ROSWELL, New Mexico––The Roswell, New Mexico city animal shelter on June 16, 2014 resumed releasing impounded dogs to the Roswell Humane Society and shelterless rescue groups, after an over-the-weekend suspension while mayor Dennis Kintigh reviewed the shelter policies.
Kintagh on June 14 followed Stamford, Connecticut, in suspending transfers of impounded dogs to other organizations, pending completion of an investigation of the alleged release of dangerous dogs. The Stamford investigation, begun on May 2, 2014, is reportedly still underway.
The Roswell Animal Shelter formerly transferred dogs to nonprofit rescues for $1.00, on condition that the dogs were to be vaccinated, sterilized, and safely rehomed. Now added to the requirements are presentation of proof of nonprofit status and a signed contract that “commits [the rescue organization] to humane treatment and responsibility and full inspection of their facilities,” Kintagh told media.
Twenty-seven dogs were reportedly killed at the Roswell city shelter during the three-day suspension of adoptions.
Three pit bulls on June 11, 2014 escaped from the Doggy Saviors rescue kennel near the edge of Roswell, harassed several horses in a nearby field, then mauled nine-year-old Colby Price when he arrived to water the horses.
Alerted by neighbors, Price’s father––identified as a Roswell police officer––came to the attack by shooting two of the pit bulls at the scene. Price was airlifted to Lubbock, Texas, for treatment of injuries to his neck, chest, arms, legs, and the loss of parts of his ears.
One wounded pit bull died at the scene, one was euthanized later, and the one who was not shot was to be euthanized upon completing a mandatory quarantine for observation of any possible rabies symptoms.
The Chaves County Sheriff’s office said that Doggy Saviors on the day of the attack surrendered 15 dogs who were not involved but were on the rescue premises. The surrendered dogs were reportedly held by Roswell Animal Control pending relocation to an unnamed rescue in Colorado.
Mayor Kintagh on June 12, 2014 suspended transfers of impounded dogs to local rescuers, and extended the suspension to all transfers on June 13, after out-of-town rescuers tried to claim dogs.
“What happened is unacceptable,” Kintigh told KQRE reporter Emily Younger. “Something did not work right and we have to make sure it doesn’t happen again. How were these dogs able to attack a small child if they were in care, custody and control of a reputable rescue group?”
“We put this suspension in place,” Kintagh added to Lauren Hansard of KOB Eyewitness News 4, “because we did not know who we could trust. People say we’re animal rescues, we love animals, we want to be here to help, that’s what we were told. But the conditions that were found [at Doggie Saviors] were deplorable, unacceptable, and a boy was viciously attacked.”
Doggy Saviors filed for recognition as a New Mexico nonprofit organization on April 30, 2013, listing only one officer, Sammye Sue Leflar-Bohnstehn. A November 2013 profile of Leflar-Bohnstein by Lauren Hansard of KOB Eyewitness News 4 credited her with rehoming 110 dogs from the Roswell shelter in October 2013 alone, cutting the shelter’s dog killing rate in half.
Price was the 28th person known to have suffered fatal or disfiguring injuries from a U.S. shelter or rescue dog in 2014, matching the previous record set in 2013. Twenty-five victims in each year were mauled by pit bulls. Thirty-five dogs from shelters and rescues have killed people since 2010. Among the killer dogs were 24 pit bulls, seven bull mastiffs, two Rottweilers, a Labrador retriever who may have been part pit bull, and a husky. The most recent victim, Rita Pepe of Branford, Connecticut, 93, died on May 25, 2014 from complications of injuries suffered in an attack on April 13, 2014 by a pit bull who had been adopted from the Dan Cosgrove Animal Shelter.
No one is known to have been killed by a shelter dog from the opening of the first U.S. adoption shelter in 1858 until 1988. Wolf hybrids rehomed by shelters killed two children in 1988-1989. Three fatalities occurred in the 2000-2009 time frame, inflicted by a pit bull, a Doberman, and a bull mastiff.
Stamford, Connecticut suspended adoptions, suspended shelter director Laurie Hollywood, and suspended use of volunteers and transfers of dogs to rescue groups on May 2, 2014. (See “Connecticut shelter investigated for allegedly adopting out dangerous dogs,” http://www.animals24-7.org/2014/06/09/connecticut-shelter-investigated-for-allegedly-adopting-out-dangerous-dogs/.)