Pit bulls still at large
WATERVILLE, Maine––Two pit bulls taken by owner Danielle Jones from the Humane Society Waterville Area on October 24, 2017 remain at large, a week after the Maine Supreme Judicial Court upheld a Kennebec District Court order that the pit bulls, named Bentley and Kole, should be euthanized for repeatedly injuring humans and other dogs.
Humane Society Waterville Area executive director Lisa Smith, however, resigned on October 26, 2017, within 48 hours of Bentley and Kole allegedly “escaping” after Jones was allowed to walk them, board president Michael Brown disclosed on October 30, 2017.
Brown did not explain why Smith’s resignation was not disclosed earlier.
“We were deceived”
“We fully believe that we were deceived,” Smith told Kennebec Journal & Morning Sentinel senior staff writer Amy Calder by telephone. “We feel we’ve let the public down, we feel we’ve let the community and law enforcement down.”
Wrote Calder, “Smith said that she had the day off and was not at the shelter. Shelter staff were unaware of the court’s decision when Jones came to walk the dogs, and she wishes they had been a party to the information along with others who knew the decision. When Jones came back into the shelter and told workers the dogs slipped their leashes, they believed her, according to Smith.
“They totally believed her story — she was hysterical and sobbing — that the dogs had escaped, so they immediately went out to help her look for the dogs,” Smith told Calder. “I was suspicious and I thought the best way to get them back was to address it with her,” Smith acknowledged, “but she had left.”
Convicted but they walked?
Added Calder, “Typically, Jones’ boyfriend accompanied her when she walked the pit bulls, but Smith said she does not believe he came to the shelter with Jones the day they disappeared.”
The boyfriend, Brandon Ross, is an outspoken online pit bull advocate.
Jones had been allowed to walk Bentley and Kole while she appealed the November 2016 euthanasia order, issued by Kennebec District Court Judge Eric Walker.
Walker had heard testimony that Bentley and Kole had twice injured other dogs, in separate incidents, and had bitten both Jones and Ross, as well as seriously injuring Sharron Carey, 60, when she tried to rescue her Boston terrier, Fergie Rose, whom Bentley and Kole killed.
Jones was fined $500 for losing control of Bentley and Kole, leading to that incident.
The October 24, 2017 alleged escape was the second time the Humane Society Waterville Area had allowed Bentley and Kole to leave custody, with both Jones and Ross on the previous occasion.
The first time, nine days after Bentley and Kole killed the Boston terrier Fergie Rose and seriously injured her owner, Sharron Carey, 60, when Carey tried to rescue her, Smith said the pit bulls had been returned to Jones because of a “miscommunication.”
On that occasion, Smith said, Bentley and Kole were promptly returned to the Humane Society Waterville Area after Jones and Ross were asked to bring them back.
Jones, owner of the Muddy Dog Grooming Spa in Winslow, Maine, had participated in fundraising events for the Humane Society Waterville Area during Smith’s two-year tenure as executive director.
Police chief “very happy”
The Humane Society Waterville Area “has a staff of 18 people, 10 of whom are full time, and operates on an annual budget of more than $500,000,” summarized Calder. “The shelter receives funding from fees 26 communities pay for services, as well as from fundraisers and donations. Smith was paid a salary of $42,400 as of 2015,” according to IRS Form 990 filings.
Winslow police chief Shawn O’Leary had said earlier that his agency would not take impounded dogs to the Humane Society Waterville Area unless changes in management were made. He told Calder after learning of Smith’s resignation that he was “very happy that they have decided to move on, and we do not plan on moving right now to any other agency,” in anticipation that henceforth, “their staff will follow the rule of law.”
While the whereabouts of Bentley and Kole remain officially unknown, in the week since their “escape” tandem attacks on other animals by unidentified pairs of pit bulls generally meeting their description have been reported from various locations within a two-day drive of the Humane Society Waterville Area.
In Fernandina Beach, Florida, for example, police told WJXT News4Jax reporter Corley Peel that two “tannish” pit bulls with “red leashes dragging behind them” injured a dog and a woman who was walking the dog. The two pit bulls were then taken away by “a middle-aged brunette woman with short hair,” who fled when asked for her name.
