HSUS president’s aged parents live five blocks away
NEW HAVEN, Connecticut––Notified by ANIMALS 24-7 at 2:30 p.m. on June 21, 2016 that a woman had been critically injured by two pit bulls the previous evening five blocks from his parents’ home, Humane Society of the U.S. president Wayne Pacelle more than two days after the attack had yet to respond or otherwise comment.
In an induced coma, victim Jocelyn Winfrey, 53, has been given a 50% chance of survival, after losing half her face, both eyes, and a leg, with whether she can keep one of her arms still in doubt.
Myth of humane meat
Pacelle probably had other public relations concerns, having just been lambasted in the Huffington Post by self-described “writer, philosopher, and magician” John Sanbonmatsu for “spreading the myth of ‘humane’ meat.”
ANIMALS 24-7 has criticized Pacelle for that, too: see How HSUS sponsorship of a meatfest in Denver overshadowed announcement of reforms by the world’s largest food producer and Hoofin’ It: An open letter to Wayne Pacelle, from Joan Harrison, Ph.D.
Fatalities more than triple
Pit bull attacks meanwhile have become so common during Pacelle’s 12 years as Humane Society of the U.S. chief executive, during which he has aggressively embraced pit bull advocacy, that he probably could not respond to all of them, even if he did nothing else.
When the New Haven attack occurred, at least 271 Americans had been killed by pit bulls on Pacelle’s watch, up from 80 in the preceding 22 years. At least 2,340 Americans had been disfigured by pit bulls, up from 500 in the preceding 22 years.
(See Best Friends, the ASPCA, & HSUS: rethink pit bulls!, by Beth Clifton.)
Within walking distance
But Pacelle had particular reason to take notice of the latest New Haven attack: it occurred within easy walking distance of the home where he lived almost his whole life before graduating from Yale University in 1987.
His parents Richard L. Pacelle Sr., 88, and Patricia Pacelle, 87, still live there, nine tenths of a mile from the scene of the attack in the upscale Beaver Hills neighborhood.
Indeed, the four-bedroom home belonging to physician Hamilton Hicks, 53, whose two pit bulls nearly killed 53-year-old Jocelyn Winfrey, and the Pacelle family home five blocks north much resemble each other, having been built at about the same time to similar plans.
Lost both eyes & a leg
The most conspicuous difference, from street-level photos, is that Hicks’ home has a high board fence around it, presumably in part to contain the pit bulls.
The 53-year-old pit bull attack victim, initially identified only as “Jocelyn” and a graduate of the former Richard C. Lee High School in New Haven, “lost a leg and her eyes, and may still lose her life,” reported Paul Bass and Markeshia Ricks of the New Haven Independent. “She has been undergoing a series of surgeries, including one Wednesday afternoon aimed at trying to save her arm, police said.
Three bags of crack
“Police have charged a 53-year-old Harvard-trained doctor who owns the dogs with illegally possessing crack at the time of the incident,” Bass and Ricks added. “The doctor, who works in Yale’s psychology department, was driving with the woman, described as a friend, to his white Colonial four-bedroom single-family house on Ella Grasso Boulevard just north of Whalley Avenue. They had crack in the car, according to police.”
Hicks, allegedly in possession of three bags of crack cocaine, “told police he had been smoking crack” before the pit bull attack occurred.
Hicks “pulled into his driveway, up an incline from the street, opened a fence he keeps locked, and parked,” Bass and Ricks recounted. “As they went inside, they were greeted by the man’s two pit bulls, one large, one small. The dogs leapt at the woman and started mauling her. The man tried to beat them back; they attacked him too.
Grabbed a broom
“Alder Brian Wingate, who lives across the street, was watering his grass at the time,” Bass and Ricks continued. “Alerted to the commotion, Wingate grabbed a broom and ran over. He saw kids throwing rocks climbing the fence to throw rocks at the dogs to try to get them to stop biting the woman. One kid hurled a garbage can over the fence.”
Described Wingate to Fox 61 TV news, “It plays in my head. Her eyes. Her ankles. Her arms. Part of her face, her ears—I could see the bones on her body. It was unbelievable. Thank god for the kids that were yelling. We was looking for stuff to throw at the dogs. They were just continually eating her up.”
Confirmed an unidentified witness to Bass and Ricks, “All the flesh was ripped away from her calf. The artery was just hanging there. Half of her face was basically bitten off. She looked like she was dead. The front sidewalk in front of the house was covered with blood.”
Worse than chimp injuries
New Haven assistant police chief Anthony Campbell “said doctors described her injuries as worse than those suffered by the Stamford woman in the 2009 chimp attack,” Bass and Ricks wrote.
