Two fatal dog attacks on the last weekend of 2018 campaign maintain pace toward matching 2017 record
WINDSOR TOWNSHIP, Pennsylvania––Details of the 34th and 35th known fatal dog attacks to occur in the U.S. in 2018 remained scarce as Election Day 2018 dawned.
The two fatalities matched the toll as of the same date in 2017, when the year ended with a record 57 Americans killed by dogs, 40 of them killed by pit bulls and pit mixes.
But nothing about dog attacks was on 2018 ballots
But nothing pertaining to dog attacks was on the 2018 ballot anywhere.
Amid the noisy cultural conflicts characterizing the national clash between Congressional and gubernatorial Republican allies of U.S. president Donald Trump and their Democratic challengers, any discussion of preventing dog attacks, especially pit bull attacks, was conspicuously muted.
No candidate, even for state and local offices, appeared to say anything at all about protecting Americans from dangerous dogs.
Identities of toddler victim & dog withheld
The identities of Nora Sharp, the 19-month-old female victim of the 35th fatal dog attack, and of the dog who killed her in suburban Windsor Township, Pennsylvania, were withheld for more than a day, York County coroner Pam Gay told media, because all immediate family members had not yet been notified of the attack.
The attack occurred at about 10:15 p.m. on the night of November 4, 2018. Sharp was identified after an Election Day morning autopsy.
York Area Regional Police Chief Tim Damon said “The dog was euthanized after the attack. He said he had been told what breed the dog is, but had yet to confirm it,” wrote York Daily Record police reporter Ted Czech.
Later reports called the dog a “mixed breed,” a term frequently used as code for “pit bull mix.” Photographs of the dog have not been published.
“The chief added that there was one parent home at the time of the attack,” Czech continued, “and that when police and medical personnel arrived, the dog and child were separated.”
Children’s TV show connection?
The fatal dog attack on the toddler occurred, ANIMALS 24-7 learned, four houses away from the home of a member of the cast of the long-running children’s television series Pete McTee’s Clubhouse.
WPMT-TV in York, Pennsylvania aired 404 episodes of Pete McTee’s Clubhouse between September 1990 and mid-2014.
Pete McTee’s Clubhouse featured guest appearances by a cat-chasing basset hound. But no person or animal involved with Pete McTee’s Clubhouse appears to have had any involvement in the dog attack fatality.
Pit bull’s third attack on owner killed her
The death of the 19-month-old girl came to light only four hours after David Nichols of LEX-18 television in Lexington, Kentucky disclosed the November 2, 2018 pit bull mauling death of April Collins, 45, of Winchester, Clark County, Tennessee.
“Clark County Sheriff Berl Perdue Jr. said Collins was found by her husband Thursday evening when he got home around 6:30 p.m.,” filled in Winchester Sun reporter Fred Petke.
“Perdue said Collins reported being bitten by the dog on September 29, 2018,” Petke wrote, “and was treated at Clark Regional Medical Center for facial wounds. The dog bit her again on October 31 [Halloween], Perdue said, but that incident was not reported.”
Husband also injured
Collins’ husband was also injured in the Halloween attack.
The fatal attack “left Collins with multiple injuries to her arm, shoulder, face and neck,” Petke continued. “Perdue said she had older wounds on her legs. Perdue said the Collinses got the dog in July 2017 when it was about nine weeks old.
“There was a second pit bull in the home, he said, but it was not involved in the attack. At this point, the dog’s fate has not been determined.”
ANIMALS 24-7 is also seeking further particulars about Collins’ death, including the name of her husband and where the family obtained the pit bull who killed her. The search is complicated because there are more than 400 people named April Collins in the U.S., many of them with associations with Kentucky and/or pit bulls and/or somewhat resembling the one published photograph known to depict the victim.
Why were dog attacks not on the 2018 ballot?
Considerably easier to identify are the reasons why dog attacks, and in particular, pit bull attacks, are not a November 2018 election issue.
Many other matters pertaining to crime and public safety are election issues, with Republicans and Democrats having drawn clear partisan lines, but legislative responses to dog attacks, like most other animal issues, cut diagonally across partisan lines.
Legislative responses to most animal issues, however, tend to build around a public consensus.
Hardly anyone favors cruelty to animals, for instance, when it is recognized as such. Legislation addressing animal issues tends to be introduced when the majority of voters in the reasonable center agree that a particular practice is cruel and needs to be stopped or changed. Therefore animal advocacy campaigns have, throughout the history of humane legislation, focused upon educating the public about cruel practices.
Practically every major item of humane legislation, especially at the federal level, has been introduced with strong bipartisan support. By the time significant humane legislation reaches the floor of either the House of Representatives or the Senate, even the industries that are to be regulated tend to be in agreement that regulation is needed, if not necessarily to the extent proposed.
Almost no one but the self-marginalized most extreme of the extreme tries to persuade legislators to do nothing.
