National SPCA and U.S. counterparts continue pushing pits, heedless of consequence
PRETORIA––Has South Africa learned anything, the National SPCA of South Africa in particular, from the stern warning issued by the Pit Bull Federation of South Africa in November 2017 about rehoming pit bulls of dangerous history?
Apparently not. Retired police officer Henry Kleynhans, 50, was fatally mauled on February 8, 2018, and his wife Rita was critically injured, by their own pit bull in their home at Belmont Park, Kraaifontein, near Cape Town.
Kleynhans was killed less than a week after a 76-year-old woman was fatally mauled inside her home in Middelburg, Mpumalanga. Neither the name of the victim nor the breed of the dog were disclosed by law enforcement, but odds are excellent that the dog was a pit bull, as were 50 of the 66 dogs involved in documented fatal attacks in South Africa since 2004.
National SPCA poster campaign
The fatal attacks in Belmont Park and Middelburg coincided with a National SPCA of South Africa poster campaign featuring a pit bull.
The campaign also coincided with the NSPCA on February 5, 2018 at last winning 17 convictions of dogfighters in Tsakane, a Johannesburg suburb, in a case pending since November 2013.
But the National SPCA publicity celebrating the convictions, and soliciting donations to commemorate it, neglected to mention that if a strict prohibition of breeding, selling, or otherwise transferring pit bulls were to be enacted and enforced, there would soon be no dogfighting, since no other breed type has ever succeeded in the fighting pits.
By opposing breed-specific legislation, while striving to popularize pit bulls in hopes of boosting adoptions, the National SPCA––like hundreds of other human societies around the world––is in effect running interference for the dogfighting industry and making itself complicit in fatal attacks.
Other breeds represented in fatal dog attacks in South Africa have included four German shepherds, four Rottweilers, two boerboels, a Labrador retriever, and five dogs of unknown ancestry. At least one of the dogs, the boerboel who killed schoolteacher Rita Boschoff near Estcourt in 2005, also mauling her husband and fellow teacher Neels Boschoff, had been rehomed by the National SPCA.
The documented total of fatal South African dog attacks is believed to be low, due to underreporting from rural areas and the shantytowns scattered around the edges of most South African cities.
Higher pit bull fatality rate than even U.S.
Nonetheless, South Africa, a nation of less than a fifth the human population of the U.S., has now had 16 documented fatal pit bull attacks in 24 months, compared to six by all other dogs combined.
Over the same 24 months, the U.S.––the only other nation in which documented dog attack fatalities occur comparably often––has had 71 fatal pit bull attacks, with 11 deaths inflicted by other breeds.
Translated, the numbers mean a South African is about a third more likely to be killed by a dog than an American, and somewhat more likely to be killed by a pit bull, even though pit bulls have inflicted 87% of the fatal attacks on Americans.
The Pit Bull Federation of South Africa, a self-described “breed-specific show organization” whose declared “main goal is always to portray the American Pit Bull Terrier in a positive light,” took note of the realities––and not for the first time––after the November 1, 2017 fatal mauling of six-month-old Callum Stols in his car seat in Johannesburg by a previously trusted family pet.
“Temperament is over 60% inherited”
“Temperament is over 60% inherited and you cannot remove a dog’s genetics,” the Pit Bull Federation of South Africa emphasized, opining that “A human aggressive dog should be euthanized. They should not be sold, or re-homed, or given away. If you are knowingly breeding with dogs who have human aggression issues and selling them, you have blood on your hands. If you are buying dogs who are known man biters you are complicit in the death or mauling of innocent people.
“We stay firm in our belief that should a dog kill a human being, the owner should be charged with culpable homicide,” the Pit Bull Federation of South Africa added, with especially harsh words for rescuers who rehome dogs, especially pit bulls, who have already demonstrated a proclivity toward violence.
Pending court cases
The National SPCA of South Africa is scarcely unique in disregarding the Pit Bull Federation of South Africa warnings, and many other warnings from the medical community, law enforcement, victims of fatal and disfiguring pit bull attacks, and people who have lost pets and livestock to pit bulls.
Pending court cases in multiple U.S. jurisdictions seek to establish a much higher degree of accountability among rehomers for the safe behavior of the dogs they place in homes.
In Virginia Beach, Virginia, the trial of Forever Home Rescue & Rehabilitation Center cofounder Jamie Cochran on 10 misdemeanor counts of illegally importing animals was on February 5, 2018 rescheduled for March 15.
“Numerous previous charges”
“Court records reveal Cochran has faced numerous previous charges for her shelter, including inadequate animal care by owner, dogs running at large, and failure to provide care at a boarding or grooming facility,” reported Anthony Sabella of WTKR-TV in Norfolk, Virginia.
The current charges originate from the June 1, 2017 fatal mauling of Margaret M. Colvin, 90, at her home in Virginia Beach by a pit bull named Blue with undisclosed previous attack history in both New York City and locally.