Mauled by a friend’s pet chimpanzee, before Connecticut banned private possession of chimps, Charla Nash, now 62, lost her eyes, nose, lips, eyelids and hands before the chimp broke away and was shot in the act of attacking a police car. Nash received an experimental face transplant in 2011, but as of May 2016 was experiencing partial rejection of the transplanted tissue.
Nash spoke for Pacelle
Nash in July 2014 “came to Washington, D.C. at my request to lobby in support of the Captive Primate Safety Act,” Pacelle wrote in his Humane Nation blog, “which seeks to ban the interstate trade in primates as pets. She spoke at a press conference with me and with lawmakers committed to passing this legislation.”
Repeatedly reintroduced, the Captive Primate Safety Act has not yet won Congressional approval.
“Why does it take a tragedy or something disastrous to happen,” Nash asked Pacelle on his Humane Nation television program, “before somebody will act and do the right thing? Let’s do the right thing before something else happens.”
Responded Pacelle, “It frustrates me so much that it takes terrible incidents to prompt people to take action on these issues.”
Pit bulls quarantined
Hicks meanwhile “was being treated for ‘numerous’ non-life-threatening injuries,” but had returned home, Bass and Ricks finished. The pit bulls were quarantined at the New Haven animal shelter.
“Usually on regular dog bites we give the animals every opportunity,” New Haven animal control officer Joseph Manganiello told Samantha Schoenfeld and Tony Terzi of Fox 61 TV, “but because of the seriousness of this injury, we have to do what we have to do.”
Victim posed with pit on Facebook
A 2001 Harvard graduate, with a degree in psychology, Hicks won his medical degree from the University of Miami in 2014, according to the Yale School of Medicine psychiatry department web site.
Hicks reportedly took down his Facebook page after the attack. Victim Jocelyn Winfrey, said Bass and Ricks, “posed with a pit bull in what was until recently her Facebook cover photo.”
Winfrey in a January 5, 2016 Facebook posting said of her pit bit bull, “Her name is Butter, but she behaves like margarine, easy to melt. That’s how lovable she is.”
Wayne Pacelle and HSUS turned toward pit bull advocacy in 2007 after taking a publicity beating for initially recommending that 48 pit bulls impounded from football player and now convicted dogfighter Michael Vick should be euthanized.
The American SPCA and the Best Friends Animal Society enjoyed huge positive publicity and a fundraising bonanza for promising to save the Vick pit bulls.
Concerning the pit bulls themselves, that gambit had mixed results.
What became of the Vick pit bulls
Recounted dog trainer Liz Marsden in a May 2015 ANIMALS 24-7 guest column headlined Pit bull wisdom & pound foolishness, “I worked for the Washington Animal Rescue League in 2007 when eleven of the Michael Vick pit bulls were kept there for several months, pending permanent resolution. Of the 48 seized Vick dogs, who were dispersed to eight rescue organizations, one was euthanized due to ‘severe aggression.’ Twenty-two went to the Best Friends Animal Society. Twelve of those were deemed ineligible for placement in homes, and were essentially sentenced to lifetime solitary confinement at Best Friends.
“In 2010, two of those dogs broke out of their enclosure and were injured in a dog fight in which a third pit bull (not a Vick dog) was killed. Ten of the Vick pit bulls who were sent to Best Friends were later adopted out to homes.
“The remaining 25 Vick dogs,” Marsden recounted, “those who did not go to Best Friends, were scattered to the winds among rescue groups in several states. I seriously doubt that anyone involved with this case knows where all of them are, how they have fared, or even how many are still alive.”
Meanwhile, having lost the initial public relations skirmish, Pacelle two years later, in 2009, embraced Vick as a spokesperson for stronger anti-dogfighting legislation, after Vick had served federal and state prison sentences.
But even as Pacelle, HSUS, and Vick sought more punishment for post-Vick dogfighters, HSUS joined the Best Friends Animal Society and the ASPCA in pushing state laws to prohibit municipalities from passing breed-specific dog ordinances.
Such legislation was rushed to passage in Massachusetts in 2012, and in Connecticut, Rhode Island, and Nevada in 2013, each time in the last days of the respective state legislative sessions, with minimal publicity and public debate.
Arizona double cross
Nineteen states have now banned breed-specific ordinances, most recently Arizona, where the Best Friends Animal Society and HSUS won the ban right at the close of the 2016 legislative session by endorsing a bill pushed by the pet store industry to prohibit cities and counties from prohibiting the sale of commercially bred dogs.
Even before the Michael Vick case, HSUS had been on record for at least three years in support of state legislation to prevent insurance companies from charging higher premiums to cover dog breeds associated with higher and more frequent payouts for casualties––even though this would oblige everyone with a dog to subsidize the 10% of the dog population, including pit bulls and Rottweilers, who incur more than 90% of the actuarial risk.
