Four-year-old nearly lost eye to pit bull rehomed by the Humane Society of Catawba County
LENOIR, North Carolina––Responding to a week of intensive pit bull adoption promotion by the Humane Society of Catawba County, mother of two toddlers Justina Danielle Turner on April 28, 2018 visited the Catawba County Animal Services shelter in Newton, North Carolina, managed by the humane society since September 2017.
The family took home Blackjack, a 60-pound pit with bite scars on his neck, whose adoption promotion had been sponsored by Hendrick Honda, of nearby Hickory, North Carolina. Blackjack had been at the Newton shelter for two months.
Fought another dog over a toy
Explaining the scars, “Humane society representatives mentioned that the dog had gotten into a fight with another dog over a toy,” Turner told Kevin Griffin of The Hickory Record.
Before the pit bull proliferation of the early 21st century, dogs who fought over toys were rarely offered for adoption, especially to homes with small children. Dogs who injured other dogs over trivial matters tended to be regarded as liability risks.
But like many other millennials in the age of pit bull advocacy and of shelters trying to achieve or maintain “no kill” status at any cost, Turner appears to have accepted dogs injuring dogs as normal behavior.
Except among pit bulls, however, it isn’t.
(See The 100 Silliest Things People Say About Dogs, by Alexandra Semyonova.)
“Didn’t tell us much about the dog”
Wrote Griffin, “The family decided on the dog because of how well the animal interacted with the children, Turner said.”
Elaborated Turner to Dave Faherty of WSOC-9, “They really didn’t tell us much about the dog. They just told us to pick out a dog and to take it to the play yard to play with it. The dog seemed kid-friendly.”
Four days later, on May 2, 2018, Turner “said she was lying on the couch in the family’s living room at their home at about 5 p.m. with Blackjack,” wrote NewsTopic courts and crime reporter Kara Fohner, while her daughter,” Jazmine Victoria Turner, age 4, “played on the floor. Jazmine then began petting Blackjack.”
Child “might have touched the toy”
Picked up Griffin, Jazmine “was petting the dog while it was lying in Turner’s lap, playing with a toy, Turner said. At some point Jazmine might have touched the toy, angering the dog, Turner said. The dog bit Jazmine, injuring her in the space below her eye, on her eyelid and chin.”
Fortunately Jazmine did not suffer an actual eye injury, just a disfiguring bite, inflicting scars that will likely fade over the coming years.
“The family gave the dog to Caldwell County Animal Control,” Griffin finished. “Caldwell County Animal Control Director Jenna Mullinax said the dog will be quarantined for 10 days. The dog will be evaluated following the quarantine. Given the dog’s history, it will likely be euthanized, Mullinax said.”
The Humane Society of Catawba County posted nothing about the attack to social media. Perhaps on advice of legal counsel, Humane Society of Catawba County also said little about it to news media, except that “Humane society officials said an adopted dog can act differently once it’s in a home and around children,” reported Faherty.
“The humane society handles all adoptions in Catawba County from the intake to temperament screening prior to adoption,” Faherty noted. The Catawba County Humane Society adopts more than 1,000 dogs each year and has not had an issue like this.”
Numbers in context
But is that really impressive?
If one dog in 1,000 inflicted a disfiguring bite each year, reported to news media, the U.S. would have as many as 8,950 reported dog attack disfigurements per year, instead of just over 1,000 (1,034 in 2017.)
That is not the only eye-popping number emerging from the Catawba County dog attack statistics.
“In 2017,” wrote Hickory Daily Record crime reporter Max Seng, “6,244 reports of dog bites were filed by mail carriers across the country, according to U.S. Postal Service statistics. Within Catawba County, there were 67 reported dog bites of mail carriers, according to Catawba County Chief Animal Control Officer Jenna Arsenault.”
Catawba County mail carriers, in other words, serving just 155,000 of the 325.7 U.S. human residents, suffered dog bites at 22.5 times the national rate.
