“Perfect storm” of misjudgements
BARNSTABLE, Massachusetts–– A questionable pit bull adoption from an as yet unidentified animal shelter believed to be in New Bedford, Massachusetts, a much questioned decision by Sandwich police chief Peter Wack to give the pit bull Bubba another chance after he mauled 62-year-old Elizabeth Hiatt in September 2017, a purported PetSmart policy against grooming muzzled dogs, and a groomer with a long history of pit bull advocacy combined on December 27, 2017 to send the groomer, Sienna Bryden, 22, to hospital in Boston by helicopter.
Bubba, the pit bull, was euthanized on December 28, 2017.
“Trail of blood”
According to the Barnstable Police media statement, patrolman Doug Palmer responded to an 11:15 a.m. report of a dog bite at the Hyannis PetSmart to discover “a trail of blood leading from the grooming area, through the customer aisle and training area, around the corner and into the employee lounge,” where Bryden was “being treated by co-workers for multiple bite wounds.
“As a result of the severity of the injuries – described as bite wounds to her upper torso, wrist and hand, as well as extensive tearing of the flesh, possible broken bones and a suspected dislocated shoulder – Hyannis Fire Department Rescue also responded to the scene,” the Barnstable Police statement said.
“Sweet as can be”
“The victim stated that the owner of the dog, a pit bull mix, brought him in wearing a muzzle, requesting that he be groomed,” the Barnstable Police statement continued. “When asked about the muzzle, the owner simply told the employees that the dog had previously attacked another dog, and stated that the dog was ‘sweet as can be,’ while failing to disclose that he had also attacked a person, which PetSmart states would have resulted in services being declined.
“The victim stated that store policy required that the muzzle be removed in the grooming area,” the Barnstable Police statement added, “and that the owner was informed. During the grooming process, while the dog was being moved, for no apparent reason and without warning, the dog attacked the victim and would not let go of her arm. Co-workers utilized an air horn and special spray, but were not able to deter the dog, until they were able to physically extract the victim’s arm from the jaws of the dog.”
(See 15 real-life tips for surviving a dog attack (2017 edition)
Hyannis Fire Department Rescue stabilized Bryden at the scene, “transported her to Cape Cod Hospital, and she was later flown to Brigham & Women’s Hospital in Boston for treatment,” the Barnstable Police statement finished. “Following this incident, the dog, per state policy, was released to the owner and ordered to be kept under in-house quarantine for ten days, and the Town of Sandwich Police and Animal Control were notified.”
String of PetSmart incidents
The pit bull attack at the Hyannis PetSmart appeared to parallel a March 29, 2016 bullmastiff attack at a PetSmart store in South Philadelphia. A 26-year-old female groomer suffered cuts to her hand, arm and ankle, according to police.
After injuring the groomer, the bullmastiff “attacked a Pomeranian in the grooming area of the store,” reported PhillyCom staff writer Julie Shaw, citing statements from both “police and a spokeswoman for PetSmart.”
In July 2017 a two-year-old girl who was being carried in her mother’s arms was reportedly injured by a pit bull who bolted out of a training ring at a PetSmart store in Colonial Heights, Virginia, leaped at the mother, then “latched on to the child’s leg,” Colonial Heights police captain William Anspach told media.
At least five small dogs have been killed by pit bulls in PetSmart stores since a November 2015 change of senior management, including the dismissal of all 37 staff at PetSmart Charities, a PetSmart-controlled nonprofit affiliate.
(See Entire PetSmart Charities staff gets the boot.)
“I understand the nature of animals”
But the issues involved in the Hyannis PetSmart pit bull attack turned out to be bigger and more complex than just PetSmart policies pertaining to muzzles and dangerous dogs in stores.
Facebook postings indicate that groomer Sienna Bryden, of Dennis, Massachusetts, has two pit bulls herself, and has been involved in pit bull advocacy at least since 2011. Approximately “2 years ago,” according to Change.org, Bryden posted a petition “to get my dog Blu allowed back onto Sandy Neck,” a Cape Cod beach.
Alleged Bryden, “He got kicked off because he barked and jumped on a park ranger- period. He did not bite the ranger––and he was on his leash as required by law,” Bryden claimed.
“I am a responsible animal owner,” Bryden asserted. “I work in the pet care field and deal with animals on a regular basis. I understand the nature of animals.”
The Hiatt attack
Bubba, the pit bull who mauled Bryden, and his owner Clifford Gardner, who brought the pit bull to be groomed, also had history.