Margaret M. Colvin’s daughter had adopted Blue from Forever Home Rescue & Rehabilitation just six hours earlier. The daughter has sued Cochran and Forever Home for $5 million in damages.
Fairfax County Animal Shelter
Also in Virginia, pit bull attack victim Barry McCabe is pursuing a civil suit against the Fairfax County Animal Shelter for rehoming the pit bull who went on to injure him in August 2016, killing his two-year-old Cavalier King Charles spaniel, Kaiser, in the same incident. The pit bull had three times previously been returned to the shelter after allegedly displaying aggressive behavior in adoptive homes, had allegedly been renamed several times, and had allegedly been described in adoption promotional materials as a variety of other breed types.
“For the record,” McCabe posted to Facebook, “the entire uninsured cost in this attack is about $246,000 to date. This includes six epidurals at $2,000 each, shoulder surgery costing $80,000, seven MRI scans, and going to physical therapy and a chiropractor a few times each week. To date, I’ve paid about $22,000 out-of-pocket. This doesn’t include lost wages or other miscellaneous items.”
McCabe and Kaiser were attacked just as WUSA-9 reporter Andrea McCarren was preparing an exposé of other incidents in which pit bulls rehomed by the Fairfax County Animal Shelter injured people, and five incidents in which shelter staff were injured by pit bulls who “were either on the adoption floor, or getting prepared to go there,” McCarren told viewers.
Resigning shortly before the multi-part WUSA-9 exposé aired, then-Fairfax County Animal Shelter director Kristen Auerbach had on February 18, 2016 published an article on the web site of the pro-pit bull Animal Farm Foundation arguing that animal shelters should withhold information about potentially dangerous dogs from prospective adopters until after they become seriously interested in a dog.
Boasting on her resumé of having “helped overturn pit bull adoption restrictions,” Auerbach went on to become deputy chief animal services officer at the Austin Animal Center, in Austin, Texas, where her “playgroups” led to repeated maulings of other dogs by impounded pit bulls, and a 35% rise in dog attacks in the community since 2011 appeared to accelerate.
Auerbach in September 2017 moved on to become adoption coordinator at the Pima Animal Care Center in Tucson, where identifying dogs by breed was stopped just before her arrival.
Clinton Humane Society
In Clinton, Iowa, a ruling is pending on a motion for summary judgement by the Clinton Humane Society against a civil suit brought on behalf of pit bull attack victim Tyler Harrison and his mother, Holly Harrison.
The Clinton Humane Society on March 15, 2017 rehomed a pit bull named Emmet to Clinton resident Ashley Greene and family, who were told Emmet was a boxer mix. Greene and family took Emmett to the Harrison home for a visit, where Emmet crushed then-14-month-old Tyler Harrison’s face.
The Clinton Humane Society contends, summarized John Rohlf of the Clinton Herald, that “because the Clinton Humane Society was not an owner, possessor or harborer, and because the Clinton Humane Society had no control over the premises where the bite occurred, the Harrisons’ tort theory fails. The motion also states the Clinton Humane Society made no express warranty that the dog was child-friendly,” though adopted to a home with children, “and that because the written adoption contract disclaims any potential warranty as to behavior and temperament, the motion alleges the Harrisons’ contract theory fails.”
Responded attorney John Frey on behalf of the Harrisons, “The Greenes would not have purchased the dog if they knew it was a pit bull. Additionally, Holly Harrison would not have allowed a pit bull in her house.”
Stamford Animal Shelter
In Connecticut, Stamford/Norwalk District Superior Court Judge Gary White on January 31, 2018 admitted former Stamford Animal Shelter manager Laurie Hollywood, 46, to an accelerated rehabilitation program and allowed her to serve only one day in the program before walking free with no criminal record.
Summarized John Nickerson of the Stamford Advocate, “Hollywood was charged in 2014 with three reckless endangerment charges after police found she downplayed or failed to disclose the biting history of three dogs adopted from the city’s shelter who went on to bite again.”
The charges were reduced, however, when one alleged victim refused to testify and evidentiary problems developed pertaining to another alleged victim.
Meanwhile, the city of Stamford in March 2016 paid $290,000 to Matthew Lazarus, 31, who was mauled by a Rottweiler at the Stamford shelter in 2012, during Hollywood’s nine-year tenure, which ended when she was fired in June 2014.
Edmonton Humane Society
Similar cases may be going to court in Canada soon.
The nine-year-old daughter of Edmonton resident Brett Powlesland, for instance, on February 4, 2018 suffered multiple severe bites on the Edmonton Humane Society adoption floor from a large dog of unidentified breed.
A file on the dog including vaccination history also “explained that he has issues with aggression, that he has fought other dogs,” Powlesland told CBC reporter Anna McMillan.
The Edmonton Humane Society reclassified the dog unadoptable, spokesperson Jaime Caza told McMillan.