Child killed by two other pit bulls in nearby city just four days before
LOWELL, Massachusetts; WATERVILLE, Maine––From Lowell, Massachusetts to Waterville, Maine, is just 175 miles, a three-hour drive north by turnpike. The major electronic media serving Lowell and Waterville reach both.
Accordingly, after two pit bulls ripped seven-year-old Javian Candolario apart alive in a yard attached to his own Lowell home on October 21, 2017, practically anyone in Waterville––and anyone else for hundreds of miles around––should have seen the risk inherent in losing control and possession of two pit bulls who had been under quarantine and a euthanasia order for more than a year due to dangerous behavior.
Let owner walk off with pits, unsupervised
The Humane Society Waterville Area should have been aware, in particular, as the reported holder of housing contracts for about 25 central Maine animal control jurisdictions, obligated to keep impounded dogs securely.
But at about 12:30 p.m. on October 24, 2017 the Maine Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the euthanasia order for the two pit bulls.
Minutes later the pit bulls disappeared from the Humane Society Waterville Area while in unsupervised custody of owner Danielle Jones, who claimed they had escaped.
Killed Boston terrier, injured owner
Named Bentley and Kole, the two pit bulls on August 30, 2016 broke out from behind a double fence to kill a 10-month-old Boston terrier named Fergie Rose. The pit bulls also seriously injured Fergie Rose’s owner, Sharron Carey, 60. Carey and Fergie Rose had been walking on a public sidewalk near the home of Danielle Jones and Brandon Ross, co-owners of Bentley and Kole.
At a November 2016 trial, reported Betty Adams for the Kennebec Journal, “Jones testified she got in the middle of the dogs and twice handed Fergie Rose back to Carey. The third time, Jones carried Fergie Rose to her own car before returning to get her dogs under control,” according to Jones’ testimony.
“Two video surveillance cameras on Jones’ home captured images of Carey walking her dog, and Fergie Rose lunging toward the home,” about 50 feet away, wrote Adams, “followed shortly afterward by Jones’ two pit bulls streaking across the lawn to reach them.”
“Vicious attack on much smaller dog”
Kennebec District Court Judge Eric Walker concluded that “rather than the ‘dog fight’ described by Jones’ trial attorney, Charles Ferris, the case involved ‘an escape and a vicious attack on a much smaller dog,'” Adams summarized. “Walker found that Carey suffered serious bodily injury during the attack, and that Bentley and Kole were the same two dogs involved in a May 29, 2015 attack that injured a younger, smaller dog, during which Ross [an outspoken online pit bull advocate], was bitten by one of his own dogs.”
Walker fined Jones $500 for losing control of Bentley and Kole, and ordered that they be euthanized within 30 days.
Jones, however, pursued a series of appeals, contending through attorney Bonnie Martinolich, with the help of Connecticut dog defense specialist Thomas Page, that Jones should have been entitled to a jury trial at which the prosecution would have to prove “beyond a reasonable doubt” that Bentley and Kole were dangerous.
“Competent evidence in the record”
Minutes after the Maine Supreme Judicial Court found that “competent evidence in the record” supported the euthanasia order, the Humane Society Waterville Area allowed Jones to take Bentley and Kole out for a walk.
At about 1:00 p.m., half an hour after the Maine Supreme Judicial Court ruling, Jones returned to the shelter claiming Bentley and Kole had escaped.
“Jones told shelter workers that the dogs broke free while she was walking them and ran into the nearby woods, according to Waterville Police Chief Joseph Massey. Jones said they would still have their leashes and harnesses dangling from their collars,” wrote Kennebec Journal & Morning Sentinel staff writer Madeline St. Amour.
Six-hour time lapse
“Winslow police received news that the euthanization order was upheld at about 12:40 p.m.,” Winslow police chief Shawn O’Leary told St. Amour. “O’Leary contacted the shelter multiple times afterward about the paperwork. The shelter didn’t tell police about the disappearance until 6:45 p.m.— apparently hours after the dogs got loose,” St. Amour continued.
The six-hour time lapse was enough for someone to have transported the pit bulls to New Brunswick or Quebec, Canada, outside U.S. jurisdiction, or into the neighboring states of Massachusetts or New Hampshire, or even farther, into Vermont, Rhode Island, Connecticut, perhaps upstate New York.
“That makes me very concerned and upset,” O’Leary said, calling the alleged escapes “suspicious, to say the least. I don’t believe that they are loose — that they’re running through the woods,” O’Leary told St. Amour. “This was a coordinated effort. I’m completely dumbfounded,” O’Leary added, “why the director would allow [Jones] to take the dogs off the property. We feel that this is a serious issue, that two dangerous dogs are now out and about.”
“People should be very concerned,” agreed Waterville police chief Joseph Massey. “The dogs have already shown they can be aggressive and vicious.”
Both police and reporters were unable to locate Jones for more than 24 hours after the claimed escapes. When a police detective did find her, at her home, “Jones handed the detective a slip of paper that said ‘direct all questions to my attorney’ and refused to speak further,” Massey told St. Amour.
