A tale of two dogs
ATLANTA, Georgia––Pit bulls have caused seven human deaths in five years in Georgia. Coyotes have caused none, ever.
Responding to the pit bull threat, Atlanta representative Keisha Waites in February 2017 introduced Logan’s Law, HB 313, which would require people selling or rehoming dogs to tell the truth about their breed identities and characteristic behavior.
Though HB 313 requires only honest disclosure of breed type and the state-compiled bite statistics specific to the breed, it is bitterly opposed by the Best Friends Animal Society, among other humane organizations, because it allegedly “discriminates” against pit bulls and other dog breeds together amounting to fewer than 10% of the dogs in the U.S., yet accounting for more than 90% of all fatal and disfiguring dog attacks.
Open season on coyotes & killing contest too
There is an open hunting season on coyotes in Georgia, meanwhile, where coyotes may be killed with any legal trap or hunting weapon.
Hunters already kill more than 50,000 coyotes per year in Georgia, but to encourage them to kill more, the Georgia Department of Natural Resources’ Wildlife Resources Division is promoting a statewide coyote killing contest, the “Georgia Coyote Challenge,” sponsored by the Georgia Hunting & Fishing Federation.
Beginning in March 2017, hunters who kill at least five coyotes per month will be eligible to participate in monthly drawings whose winners will receive free lifetime hunting and fishing licenses.
Thus far the “Georgia Coyote Challenge” has been denounced only by the Atlanta Coyote Project, founded by wildlife biologist Chris Mowry.
The Waites’ bill, HB 313, Logan’s Law, is similar in concept to the Ideas for non-BSL that might really stop pit bull attacks offered by ANIMALS 24-7 on January 21, 2017.
The Waites’ bill would pertain to any dog who “is entirely or partly of the American Pit Bull Terrier, American Staffordshire Terrier, American Bully, Staffordshire Bull Terrier, Doberman Pinscher, Rottweiler, German Shepherd, Chow Chow, Husky, Great Dane, Akita, Boxer, or Wolf Hybrid breed.”
The Waites bill provides that “No person shall voluntarily transfer ownership of a dog without including as part of the transaction a document containing certain statistics created by [the Georgia Department of Health] relating to injuries to humans caused by dogs,” to be made “available electronically and free of charge,” including “any statistics pertaining to injuries to humans caused by dogs which it deems relevant to inform the public of the risks related to dog bites; provided, however, that if available, such statistics shall include data from the previous 32 year regarding: (A) The reported number of humans bitten by dogs in the United States; (B) The total medical costs related to injuries caused by dogs in the United States; and (C) The total amount of damages awarded to victims of dog bites or dog attacks in the United States.”
The Waites bill also would repeal any existing legislation that is in conflict with it.
Marching through Georgia
If Georgians keep pit bulls at about the same rate as other Americans, pit bulls would be about 5% of the total state dog population of circa 2.5 million: about 125,000 pit bulls in all.
If the entire state of Georgia has coyotes at the maximum density of 2.4 per square mile reported studies done by Auburn University assistant professor Will Gulsby, Ph.D., about 102,000 coyotes may dwell in Georgia at any given time, despite the enormous toll taken by hunters.
Pit bull mayhem is now reported almost daily in Georgia. On February 21, 2017, for example, 11-year-old Samuel English was injured while walking his brother to a school bus stop in Decatur, Georgia, by a pit bull who reportedly broke a gate to get at the boys.
Logan Braatz & Syrai Sanders
The incident recalled the January 18, 2017 pit bull attack that killed Logan Braatz, age 6, for whom Logan’s Law is named, and critically injured Syrai Sanders, 5, as their parents walked them to school in Atlanta.
Pit bull owner Cameron Tucker was initially charged with felony manslaughter for allowing his two pit bulls and a border collie mix to run at large, leading to the attacks on Braatz and Sanders, but a Fulton County judge on February 8, 2017 reduced the charge to misdemeanor manslaughter and allowed Tucker to be released on $70,000 bail.
Numbed to maulings
John Bullips, 48, mauled by two pit bulls a week later in the same Atlanta neighborhood, was found on the street unconscious. The Bullips attack drew just four sentences from Associated Press, in a state already numbed to pit bull maulings.
A three-pit attack reported to ANIMALS 24-7 from Powersville, Georgia apparently received no media notice, but there have been multiple follow-ups on the Christmas Eve, 2016 mauling of seven-year-old Ethan Fain, of Lilburn, Georgia, who lost both ears when a neighbor’s two pit bulls dragged him over his grandmother’s back yard fence.
Doctors were reportedly able to sew Fain’s left ear back on immediately, while his right ear was sewn into the skin of his abdomen pending future reattachment surgery.
The Fain attack came a month to the day after a pit bull named Rhino, with a prior history of attacking children, mauled a toddler and a six-month-old boy in Brunswick, Georgia.
The seven dead
Among the recent deaths attributed to pit bulls, Georgia Department of Agriculture meat inspector Michelle Wilcox, 30, of Savannah, was on August 2, 2016 mauled at her boyfriend’s home near Newington.
