ASHEVILLE, North Carolina––The Henderson County Sheriff’s Office on July 9, 2015 confirmed that the pit bull who two days earlier killed six-year-old Joshua Phillip Strother in Hendersonville, North Carolina, had recently been adopted from the Asheville Humane Society.
The Asheville Humane Society has in recent years been at the forefront of pit bull advocacy and adoption promotion.
An adoption program promotion partner of both the Best Friends Animal Society and the American SPCA, both of which have long fought legislation meant to stop pit bull proliferation, the Asheville Humane Society apparently rehomed the pit bull who killed Strother during the first days of a “Project Pit Bull Awareness and Action Campaign” that started on June 19, 2015.
Earlier, on February 1, 2015, the Asheville Humane Society hosted a “Kiss-a-Bull Valentine’s Fundraiser,” the premise of which directly contradicted the standard dog bite prevention advice that people––especially children––should not put their faces close to the faces of dogs unfamiliar to them.
“The Criminal Investigations and Animal Enforcement Divisions of the Henderson County Sheriff’s Office have completed their investigation in regard to the pit bull attack that resulted in the death of six year old Joshua Strother of 163 Piney Ridge Drive on July 7th, 2015,” the sheriff’s office posted to Facebook.
“No charges will be filed”
“The investigation revealed the pit bull was adopted from the Asheville Humane Society approximately three weeks before the incident,” the posting continued. “It was noted this organization followed their adoption procedures and the dog was current on its rabies and other recommended vaccinations. Based upon this information, no charges will be filed.”
As of the end of the business day on July 10, 2015, the Asheville Humane Society had yet to respond to questions from ANIMALS 24-7, except to acknowledge on July 9, 2015, that the questions had been received.
Some of those questions, however, were answered by Asheville Times-News staff writer Emily Weaver.
Wrote Weaver, “A man found the pit bull on his porch one day and took it to Asheville Humane Society, according to investigators. The dog was held and monitored for about 30 days without exhibiting aggressive behavior.”
Asheville Humane Society statement
Elaborated the Asheville Humane Society in a prepared statement shared with local media:
“First and foremost, our hearts go out to both of the families involved in this tragic accident,” the Asheville Humane Society statement began, equating the death of the six-year-old child with that of the pit bull, who “was nearby and was acting aggressively and deputies who arrived on scene shot and killed the animal in order to give paramedics access to the boy,” according to WLOS television news.
“The dog involved was adopted out from Asheville Humane Society last month and did not exhibit any aggressive behavior while in our care,” the humane society statement continued. “This dog came in as a stray so we did not know his history, only his behavior while he was with us, which gave no indication that he would have any issue of this type.
“We try to accurately assess temperaments”
“We try to accurately assess the temperaments of all of the animals in our care before placing them in loving homes,” the Asheville Humane Society statement added. “We do a seven-point behavior assessment designed to predict a dog’s likelihood to bite in various situations,” apparently using the ASPCA-developed SAFER test, “and we also continue to assess the dog’s behavior while in our care. Our dogs also have a lot of one-on-one interaction with trained staff. If any aggression is reported, the dog is re-evaluated by our certified behavior department.
“All of the dog’s behavior/history documents in their entirety were given over to the Henderson County Sheriff’s Office,” the Asheville Humane Society statement finished.
“Pinups for Pit Bulls”
The Asheville Humane Society “Project Pit Bull Awareness and Action Campaign” opened on June 19, 2015 with a discussion session led by Deirdre Franklin.
Franklin in 2005 founded a pit bull advocacy organization called Pinups for Pitbulls, owns a business called Darlings Asheville that sells pit bull-inspired art, and is author of a book published in 2014, entitled Little Darling’s Pinups for Pitbulls.
The focus of the discussion was opposition to legislation against pit bull proliferation.
Pulled from web site
Observed Dogsbite.org founder Colleen Lynn, “Awareness and action campaigns usually last several months and possibly years. But the Asheville Humane Society pulled their entire Project Pit Bull awareness campaign from their corporate website less than one month into the campaign and, apparently, just after Joshua Phillip Strother’s horrific mauling death.”
Strother had apparently climbed the fence between his family’s property and the neighboring property, where the pit bull resided––but Strother had reportedly climbed the fence several times previously to pet and play with the pit bull, under the observation of his parents and the neighbors.
“You be the judge”
“You be the judge of why the Asheville Humane Society took down these parts of their website in the wake of a fatal pit bull attack,” Lynn continued. “You be the judge of why a humane society, in this case partly supported by taxpayers in their role of operating the county’s shelter, continues to delete posts from their Facebook page that mention this young boy.”