On September 5, 2017, according to Cape Cod Times reporter Cynthia McCormick, summarizing accounts from multiple witnesses including Elizabeth Hiatt and one of her daughters, Brittany Korsh, “Hiatt was walking Bubba on a leash as a favor to the dog’s owners, Clifford Gardner, 80, and his wife, Edith, who Hiatt said are friends of hers from church and are in frail health. She had walked Bubba daily for a few weeks, and was accompanied by her daughter, her granddaughter in a stroller, and a friend from out of town.”
When Bubba saw neighbor Wayne Cobb “walking his dog Klondike on the other side of the street, he broke free of his collar and lunged for the 13-year-old Samoyed,” McCormick wrote.
Klondike was knocked down and bitten, but Cobb managed to free him, whereupon Bubba redirected to maul Hiatt.
“Bubba fastened on her left hand,” also injuring Hiatt’s right arm and inflicting facial injuries, McCormick continued. “X-rays at Boston Medical Center, where she spent three days, showed her bones were pocked with bite marks and the long bones in her forearm were both fractured.”
While Korsh “tried to call Bubba off her mother and then resorted to pulling his leash and kicking him, a good Samaritan drove up and put Korsh’s baby and stroller in her car,” McCormick narrated. “The attack ended only when Clifford Gardner, alerted by Hiatt’s friend, came up and threw his body over Bubba, Korsh said.”
“Only the dog’s first offense”
Affirmed Hiatt’s other daughter, Regan Elizabeth Sherman, on October 12, 2017 via Facebook, “Her injuries are severe, including two broken bones and more than 100 stitches across her hands, arms and face. Her physical recovery will take months of physical and occupational therapy. The mental and emotional scars from the attack will be with her (and our family) forever.”
Sherman wrote, she explained, to alert friends and neighbors that Bubba had been returned to Clifford and Edith Gardner, despite the severity of Hiatt’s injuries and even though “their fragility and poor health is the reason my Mom was walking the dog in the first place. As a favor. Because that’s just who she is.
“We were told by the Sandwich animal control officer [apparently deputy animal control officer Walter T. Fagnant Jr.] that this attack was ‘only the dog’s first offense,’” Sherman recounted. “As of today, the dog remains on a busy street in a neighborhood full of kids (19 under the age of 13 on the same street, according to a neighbor’s count).”
“Bubba was tested for aggression”
Testifying before an October 25, 2017 hearing as to whether Bubba should be declared a dangerous dog, at least two other neighbors described Bubba charging them, another dog, and a grandchild in separate incidents that they had not previously reported.
“Gardner was given the chance to defend Bubba, who he said was adopted in May 2016,” wrote Cape News reporter Katie Goers. “He said Bubba was tested for aggression before the Hiatts were allowed to bring him home, and that he passed the test with flying colors.”
Giving Bubba a controversial one last chance, Sandwich police chief Peter Wack ordered that he be “humanely muzzled and securely leashed at all times whenever outside and off of the owner or keeper’s property.
“On the owner or keeper’s property,” Wack added, “Bubba must be securely confined indoors or confined outdoors in a securely enclosed and locked pen or dog run area upon the premises. Bubba is not to be walked within the Deep Wood Drive neighborhood,” where the Gardners, Hiatt, and other testifying neighbors all live.
96% favor criminal charges
As Bubba’s history became known, Cape Cod Today editor Robert Fellows posted a poll “on whether or not the owner of the pit bull should face criminal charges,” for having “violated the order about keeping the dog muzzled and leashed at all times while outside/off property. Owner recklessly endangered the store staff by failing to disclose the dog had attacked a person and was ruled ‘dangerous,’” Fellows told ANIMALS 24-7.
Eight hours after the poll was posted, 96% of the respondents agreed that Clifford Gardner should be criminally prosecuted, not just be held liable in a civil lawsuit.
Observed McCormick of the Cape Cod Times, “Since December 2016 there have been at least three other cases in which Cape women were badly injured by dogs.
Details from public records requests
“On March 12, 2017, Ramona Bouvier, 61, of Barnstable was airlifted to Rhode Island Hospital with an arterial aneurysm and arterial hemorrhage, after being bitten on her right forearm and left lower leg by her son’s American bulldog Thor,” McCormick enumerated. “The dog was surrendered to Barnstable officials and euthanized.
“On February 23, 2017, a Yarmouth woman lost part of her finger trying to break up a fight over a toy between two pit bulls, according to Richard Nelson, Yarmouth animal control officer. Nelson said the bite appeared to be accidental.
“On December 10, 2017, a woman in Marstons Mills was taken by the Centerville-Osterville-Marstons Mills Fire Department to a Plymouth hospital for a MedFlight to Boston after her boyfriend’s 9-year-old American bulldog ripped her lip down to the chin. The dog was euthanized on December 12, 2017.”