Davon Jiggetts, 17, of Riverdale, was hit by a car in April 2014 while trying to evade a pit bull who attacked him as he stepped off a bus.
Just a week earlier, Demonta Collins, 13, of Augusta, died in a similar incident.
Three in 2012 alone
Three Georgians died in pit bull attacks in 2012:
Tim Thomas, 49, of Douglas County, suffered a fatal heart attack in July 2012 while trying to keep his own two pit bulls from killing a smaller dog.
Beau Rutledge, 2, of Atlanta, was killed in August 2012 by his mother’s eight-year-old pit bull, whom she had raised from puppyhood, while she was in the bathroom of their home.
Just a few days later, Rebecca Carey, 23, of Decatur, Georgia, a vet tech trainee at the Loving Hands Animal Clinic in Alpharetta and photographer for the Best Friends Network, was found dead at her home from neck and upper torso injuries inflicted by one or more of the five dogs in her care, among them two pit bulls, two Presa Canarios, and a boxer mix.
Carey had in May 2012 helped to repeal a DeKalb County ban on possession of pit bulls.
Sharing the Georgia spotlight with deaths and disfigurements inflicted by pit bulls have been some noteworthy damage awards.
Pit bull owner Steven Long, 49, of Winthrop, for example, was in January 2017 ordered to pay the medical bill deductible amount of $1,616.72 and fined $250 for harboring an unvaccinated dangerous dog who mauled a 7-year-old in April 2016.
While sums in that range are likely to be paid, Erin Ingram, age 8 when severely mauled by a pit bull in 2010, is unlikely to ever see any of the almost $37 million she was awarded for her extensive injuries by DeKalb County Judge Mathew Robins in January 2015. A DeKalb County jury had recommended that Ingram receive $72 million in compensatory and punitive damages, but Georgia law limits punitive damages to $250,000.
The pit bull owner, Twyann Vaughn, was in 2012 sentenced to 16 months in jail for violating Georgia’s Vicious Dog Act. She was also sentenced to serve 36 months of probation and do 240 hours of community service.
On paper, at least, the Ingram award broke the state record recommended payout of $350,000 awarded to retired postal worker Jack “Sonny” Henderson, of Bibb County, who was mauled by two pit bulls while jogging in 2011.
No coyote attacks on humans
By contrast, no actual coyote attacks on humans have been reported in the state of Georgia in at least the past 12 years, if ever.
Known to inhabit only 23 of the 159 counties of Georgia as recently as 1969, coyotes now thrive in all counties, and more than 3,000 coyote sightings per year are reported in the Atlanta metropolitan area alone, but authenticated incidents of any sort are rare.
“I haven’t actually seen them eat anything, but they’ve run off our turkeys and deer. They are just pests, ” Hortense farmer George Barnhill told Teresa Stepzinski of the Augusta Chronicle in November 2009.
“Wild coyote attacks neighborhood pets,” headlined CBS 46 of Atlanta in July 2012, describing incidents in which coyotes separately injured a Chihuahua and cornered but apparently did not injure a cat.
Coyotes killed a goat in a March 2013 incident reported by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, may have killed “several cats and a dog” in Auburn, Georgia in November 2013, and may have injured a dog in East Albany, Georgia the same month.
A coyote also injured a dog in Marietta, Georgia in May 2015 near the Kennesaw National Battlefield Park, but did not harm a five-year-old and a three-year-old who were playing nearby.
Adding to the cruelty of coyote hunting
“Initiating the Georgia Coyote Challenge in March is intended to coincide with pup-rearing season,” Atlanta Coyote Project founder Chris Mowry told Craig Lucie of Channel 2 Atlanta. “Both parents are involved in feeding the offspring, and so that will kill the parents and they will not be able to then feed those offspring, and then they’ll just die by starvation, really adding to the cruelty of it all.”
The Georgia Department of Natural Resources alleged to Lucie that, “Coyote predation is scientifically shown to negatively impact wildlife populations, kill livestock, kill domestic pets and contribute to undesired human-coyote interactions.”
Georgia DNR fact sheet offers different view
But even the Georgia Department of Natural Resources coyote fact sheet offers a distinctly different perspective.
Says the fact sheet, “With the extirpation of the red wolf in the last century across Georgia, the coyote has been able to fill a void and now can be found statewide. Increased numbers of coyote sightings create increased concerns of landowners for their property and safety. However, by nature, coyotes tend to steer clear of potential danger…Prevention is the best defense against nuisance coyotes. If a coyote is suspected in an area where domestic animals are roaming free, several precautions can be made to ensure their safety:
• Take pets indoors during the night, as this is the coyote’s primary hunting time.
• If the pet must be kept outside, put up fencing to discourage coyotes.
• Small livestock or poultry should be kept in an enclosed or sheltered area.
“Coyotes rarely bother larger livestock although they often are blamed for such nuisance instances,” the Georgia DNR fact sheet says. “It should be noted that dogs, rather than coyotes, are notorious for harassing and attacking livestock.”