Criminal charges, against Jones in particular, and considerable liability for the Humane Society Waterville Area could result if Bentley and Kole are found to be involved in such an incident.
The potential liability to an animal shelter for negligently releasing a dangerous dog is currently before the courts in both Virginia and Iowa.
In Virginia Beach, Virginia, pit bull adopter Linda Patterson and family have filed a $5 million wrongful death lawsuit against the Forever Home Rehabilitation Center for allegedly concealing the bite history of Blue, a year-old pit bull who fatally mauled Patterson’s mother, Margaret Colvin, 90, within six hours of acquisition.
Blue had reportedly been surrendered to the New York City Animal Care Centers’ Manhattan shelter in December 2016 after biting a child.
Six guardians in three months
“Pulled” for “rescue” through the NYC Animal Care Centers’ New Hope adoption program by Edie Hardy of Animals Can’t Talk Rescue & Adoption, located in East Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania, Blue was fostered out to Julie Winch of Rochester, New York. Arriving ill, Blue incurred a bill of $5,900 with Veterinary Specialists & Emergency Services Inc. of Rochester. The bill became subject of fundraising appeals routed through Rochester Hope for Pets.
Blue was transported from Rochester to Animals Can’t Talk circa December 31, 2016, apparently with the help of New Jersey rescue transport volunteer Jo Ann Treiber.
By the end of February 2017, however, Blue was transported again, to Forever Home Rescue & Rehabilitation. Specializing in “problem” dogs, Forever Home began in 2008 in Knott’s Island, North Carolina, but later moved to locations in Virginia Beach and Norfolk.
Forever Home: 13 bites in three years
“Warrants say Blue was originally adopted out to a woman named Tia Walke,” reported WVEC-TV on October 13, 2017. “However, Walke returned the dog to the Forever Home Rehabilitation Center after a bite occurred in her home.”
Forever Home then “failed to report the bite to the health department” and “soon thereafter placed the dog on Craigslist for adoption,” WVEC-TV said. “Search warrants state a Virginia Beach animal control officer interviewed Forever Home Rehabilitation Center owner Jamie Cochran, who said Blue was never examined by a veterinarian and did not receive a veterinarian inspection certificate after entering the state of Virginia.
“According to animal control officers, Forever Home Rehabilitation Center has 13 documented dog bites that have occurred with their dogs over the past three years,” Ryan Murphy and Jane Harper of the Virginia Pilot added.
Back to Balance
“Police seized files, computers and marijuana from both the Forever Home location in Virginia Beach and the Virginia Beach residence of Toni Enright, the other owner of Forever Home, according to the documents. They also searched the group’s Norfolk location and seized a laptop computer,” Murphy and Harper noted.
Forever Home Rehabilitation Center in September 2017 announced that it “will now be known as Back to Balance: Doggy Daycare, Training and Boarding.”
Said the organization, “We will continue to rehabilitate dogs but will not take them in as surrenders. Once the dog has gone through our rehab program, he/she will return to the rescue or owner. Rescues can board the dog with us until a home is found. Our rescue side of the business will concentrate on taking in dogs from local shelters that have run out of time.”
Observed Murphy, “A banner on the web page with the announcement reads ‘under new management.’ There is no staff listing on the website.”
Forever Home, also known as Back to Balance, claims to have obtained IRS 501(c)(3) charitable status in 2012, but has not posted an EIN number and does not appear to have ever filed IRS Form 990.
Clinton Humane Society
Meanwhile in Clinton, Iowa, the Clinton Herald on June 9, 2017 announced that the trial date for a lawsuit filed against pit bull adopters Ashley and Kristopher Greene and the Clinton Humane Society by Holly and Tyler Harrison, parents of mauling victim Lucas Harrison, had been set for October 1, 2018.
A settlement conference was scheduled for September 6, 2018.
“The jury trial is expected to last approximately eight days,” the Clinton Herald anticipated. No further information has been released, but Iowa court records indicate that the case has not yet been resolved.