Added McCormick, “The information on the two Barnstable cases,” not previously reported by media, “comes from Barnstable police and marine and environmental affairs division reports released after a Cape Cod Times public records request.
Mauling by “rescue” dog Drewski
“The last serious dog attack in Sandwich to be reported in the press occurred on April 5, 2014,” McCormick finished, “when a male pit bull-boxer mix named Drewski ripped the lower lip of a visiting woman off down to the jawline. The dog’s owner surrendered him to animal control, which returned him to the Worcester Animal Rescue League. The league’s executive director, Allie Tellier, said Drewski has been adopted out once again.”
While Tellier said the re-adoption was successful, the name Drewski is unusual, and a pit bull of that name was offered for adoption by New York City Animal Care & Control in April 2017 as a purported “found stray.”
Mary Ann Craig says
Pit bull roulette, played expert level by the shelters and dog rescues and dog rehabs of the USA, is an exceedingly dangerous game for the public who expects BETTER from these people.
Jamaka Petzak says
Sharing to social media with gratitude, with sorrow for the victims, and with frustration and RAGE against those who continue to allow this to occur. BSL everywhere, with NO exceptions!
I wanted to leave a comment about how BSL is incredibly dangerous to innocent dogs.
Merritt Clifton says
Effective breed-specific legislation prevents the births of pit bulls, who killed a minimum of 8,500 other dogs, 2,000 cats, and about 6,400 other innocent animals in 2016. The 2017 toll is yet to be reckoned from the raw data we have been collecting all year, but appears certain to be substantially higher. Effective breed-specific legislation also ensures that approximately a million “surplus” pit bulls are not bred each year only to be surrendered to animal shelters or impounded for dangerous behavior at an average age of 18 months. Inasmuch as EVERY breed-specific law ever adopted in either the U.S. or Canada has included a “grandfather” clause permitting people who already have licensed, vaccinated pit bulls and keep them safely to continue to keep them, it is incumbent upon anyone who claims BSL is dangerous to any dog to explain exactly how, providing actual data. Incidentally, the actual data from jurisdictions which have rigorously enforced BSL over the past 30 years (including Denver, San Francisco, and the entire province of Ontario) shows markedly lower impoundments and euthanasias of pit bulls than jurisdictions without BSL. Conversely, some of the jurisdictions whose animal control directors are among the most outspoken pit bull advocates also lead the world in pit bulls impounded & killed.
Melissa Bryner-Mark says
If we can’t count on Breed Specific Legislation, then people need to start going after owners and the rescues that the dogs came from. So many are rehomed and the paper work of past attacks doesn’t follow them. Do-gooders pull pits from kill lists at animal shelters and pass them onto unsuspecting people. It’s like someone handing you a grenade with the pin already pulled.
Branwyn Finch says
Several years ago, a family member of mine adopted a small dog from Worcester Animal Rescue League. She was told the dog had been “temperament tested” and “didn’t have a mean bone in his body” . Within 48 hours of bringing him home, the dog launched a bizarre, totally unprovoked attack, inflicting deep puncture wounds to her hand requiring a trip to the ER. Doctors there expressed concern that the wounds were not the result of a defensive bite, but were intended to do serious damage, and that the dog was not safe to keep in the home. She returned the dog to WARL the following day.
A few months later, she saw the dog that had attacked her on a rescue group website, with no mention of his bite history. WARL had simply passed the dog off to someone else.
The dog had previously been adopted out and returned to WARL before she adopted him, she suspects that the shelter staff lied to her about why.
“No apparent reason & without warning” does not exist in a dogs world. There is ALWAYS a reason and always a warning. Failure on the humans part to see both and do what was needed started a long time ago with this dog.
Merritt Clifton says
In truth, pit bulls have been bred for centuries to attack without hesitation or warning, because the fighting dog who hesitates at the scratch line to give any warnings is soon dead, and does not pass along any genes. The rapid acceleration of a pit bull from apparent repose to all-out attack is among the qualities of “gameness” most sought by pit bull breeders, as evidenced by more than two centuries of written testimony from “dogmen.” For example, wrote Lieutenant Colonel Charles Hamiliton Smith in The Natural History of Dogs, published in 1839-1840 by W.H. Lizars of Edinburgh, Scotland, “The bull-dog differs from all others, even from the mastiff, in giving no warning of his attack by his barking. He grapples his opponents without in the least estimating their comparative weight and powers. The bull-dog is possessed of less sagacity and less attachment than any of the hound tribe; he is therefore less favored, and more rarely bred with care, excepting by professed amateurs of sports and feelings little commendable to humanity. He never leaves his hold, when once he has got it, while life lasts.”