The Asheville Humane Society has operated the Buncombe County Animal Shelter since 1990.
New director on job since May
The “Project Pit Bull Awareness and Action Campaign” appeared to have been the first Asheville Humane Society initiative introduced by new executive director Tracy Elliott, who succeeded interim director Sarah Hess at the beginning of May 2015.
“Born and raised in the small town of Bremen, Indiana, Tracy Elliott, 54, comes to Asheville with three dogs and more than 30 years of nonprofit administration experience,” wrote Beth Walton of the Asheville Citizen-Times. “He has no professional background in animal welfare.”
Rather, Walton continued, “For five years, Elliott was executive director of AID Atlanta, the largest and most comprehensive AIDS service organization in the Southeast. Elliott also served as executive director of The Damien Center, a nonprofit HIV/AIDS clinic in Indiana. Most recently, he was the chief executive officer of College Mentors for Kids, an organization working at 26 colleges and universities across the U.S. Elliot also spent 14 years as a banker at First Source Bank in South Bend, Indiana.
Four executive directors in three years
“Elliot’s arrival signals the third leadership change the Asheville Humane Society since 2013,” Walton observed, “when former executive director Katherine McGowan Shenar left,” to become senior vice president of communications and community engagement at the San Diego Humane Society & SPCA in southern California––another organization that aggressively pushes pit bull adoptions.
Shenar, during her nearly six years at the Asheville Humane Society, including three years as chief executive, ramped up pit bull advocacy through forming a “community partnership” with the ASPCA in 2010 and making the society part of the Best Friends Animal Society’s No More Homeless Pets network.
On August 26, 2013, an Asheville Humane Society media release said, “The ASPCA and the Humane Society of the U.S., at the request of the United States Attorney’s Office and the Federal Bureau of Investigation, assisted in seizing 367 dogs in Alabama, Mississippi and Georgia in what is believed to be the second-largest dog fighting raid in U.S. history. At special request of the ASPCA, the Asheville Humane Society sent Jennifer Brehler, vice president of operations and government affairs, and Angie Wilt, animal compassion network department director, to assist with evidence collection and animal removal during the multi-site operation. Brehler and Wilt were escorted by the FBI to four different locations where they assisted the field investigation and response team of the ASPCA.”
Shenar to Brehler to Hess
Brehler succeeded Shenar as Asheville Humane Society executive director in October 2013, but in December 2014 followed Shenar to the San Diego Humane Society & SPCA to become senior director of the organization’s Escondido shelter facilities.
“Sarah Hess, a consultant for the Humane Alliance,” an Asheville-based national string of high-volume, low-cost spay/neuter clinics now finalizing a merger with the ASPCA, “then temporarily took the reins as interim executive director,” Walton recounted.
Hess was among more than 140 applicants for the permanent position of executive director, Walton reported, but was passed over in favor of Elliott.
“Save even more lives”
Said Asheville Humane Society board chairman John Haas in announcing Elliot’s hiring, “Tracy will take us to the next level and build on our successful programs to save even more lives.”
Strother was the 38th fatality involving U.S. shelter dogs from 2010 to present, in attacks involving 30 pit bulls, seven bull mastiffs, two Rottweilers, a Lab who may have been part pit bull, and a husky.
By contrast, there were no fatalities involving shelter dogs from 1858 through 1987. Two fatalities occurred, both involving wolf hybrids, in 1988 and 1989.
There were no further fatalities involving shelter dogs until 2000. Of the three fatalities occurring during the first decade of the 21st century, one involved a pit bull, one a Doberman, and one a Presa Canario.
Also of note, there were only 32 disfiguring maulings by shelter dogs from 1858 through 2009, 19 of them involving pit bulls.
From 2010 to present, there have been at least 138 disfiguring maulings by shelter dogs, 99 of them involving pit bulls. Nineteen shelter dogs have killed or disfigured people thus far in 2015, all of them pit bulls.
For every human killed in the past five years by shelter dogs, hundreds of animals have been killed: about 6,500 animals killed by shelter dogs per year in 2013-2014, more than 90% of them by pit bulls.
Only 26 fatalities associated with exploding Ford Pinto gas tanks, over seven years, were sufficient to kill the sales of what had been the top-selling car in history, ahead of even the Volkswagen beetle.
Once the public lost confidence in Ford as a maker of safe cars, the company spent decades, and billions of dollars, trying to regain it.