Response to child’s death
ASHEVILLE, North Carolina––Amanda L. Stone, assistant county manager for Buncombe County, North Carolina, on July 16, 2015 ordered the Asheville Humane Society to enforce “An immediate moratorium on the transfer of any pit bull or pit bull mix from the shelter to an adoption agency,” and to account for any and all factors involved in the July 7, 2015 fatal mauling of six-year-old Joshua Phillip Strother by a pit bull adopted from the Asheville Humane Society.
Addressing Asheville Humane Society board chair John Haas and executive director Tracy Elliott, Stone wrote, “The recent tragic death of a six year old caused by a pit bull adopted from Asheville Humane’s Adoption Center has grieved the community and caused us to review the current processes in place within the shelter.
“As the provider of this service for the county,” Stone reminded, “Asheville Humane is charged with assuring that all services comply with all applicable laws. We further contract with Asheville Humane with the full assurance that all policies and procedures for animal sheltering utilize recognized best-practice models to assure good outcomes for the animal and for the community.
Five-point info request
“In order to provide the proper opportunity to assure that Asheville Humane’s processes for temperament analysis are following national best practice guidelines,” Stone wrote, “and specifically that transferring of pit bulls to adoption agencies aligns with the county’s animal services goals, we are requesting the following:
- An immediate moratorium on the transfer of any pit bull or pit bull mix from the shelter to an adoption agency.
A thorough documentation delivered to the county of the temperament testing procedures in place. This includes the specific steps involved, citation of the best-practice model used, the “individual(s)” employed by Asheville Humane conducting the testing, the credentials of the testing individual(s), and the individual(s) charged with approving the transfer of these specific animals.
- A detailed process used in the specific pit bull transfer that resulted in the death of the child in Henderson County.
- The definition that Asheville Humane uses for determining the health of an animal suitable for transfer to an adoption agency.
- A summary of any related internal reviews Asheville Humane has conducted and the resulting process changes/system improvement.
We are requesting this information no later than two weeks from the date of this letter. Once the county reviews the information, we will decided next steps as to the moratorium on transfer of pit bulls and pit bull mixes.”
Did Asheville Humane use ASPCA test?
Since Strother’s death, the Asheville Humane Society has not specifically acknowledged use of the seven-point American SPCA-developed SAFER test, but under the subheading “Who We Are,” the Asheville Humane Society web site as of 2014 mentioned that an employee who has since left the organization “also serves as the SAFER assessor and conducts temperament tests for dogs.”
Said the Asheville Humane Society in a prepared statement released to local media after Strother was fatally mauled, “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 “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.”
“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 acknowledged. “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.”
Pit bull promotion
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.
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