Had allowed pits to leave custody before
Humane Society Waterville Area shelter director Lisa Smith “did not return a phone or text message seeking comment,” St. Amour added, while Jones was not to be found at her Winslow business, The Muddy Paw Grooming Spa.”
Humane Society Waterville Area board president Michael Brown told media that a statement from the shelter would be released on October 26, 2017, but at the close of the October 27, 2017 business day, the promised statement had apparently not yet been distributed.
The October 24, 2017 alleged escape was the second time the Humane Society Waterville Area allowed Bentley and Kole to leave custody while under an impoundment order.
The first time, nine days after Bentley and Kole killed the Boston terrier Fergie Rose, Humane Society Waterville Area executive director Lisa Smith said the pit bulls had been returned to Jones and Ross because of a “miscommunication,” but that Jones and Ross “complied right away” when informed that the original 10-day quarantine order had been extended until the criminal charges resulting from the attack were resolved.
Jones proclaimed herself “a proud supporter of the humane society” six days after the May 29, 2015 attack by Bentley and Kole on a smaller dog, Facebook postings obtained by ANIMALS 24-7 indicate. Jones participated in a fundraising event to benefit the Humane Society Waterville Area as recently as June 18, 2017.
“Lisa Smith says her focus is on rebuilding trust with the shelter,” headlined Kennebec Journal & Morning Sentinel senior staff writer Amy Calder on May 17, 2015, soon after Smith was named executive director. Smith had previously been community outreach director for the Coastal Humane Society in Brunswick.
“Smith comes to the shelter after a period of flux and hardship,” Calder wrote. “Paula Mitchell, who directed the shelter for 23 years, retired [in September 2011] and the shelter had a succession of directors who did not work out.”
From ringworm to distemper
Under Smith’s immediate predecessor the shelter was closed for a time due to a serious ringworm outbreak. But under Smith the shelter was closed for much of September 2017 due to a feline distemper outbreak that killed “more than three dozen cats and kittens,” Calder reported.
The Humane Society Waterville Area did not adopt pit bulls to homes with children under 12 years of age during Mitchell’s tenure, and did not rehome any dogs who had bitten children. Under Smith, however, adoption advertisements indicate, rehoming dogs of problematic bite history appears to have become routine, even as Maine has had at least three fatal dog attacks since April 2011, after more than 40 years with none.
Maine maulings surge
The first of the recent Maine victims, Annabelle Mitchell, age seven months, of Frankfort, was killed by her family’s Rottweiler. Hunter Bragg, age seven years, was killed in June 2016 in Corinna by a pit bull. The pit bull owner reportedly received the pit bull from his daughter after the pit had attacked several other dogs. Most recently, on July 29, 2017, a husky/German shepherd mix killed a 21-day-old baby in Bangor.
The Humane Society Waterville Area service radius experienced previous disfiguring dog attacks on humans in October 2005, when a three-year-old was facially mauled by a pit bull; in August 2011, when a pit bull injured a six-year-old; in September 2011, when the same pit bull who had injured the six-year-old facially mauled a two-year-old in the same house; and in July 2016, when a Great Dane who facially injured an adolescent was surrendered to the Humane Society Waterville Area, then was rehomed instead of being euthanized as the victim’s family understood was to be done.
More notoriously, a husky named Dakota, owned by Matthew D. Perry of Waterville, was in May 2016 declared a dangerous dog for killing a small dog belonging to a neighbor. Dakota injured another dog at the same neighbor’s home in February 2017, then was admitted as a stray by the Humane Society Waterville Area.
There Smith judged Dakota to be “a model resident, extremely people friendly and generally dog friendly,” she wrote on March 24, 2017, six days after rehoming Dakota to Linda Janeski of Winslow.
Perry meanwhile had pleaded guilty to keeping a dangerous dog on March 21, 2017, after which District Court Judge Valerie Stanfill ordered Dakota to be euthanized within 48 hours.
Maine Governor Paul LePage then “pardoned” Dakota, while both Perry and Janeski of Winslow appealed the euthanasia order. Dakota was eventually returned to Janeski, but was banned from returning to Waterville.
“Well-behaved, friendly dog”
In mid-April 2017 Smith also described a pit bull named Shogun as “nothing but a well-behaved, friendly dog ,” after Shogun mauled owner Daniel Baxter.
The advocacy role that Smith took on behalf of Bentley, Kole, Dakota, and Shogun, and in particular that Smith released Bentley, Kole, and Dakota while they were under quarantine orders, occasioned Winslow police chief O’Leary, Waterville police chief Massey, Waterville deputy police chief Bill Bonney, and Michael Tracy, police chief in Oakland, Maine, to attend a Humane Society Waterville Area board meeting in April 2017 to clarify their respective roles.
“The result was a mutual respect for each other’s roles in community safety, and the well being of peoples’ pets,” Smith told St. Amour afterward.