Major humane organizations take the wrong side
Most animal issues, however, are pushed to public awareness by strong national humane organizations, with multi-million-dollar-per-year fundraising ability and long histories of building name recognition and public trust: for example, the Humane Society of the U.S., the American SPCA, the Best Friends Animal /Society, Maddie’s Fund, and even the venerable but enfeebled American Humane Association.
These are, unfortunately for dog attack victims, the very organizations which are most invested in trying to rehome the 41% of the U.S. pit bull population currently flooding animal shelters, shelterless rescues, and sanctuaries. Focal to their argument is denying the reality that pit bulls and pit mixes, together just 5.3% of the U.S. dog population, have accounted for 58% of the 755 fatal dog attacks occurring since 1982, and 76% of the 5,572 dog attack disfigurements.
“We are the voice of the voiceless”
Dog attack victims, conversely, have only the beginnings of strong nationally recognized voices.
While people who care about animals are typically recruited into activism early in life, and cultivated as donors to animal advocacy organizations as soon as they beginning earning some money, dog attack victim advocates rarely recognize even that dog attacks are an issue until they themselves, or a family member, close friend, or beloved pet, suffer a disfiguring or deadly attack.
Then the survivors of dog attacks typically have months or years of physical and emotional recovery ahead of them. Personal resources and often the resources of family and friends are drained by the struggle to recover.
Educating the reasonable center
Those who have “only” lost animals to dog attacks are best able to become victim advocates. Pit bulls alone have killed more than 150,000 other pets and livestock animals in the U.S. since 2013, mourned by more than half a million Americans.
Thousands of those Americans have become active in victim advocacy, but this is still just a start toward educating the reasonable center of voting citizenry.
Meanwhile, dismayingly and paradoxically, the commitment of the Humane Society of the U.S., the American SPCA, the Best Friends Animal /Society, Maddie’s Fund et al to promoting pit bull adoptions by fair means or foul has deafened these organizations’ respective leadership to the suffering of the animal victims.
Political polarization favors pit bull advocacy
The general polarization of the U.S. voting constituency also contributes to politicians’ reluctance to make dog attacks a campaign issue.
Republicans, in general, tend to favor a tough punitive approach to maintaining law and order. Yet restricting dangerous dogs and punishing their owners only after fatal or disfiguring attacks on humans or other animals occur does nothing to protect humans, pets, and livestock from first known incidents, which often––especially in the case of pit bulls––do lethal or disfiguring damage.
Republicans also tend to favor private property rights above most other economic considerations. Dog attacks, especially by pit bulls, do millions of dollars of damage per year to private property; but restricting possession of pit bulls runs afoul of many of the same arguments used in opposition to gun control.
Specifically, pit bull advocates and opponents of gun control contend successfully to Republican ears that their right to possess a pit bull or an assault rifle should not be restricted just because X-number of other people’s pit bulls and assault rifles wreak havoc.
“Liberal” outlook susceptible to false claims
Democrats, in general, tend to favor a proactive approach to promoting public safety, whether by maintaining a strong “safety net” of health care, education, Social Security, and other public services, or by banning tobacco use in public places, requiring drivers to be insured, and enforcing speed limits.
Democrats at the same time are particularly susceptible to arguments putting “nurture” over “nature” as an influence on both human and animal behavior. Overlooking the cumulative effects of more than 500 years of selective breeding to produce fighting dogs, the likes of which have not even a remote analogy in human reproductive history, liberal Democrats in particular tend to be especially inclined to accept at face value such demonstrably false claims as that “It’s all in how you raise them,” “There is no such thing as a bad dog, just bad owners,” and “Breed-specific legislation is canine racism.”
Victims marginalized while racists are embraced
Marginalized by the indifference and ignorance of much of the otherwise reasonable center of public opinion about dog attacks, victim advocates are easily portrayed as aggrieved extremists by the well-funded pro-pit bull lobby.
At the same time, pit bulls remain favored accessories of the militant radical right, including the current incarnations of the Ku Klux Klan, whose forebears developed pit bulls to hunt and kill runaway slaves, and post-Emancipation ran dogfighting as a protection racket.
Pit bulls have also become favored accessories of some of the most popular “rappers” and other entertainers associated with “anti-establishment” views, who are often seen by people in the reasonable center as vaguely “left,” even when in reality those entertainers are completely politically disengaged.
Return to reasonable center should help victims
Election Day 2018 to a considerable extent represents the effort of the reasonable center, represented by moderate Democrats to throw off rule by Republican radical right extremists, whose sound and fury has all but muted what once were principled conservative voices representing a “silent majority.”
There was not much room in the 2018 election campaign for issues cutting across partisan lines.
When and if U.S. politics return to both Republicans and Democrats courting the reasonable center, however, with “wedge politics” and “identity politics” firmly rejected, perhaps we can at least see dog attacks, and reasonable breed-specific legislation that will prevent the worst attacks, rising to receive overdue political concern.