More than 70 children injured & at least five killed in U.S. schools or on way to school since 2005
SEATTLE, Washington; YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio––Two pit bulls escaped from a nearby home, ran into St. Therese Catholic Academy in Seattle on December 13, 2018, bit several students and reportedly dragged 8-year-old Doris Dickerson.
Three teachers pulled the dogs away and held them for animal control. Dickerson’s mother took her to Seattle Children’s Hospital, where she received multiple stitches. She was released that evening.
“Mama bear mode” saves children in Youngstown
The description of the incident had a déjà vu quality about it. Just one day earlier and 2,450 miles east, in Youngstown, Ohio, Youngstown City School District bus driver Ashley Triplett and aide Viola Sheeler were acclaimed for heroism after rescuing two Stambaugh Charter Academy sixth graders from a pit bull attack as they awaited a different school bus on a street corner.
Triplett, 29, saw the pit bull lunging at the sixth graders first, called Sheeler, and telephoned for police and an ambulance, while Sheeler, 37, went into “Mama bear mode,” she told Noah Daniels-Wilder of WKBN-TV, leaping off the bus to fend off the pit bull with a broom and an umbrella.
Youngstown undid pit bull ban
Youngstown banned pit bulls from 2007 to 2015, but repealed the ban in November 2015 under activist pressure. At least two disfiguring pit bull attacks on humans have occurred in Youngstown since then, while a pit bull influx has overwhelmed the Mahoning County dog pound, which serves Youngstown,
“Currently, 98% of the dogs at the Mahoning County dog pound fall under pit bull breeds,” reported Molly Reed of WKBN earlier in 2018.
Dozen children injured in Oklahoma City
The Youngstown pit bull attack on children at a school bus stop came barely three weeks after a pit bull ran amok at Fillmore Elementary School in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, on November 19, 2018, injuring a dozen third and fourth graders, five of whom required hospital treatment.
Special education teacher Lee Hughes tackled and held the pit bull while other teachers hurried other children to safety.
Oklahoma City Animal Welfare evaluators deemed the pit bull too dangerous to rehome, but euthanasia was repeatedly delayed when pit bull advocates falsely purported to be the owner, who has not been found, and falsely alleged that children had antagonized the pit bull to precipitate the attack, a charge that police investigated for several days before rejecting.
Hanes Magnet School attracts pit bulls
Two similar but much less publicized incidents have occurred during 2018 at Hanes Magnet School in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. Two pit bulls ran into the school grounds in May 2018, injuring an 11-year-old boy before an armed school resources officer shot the dog who did the biting.
No one was injured in the second incident, which came days after four pit bulls running at large mauled Susan Horton, 64, in an attack caught on video by a security camera, as she crossed a street half a mile from the school.
Two pit bull owners have been fined in connection with the May 2018 attack.
Following the attack on Susan Horton, “Kenneth Allen Byrd, 45, was charged with misdemeanor assault involving serious injury and four misdemeanor counts of violating Forsyth County’s leash law, according to two arrest warrants,” reported John Hinton of the Winston-Salem Journal.
By the numbers
Such incidents are not unusual. ANIMALS 24-7 has collected documentation of 57 pit bull attacks on children in schoolyards, classrooms, school buses, and at school bus stops since 2005 in which one or more people suffered disfiguring or fatal injuries, and/or police shot the dogs. More than seventy children have received hospital treatment as result of these attacks.
Only a few attacks of comparable severity on children either in school, or on their way to or from school, have not involved pit bulls. Those few involved Rottweilers or wolf hybrids.
Since incidents of disfiguring or lethal severity represent about 4% of dog bites resulting in insurance payouts, the actual number of children who are bitten by pit bulls each year in connection with attending school may be upward of 450.
Early victim testifies
The phenomenon is not new.
Recalled Greg Wolfram of Las Vegas, Nevada, on social media in May 17, 2017, after six-month-old Kamiko Dao Tsuda-Saelee was killed in her walker by a pit bull in northwestern Las Vegas, “In 1974, when I was 11 years old, I was severely mauled by two pit bulls on my way to my school bus stop in eastern Las Vegas. These two dogs had apparently jumped their backyard fence and were hungry and on the loose. Not 100 yards from my house they confronted me, I’m sure smelling food from my lunch tucked inside my jacket, as it was raining that morning. Without any provocation, they attacked me. It lasted several minutes.
