhood turnover will actually drop as neighborhoods become more livable. People with Goldens and Beagles will continue to rent and will feel safer walking their dogs and enjoying their community. Stable communities have low turnover, landlords will save money.
Dunham and Assoc. use a tool they call IMPLAN, which is supposed to demonstrate how trade flows affect the economy but as one reads the report one finds a great many pivotal parts of the report are based on estimations or assumptions. A casual reading of the six page report finds the words "we estimate" or "we assume" used seventeen times. This is a whole lot of estimates and assumptions.

Dunham rolls to a stop with this report discussing tenants who may decide to fight eviction "inflicting significant costs in litigation and breed testing to determine whether a dog is actually a pit bull or a pit bull mix." By breed testing Dunham may mean DNA testing. Commercially available dog DNA tests are suspect accuracy wise, and they don't test for pit bulls. The Mars Wisdom Panel website clearly states that pit bull DNA is NOT in the data base. Pit bull advocacy loves DNA tests because no dog will test positive as a pit bull.

It would be interesting to know just how much Best Friends paid John Dunham and Associates for this report. The report is full of estimates, assumptions, and over inclusive categories. It is deliberately deceptive and absurd.

For more on John Dunham and Associates work for Best Friends Animal Society, click here
For more on Best Friends financial terror tactics, click here,