Catawba County has also relatively recently experienced other very serious dog attacks on small children. On February 22, 2015, for instance, a six-year-old was Lifeflighted from Newton to the Carolinas Medical Center in Charlotte, after he and his 10-year-old brother were mauled by two Rottweilers.
Yet, though it holds the Catawba County animal control sheltering contract, the Humane Society of Catawba County web site and Facebook pages say little about promoting public safety beyond encouraging rabies vaccinations.
The organization originated in 1971 as the Western Piedmont Humane Society, “run solely by volunteers for nearly three decades,” the web site says. “Animals were housed in foster homes, and the volunteers adopted out the homeless animals without vaccinating, spaying or neutering them. Their only purpose was to place abandoned animals into new homes. At that time the organization served four counties. Over the years, the other three counties formed individual humane organizations to serve their own communities.”
Renaming itself the Humane Society of Catawba County in 1998, the organization began sterilizing the animals it offered in 2000, via the Humane Alliance in Asheville, 77 miles away by Interstate 40. An admittedly “extremely sub-par” shelter opened in 2001, replaced by the $3 million Pat Anderson Center for Animal Adoption & Humane Education in 2007. The construction loan was paid off in March 2018.
Current Humane Society of Catawba County executive director Jane Bowers arrived in 2010.
She is not to be confused with dog trainer and pit bull advocate Jane Bowers, who heads Dogs of Distinction in Roberts, British Columbia, Canada, and has written non-sequiturs such as that “A couple in Fort St. John, B.C., experienced a serious attack by two dogs. The dogs were widely reported to be pit bulls, but it was later determined the dogs were American bull dogs.”
“American bulldog,” or just “bulldog,” was in truth the most common name for the dogs now called pit bulls from the mid-19th century until the mid-20th century and has never lapsed from common use.
(See Christmas baby killed by pit bulls because Miami-Dade law is not enforced.)
Disregard of risk
But Jane Bowers the executive director of the Humane Society of Catawba County appears to operate in comparable disregard of the risks posed by pit bulls.
Bowers could scarcely be unaware, for example, that the Asheville Humane Society in June 2015 rehomed a pit bull who killed six-year-old Joshua Strother just a few weeks later.
Pit bulls and Rottweilers from other North Carolina shelters and rescues have seriously injured at least six other people since then.
Altogether, 107 shelters and rescues have rehomed dogs who killed or disfigured someone since Joshua Strother’s death. Of the dogs involved, 92 (86%) were pit bulls. Five of the eight fatal attacks by shelter dogs since Strother’s death––more than were inflicted by shelter dogs in the entire time span from 1858 to 2007––were inflicted by pit bulls.
Pushed pit bull adoptions
Nonetheless, the Humane Society of Catawba County throughout the week of April 23-28, 2018 pushed pit bull adoptions without an evident word of warning.
On April 26, 2018, for example, the Humane Society of Catawba County posted to Facebook, “To wrap up Woofstock, our groovy adopt-a-thon for pitties, we want to offer you a very special deal. This Friday and Saturday pit bulls and pittie mixes 6+ months in age,” Blackjack among them, “have a $19.69 adoption fee.”
“Share your sweetest pittie pictures”
On April 27, 2018 at 11:30 a.m., the Humane Society of Catawba County posted a “SHARE your sweetest pittie pictures!” meme showing a young woman of perhaps 125 pounds in weight working at a stove while holding with one arm a 50-odd-pound pit bull, whose head was as big as hers.
That might have posed a high risk of a back injury, if nothing worse.
Two hours and fifteen minutes later, at 1:45 p.m. on April 27, 2018, the Humane Society of Catawba County shared a video of a baby, barely old enough to crawl, playing on a blanket with a pit bull. The video, taken from The Dodo, had previously been posted by the advocacy organization Pittie Nation.
Commented the Humane Society of Catawba County, “This story of a boy and his pit bull nanny is the best.”