$35 fine for life-changing injuries
“If it weren’t for several brave folks,” Wolfram wrote, “some of whom were injured themselves, I may not be here today. I spent the next month and a half in the burn unit at Southern Nevada Memorial Hospital, and the next several years under doctors’ care. The two dogs were shot to death by the police. Other than losing his dogs, the owner was fined a total of $35 for negligence. Not a day goes by that I don’t think of my ordeal, as I have visible scars on my arms, head and legs.”
Multiple news accounts accessible at NewspaperArchive.com verified the details.
Verdict affirmed constitutionality of pit bull bans
At least eight similar attacks have prominent places in the legislative and litigative history of response to dog attacks––especially pit bull attacks.
Tijeras, New Mexico, for instance, in 1984 enacted a pit bull ban after four pit bulls nearly killed 9-year-old Angie Hands between her school bus stop and her home. The ban was upheld by the U.S. Court of Appeals, encouraging many other cities to uphold pit bull bans. Hands, however, grew up to become a pit bull advocate, who has campaigned against the Tijeras ban, which remains in effect.
School bus stop killing brought wolf hybrid bans
The Houghton Humane Society, of Houghton, Michigan, on February 25, 1989 rehomed a Malamute/wolf hybrid to a boyfriend of a woman named Tammi Alderton, who gave the wolf hybrid to her. Just five days later the wolf hybrid killed and partially devoured Alderton’s five-year-old niece, Angie Nickerson, at her school bus stop in National Mine, Michigan.
The case brought attacks by wolf hybrids to national notice, and led Michigan to ban possession of wolf hybrids in 2000, long after several other states and hundreds of communities enacted similar bans.
The Kansas Supreme Court in May 2003 for the second time upheld the 1998 second-degree murder conviction of Sabine M. Davidson, formerly of Milford, Kansas, whose three Rottweilers fatally mauled Christopher Wilson, 11, at a school bus stop. Wilson’s younger brother survived by climbing a tree.
Davidson allegedly habitually allowed the Rottweilers to run at large. Davidson at the time was only the second person known to have been convicted of murder-by-dog in the 20th century. She was sentenced to serve three years in prison. Her husband was convicted of related lesser charges.
Long sentence was not served
Travis Dean Cunningham, then 36, in November 2008 plea-bargained an 11-and-a-half-year sentence for possession of a dangerous dog and unlawful possession of a firearm after his two pit bulls nearly killed Huong Le, 72, in March 2008 just after the victim put her granddaughter aboard a Seattle school bus. Cunningham, previously convicted of assault, burglary, unlawful possession of firearms, and drug possession, was released from prison before completing the full sentence, but was jailed again for a vehicular offense in February 2017.
Two fatalities in greater Atlanta
Miracle Parham, 14, also known as Miracle De Shona Williams, was on October 5, 2010 killed by a car at her school bus stop in McDonough, Georgia, an Atlanta suburb, while trying to escape an attacking pit bull.
Parham’s death presaged the attack by two pit bulls and a border collie who in January 2017 killed Logan Braatz, 6, and left Syrai Sanders, 5, in critical condition as they walked to their Atlanta school bus stop with other children and an escort of mothers.
Braatz’s mother in January 2018 sued the Atlanta animal control service contractor, LifeLine Animal Project Inc., for alleged failure to respond to previous complaints about the pit bulls who killed her son.
A year for a child’s death
Xavier Strickland, 4, was on December 2, 2015 dragged from his mother Lucille Strickland’s arms and under a locked gate by three pit bulls as she walked with him to Thurgood Marshall Elementary School in Detroit, half a block away. A fourth pit bull then joined in killing Xavier Strickland while Lucille Strickland struggled to reach him. A security camera captured the entire nine-minute attack on video.
The pit bull owner, Geneke Lyons, 42, was convicted of involuntary manslaughter and owning a dangerous animal causing death, for which he was sentenced to serve a year in prison.