These dogs all pictured…. are not pit bulls.
Pit bulls are not large, wide, nor blue color.
They are medium sized, lean and athletic.
Please stop calling mix breed mutts pit bulls.
Merritt Clifton says
The above comment is from an English bulldog breeder, and exhibits the fallacy of trying to define a dog breed by show dog standards. To wit, a breed standard is a purported ideal, not the actual norm for the type of dog. The breed standard for a human being might also be “medium-sized, lean and athletic,” but reality is that more than half the human population are significantly taller, shorter, fatter, leaner, etc. than the norm.
Kyra Knox says
A Perfect Storm of Misjudgments – an erroneous description, in my opinion.
First, the fact the Sienna Bryden is/was an advocate for pit bulls (her own and/or all of them) is not a “misjudgment”. It is her opinion and her right. It also has no role in her being attacked. To include this as one of the “misjudgments” made which resulted in her attack is passively putting some of the blame on the victim.
Second, the fact that Clifford Gardner lied about Bubba’s history is also not a misjudgment. It was reckless, deceptive, negligent, and INTENTIONAL. He knew the risk, but chose to take it at the expense of Sienna Bryden. He was also required to have him muzzled in public areas. When he removed it, he was again being deceptive and showing he had no regard for the risks. Also, from some of the other information presented, he himself had difficulty controlling the dog. But, he placed other peoples’ lives in danger to keep this dog that had a violent history, has been known to lunge at others, and likely couldn’t control the dog himself. All of these actions are not “misjudgments”.
Third, the Sandwich Police went beyond making a simple misjudgment. To say that the attack on Elizabeth Hiatt was a “first offense” is like saying that someone who beats someone almost to death is a “first offense” so that person should be set free to allow them a second chance. That dog bit down to the bone on Elizabeth Hiatt, and broke some of those bones – not a simple crime, but a serious one, and one that should have resulted in him being euthanized.
It is common knowledge among animal owners, vets, trainers, groomers, breeders, etc that if a dog bites once, it will do it again. And, what was the thinking behind the second chance? Oh, he didn’t kill her so we won’t put him down until he does kill someone?
I am not a huge defender of PetSmart. But, it is also important to make it clear that while the PetSmart groomers will request that an owner remove a muzzle before grooming a dog that they will only do so if the muzzle is NOT on the dog to prevent an attack on a person. If the muzzle is on the dog for that reason, PetSmart will not only NOT ask for the muzzle to be removed, but they will also not accept the dog. However, again, the owner LIED.
Honestly, I am not here to get in on the debate about pit bulls. My contention is that the owner is wholly responsible. He brought a violent dog, one that will go after other animals and people, into a public place; he removed the muzzle from the dog in a direct violation of the agreement with the police; he knowingly and intentionally lied to the PetSmart employee; and, he took all these risks without regard to the safety of others.
What bothers me is beginning the story with the statement that this attack happened because of “misjudgments” which includes the victim’s known advocacy for the breed, and implies that the intentional deception and disregard for safety and the law by the owner is a simple misjudgment.
Merritt Clifton says
“Misjudgment” is a qualitative, not quantitative description. Some misjudgments are of greater consequence than others, but this does not make them any more, or less, errors in assessment of a situation. If a person chooses to trust and advocate for pit bulls, who have been bred for centuries to attack without warning or relent, that is a misjudgment regardless of whether that person is a groomer or an owner. If a person chooses to believe that there is such a thing as a pit bull who is “dog-aggressive” but not “human aggressive,” against the weight of history demonstrating that this is a myth of recent manufacture, and that therefore a dog-aggressive pit bull may be unmuzzled, in a place moreover where many other dogs may be coming and going, that is also a misjudgment. To believe one might be able to get away with disobeying a court order is yet another misjudgment, as was failing to recognize how dangerous Bubba could be after his first attack. To what extent each misjudgment in the long string of misjudgments pertaining to Bubba contributed to his second disfiguring attack in only four months may become a matter for a judge and jury to laboriously sort out, action by action. Nonetheless, take away any one of the misjudgments that helped to set up the situation leading to the second attack and, very likely, the outcome would have been significantly different.
Alfredo Alvarenga says
I was at the 10/17 hearing in Sandwich, Massachusetts, about Elizabeth Hiatt being mauled by a pit bull (which later mauled Sienna Bryden at PetSmart in Hyannis,, Barnstable. My oldest son was a classmate of Brittany, Elizabeth Hiatt’s daughter who saved her mother’s life. After giving it a lot of consideration I have concluded that BSL is the most effective way to go about preventing pit bull attacks.