Such laws are already in effect in at least two states, and have been introduced into the New York and Connecticut legislatures in recent sessions. The Connecticut bill, introduced in 2015 by state representative Brenda Kupchick (R-Fairfield), was entitled “An Act Prohibiting Breed of Dog as an Underwriting Factor for Homeowners Insurance Policies.”
As well as occurring close to the Pacelle family home, the New Haven attack occurred within less than a mile of the Yale University athletic fields, where Corporal J.R. Conroy of the 1st Connecticut Regiment discovered the stray dog in July 1917 who became known to the world two years later as Sergeant Stubby and, though actually a Boston terrier, has been widely misrepresented––including by Wayne Pacelle––as a pit bull.
The Boston Globe of April 8, 1919 published the first mention of Stubby on record, about halfway through an article entitled “Heroes Aplenty On Agamemnon,” profiling the soldiers and animals aboard a recently landed troop transport ship.
When the 1st Connecticut Regiment “was merged into the 102nd,” the Globe explained, “Stubby went along. Corporal Conroy and the rest of the company managed to smuggle him on board the ship which took them overseas.
Omitted from regimental history
“Stubby has been with the men ever since,” the Globe summarized. “He was wounded during the Seicheprey fight, and wears every conceivable sort of decoration on his blanket. He took part in the fight at Marchville, Corporal Conroy being regimental observer on that occasion, and the company believes that he alone held at least one German division at the time.”
From that jocular claim, the Stubby myth expanded with almost every retelling, except that the regimental history, 1672-1963, published in March 1963 by Colonel John J. Higgins, makes no mention of Stubby whatever.
At least three New Haven fatalities
New Haven and New Haven County, including several suburbs as well as New Haven itself, have experienced pit bull fatalities, beginning with the 1887 mauling death of a three-month-old child surnamed Sweeney.
Twenty-month-old Nevaeh Bryant, of Derby, Connecticut, died at Yale-New Haven Hospital in September 2011, after being mauled by her aunt’s pit bull in the neighboring city of West Haven.
Most recently, Rita Pepe, 93, of Branford, New Haven County, died in April 2014 from complications resulting from pit bull attack. The pit bull had been adopted by neighbor Matthew Radulski from the nearby Dan Cosgrove Animal Shelter seven months earlier.
Pepe’s death was among a series of incidents calling into question the alliance of animal control agencies with advocacy for pit bulls and other dangerous dogs, at risk to public safety.
In February 2016 the city of Stamford, Connecticut paid $290,000 to Matthew Lazarus, 31, who was mauled in 2012 by a Rottweiler to whom he was introduced by a Stamford Animal Shelter volunteer. The Rottweiler had already flunked out of two homes for biting.
Former shelter manager facing trial
Former Stamford Animal Shelter manager Laurie Hollywood, 44, is reportedly still awaiting trial on three counts of reckless endangerment. Arrested on June 20, 2014, Hollywood appears to be the first U.S. shelter director to face criminal charges in connection with rehoming dangerous dogs. Hired in March 2005, Hollywood was suspended on May 2, 2014, and fired on June 17, 2014, after a seven-week police investigation of allegations that she had recently adopted out three dogs without disclosing their prior bite history, who went on to bite other people. One victim, believed to be Lazarus, required hospital treatment.
The Connecticut State Bureau of Regulation & Inspection had warned Hollywood against rehoming dangerous dogs in 2008 and 2011.
In other southern New England cases of note, Griswold, Connecticut assistant animal control officer Shea Cavacini was in June 2015 mauled by a pit bull she was fostering in her own home. Cavacini was reportedly trying to protect her young son.
Former Fitchburg shelter staff charged
The Fitchburg Animal Shelter in Fitchburg, Massachusetts, in June 2014 closed because of liability concerns associated with pit bulls.
Reported Anna Burgess of the Fitchburg Sentinel & Enterprise on June 17, 2016, “Amy Egeland, 49, and Sean Stanton, 50, dog trainers who worked at the now-defunct Fitchburg Animal Shelter, are facing charges of animal cruelty for allegedly keeping a dog muzzled for multiple days. The charges were brought by the Massachusetts Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.
“Stanton and Egeland were arraigned in Worcester Superior Court,” Burgess continued, “on one charge each of felony animal cruelty, released on personal recognizance, and ordered not to adopt or take on responsibility for any animals while the case is ongoing.
“Until these charges,” Burgess said, “the couple operated a Worcester business called Balance Your Bully Canine Training, where they trained dogs with behavioral issues. They previously operated their training business in Fitchburg, but moved to Worcester in 2015 after they encountered problems renewing their license.”