Admitted the pit bull advocacy organization BAD RAP in a Facebook post on May 20, 2013, “Did you know that there was never such thing as a ‘Nanny’s Dog’? This term was a recent invention created to describe the myriad of vintage photos of children enjoying their family pit bulls.”
The oft-claimed notion that pit bulls were ever a “nanny dog” was first propounded by pit bull breeder and advocate Lilian Rant in a 1971 interview with New York Times writer Walter R. Fletcher.
Source of the myth
Before Rant, who also used the term “nursemaid dog,” the only published reference to pit bulls as either “nannies” or “nursemaids” came in a 1922 work of fiction, Pep: The Story of A Brave Dog, by Clarence Hawkes, a blind man who wrote by dictating his stories, had never seen a pit bull, and, though able to spin a gripping yarn, routinely muddled his facts.
This work of fiction also appears to be the point of origin of many of the other popular myths about the history of pit bulls.
(See über source of pit bull myths: Pep, The Story Of A Brave Dog.)
John P. Colby
But as BAD RAP mentioned, some dogfighters did photograph their pit bulls with their children, to help advertise the sale of their cull dogs as pets. Perhaps the most notorious was John P. Colby, of Newburyport, Massachusetts, who produced his first pit bull litter in 1889, and went on, with his wife, to form the Staffordshire Club of America in 1936.
The Boston Globe on December 29, 1906 reported that police shot one of Colby’s pit bulls, who mauled a boy while a girl escaped.
On February 2, 1909 the Globe described how one of Colby’s dogs killed Colby’s two-year-old nephew, Bert Colby Leadbetter.
What if the humane society had posted the truth?
Had the Humane Society of Catawba County posted the reality of the “nanny dog” myth, Justina Turner might never have adopted Blackjack, and Jazmine Turner might never have been injured.
Had the Humane Society of Catawba County––and the rest of the U.S. sheltering community––embraced breed-specific legislation to stop pit bull proliferation, Blackjack and most of the other pit bulls now filling shelters more than likely would never have been born.
In the here-and-now, failing to place pit bulls might jeopardize the Humane Society of Catawba County status as a “no kill” shelter with a claimed 95% “save rate.”
Different treatment of cats
Yet those seem not to have been considerations in November 2014, when the Humane Society of Catawba County participated in euthanizing 87 cats to stop the spread of panleukemia through the the Catawba County Animal Shelter, after two cats were found dead.
Then, according to Humane Society of Catawba County media statements, the precautionary principle prevailed.
But that may have changed.
When news of the pit bull attack on Jazmine Turner broke, the Humane Society of Catawba County was already taking heat from FOX 46 WJZY for allegedly rehoming an eight-year-old Chihuahua from the Newton shelter to adopter Tamara Williams on March 28, 2018 without disclosing that the Chihuahua was suffering serious health issues.
Lump on neck
Narrated FOX 46 reporter Amber Roberts, “Shelter workers told Williams that Elijah had heartworms and needed to be neutered.
“When Williams took him home, he also had a cone around his neck from the procedures. Williams said that evening she took the cone off.
“He had a little lump on his neck,” recounted Williams.
Surgery could cost thousands
“Concerned about the lump,” Roberts continued, “Williams took Elijah to the doctor where a veterinarian told her the lump was linked to a blocked salivary gland, which can impact the dog’s eating and breathing. Williams said the doctor recommended surgery. A specialist also told her that the dog had back leg issues that could potentially need surgery.
“Williams went back to the shelter,” Roberts said. “They returned the $200 she paid for the adoption, but the recommended surgery will cost in the thousands and so would the potential surgery.”
Williams and Bowers, as of May 1, 2018, were reportedly discussing a resolution to her complaint.
Tanya Tuell says
I discussed this with someone a few weeks ago. Here’s my question: why is achieving no kill so important to a shelter? To avoid public criticism for euthanising animals? To obtain money/grants offered by national groups and foundations to no kill only shelters? Is it the only acceptable option for very tender-hearted well-meaning people who are horrified by the thought of euthanising cats and dogs?