“No one knew what to do”
While advocates for dangerous dogs have exercised a variety of so far successful strategies on behalf of Bentley, Kole, Dakota, and Shogun, among other dangerous dogs held recently by the Humane Society Waterville Area, “No one knew what to do,” among “probably 15 people just watching it happen, just screaming,” a Lowell, Massachusetts resident told the Boston Herald after Javian Candolario was killed.
“There’s really nothing we could do with two 100-pound pit bulls. They had him by the neck and legs,” agreed witness David Swiniarski to Victoria Warren of WHDH News.
Added Warren, “The dogs were owned by an Iraq war veteran and were used for emotional support, neighbors said.”
Dragged victim over fence
The attack occurred at a home appearing to be a duplex, located two doors from a middle school. Javian Candolario and the pit bull owner both lived in the building. The pit bulls reportedly dragged Candolario over a fence and dismembered him when he tried to retrieve a ball that went through the fence.
One of the two pit bulls “escaped and ventured over a mile from the scene before he was found and killed in a hail of police gunfire more than an hour later,” reported Robert Mills of the Lowell Sun. The other pit bull was impounded by Lowell Animal Control.
“In 2011, the Lowell city council voted 5-4 to adopt an ordinance that limited owners to two pit bulls, required the dogs to be spayed or neutered, and required that they wear a muzzle or be in a secured enclosure,” recalled Lowell Sun colleague Todd Feathers. “The adoption of that rule,” introduced by councilor Rodney Elliot, “followed a spate of pit bull attacks in the city. A little over a year later, former Governor Deval Patrick signed into law a bill that prohibited cities and towns from ‘regulating dogs in a manner that is specific to breed.’”
Massachusetts SPCA undid ordinance
Editorialized the Lowell Sun, “The pressure to overturn laws that focus on specific dog breeds emanated from the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and other like-minded groups, which maintain that there’s no evidence that targeting pit bulls or any other type of canine has been shown to reduce dog bites. One need only ask yourself the last time you heard or read of such an incident that didn’t involve a pit bull.
“That’s why we believe, like Councilor Elliott, that each community should be allowed to establish its own rules as they pertain to that breed or any other they deem a danger to the public. Currently, a community needs a home-rule petition to be favorably acted on by the legislature to accomplish this; we urge Lowell and any other like-minded community to take that course.”
Best Friends wants all homeowners to pay for pit bull attacks
But while Lowell is unlikely to win home rule from the Massachusetts legislature, “A bill aimed at banning insurance companies from discriminating against pit bulls will move forward,” bill sponsor Jack Lewis (D-Framingham) told Chris Villani of WEEI, urging Villani to “not drill down on the one detail of this story that is the breed of the dog.”
Explained Villani, “Lewis’ bill, which has more than 50 co-sponsors from both parties, would prevent insurance companies from refusing to issue a policy, canceling a policy or hiking premiums based solely on a homeowner owning a certain breed. Insurers could increase premiums or issue policy changes if a specific dog is deemed dangerous, the bill states.”
Pushed by Best Friends Animal Society lobbyist Lee Greenwood, the Lewis bill would in effect oblige all insurance policy holders to help cover the actuarial risk associated with pit bulls, who are about 5.3% of the U.S. dog population but incur more than 70% of the payouts for deaths and disfiguring injuries resulting from dog attacks.
Seven “bully breed” fatalities in 30 days
The seven-year-old in Lowell was the fifth U.S. pit bull fatality in 30 days, Facebook memes promoting National Pit Bull Victim Awareness Day reminded. “In Georgia, a woman was killed by a pit bull while getting out of her car. In Mississippi, a woman was killed by her son’s pit bulls. A one-month old Ohio baby was killed in his home by the family pit bulls. A 5-year old Utah girl was attacked in the face. Today, October 25, a 1-year old girl is in critical condition after her mother found her torn body in the jaws of the ‘family pet, a pit bull.’”
At least two more “bully-breed” deaths occurred abroad.
Australia & South Korea
In Canberra, the Australian capital city, mother of three Tania Klemke, 40, was fatally mauled by her own pit bull on October 24, 2017 after reportedly intervening when the pit bull attacked a male visitor.
Klemke “had warned friends the animal was dangerous, but had refused to part with it as he had ‘taken a bullet’ for her during a violent home invasion earlier this year,” reported Sherryn Groch of the Canberra Times. The pit bull was shot dead by police after also attacking the first medical responders.
Klemke “had recently warned friends not to visit her at home as her dog ‘had trust issues’ and would likely attack,” Groch wrote. “A broken back fence meant it couldn’t be left outside. Neighbour Dieu Do described the terrifying moment a dog she believed to be from Ms Klemke’s property had scaled her fence and charged at her two young children late last year.”
In South Korea, pop singer Choi Siwon apologized for the death of a 53-year-old female restaurateur, who died of blood poisoning on October 3, 2017, several days after she was bitten by his French bulldog.