Thought they knew the risks…
FORT PIERCE, Florida; DIGHTON, Massachusetts—Killed in unwitnessed dog attacks on May 9, 2019 and May 10, 2019, respectively, Christine Liquori, 52, of Port St. Lucie, Florida and Ryan Hazel, 14, of Rehobeth, Massachusetts, had almost nothing in common––except that they were alone in kennel facilities with one or more dogs of known dangerous breeds.
Liquori was the tenth U.S. pit bull fatality of 2019. Hazel was the tenth victim of a fatal attack inflicted by dogs of other breeds.
Liquori, 52, a volunteer and longtime outspoken pit bull advocate, bled to death from injuries suffered while she walked or exercised a pit bull alone in a fenced play area beside the older of the two Humane Society of St. Lucie County shelters in Fort Pierce, Florida, the oldest parts of which date to 1956.
35th person killed by a shelter dog since 2007
Of the 61 shelter dogs known to have participated in killing 35 people since 2007, including Liquori, 44 were pit bulls. Only five shelter dogs had killed anyone in the previous 150 years.
The Liquori and Hazel deaths resembled at least three others in recent years: Mary Jo Hunt, 53, of North Carolina Bull Terrier Rescue, killed by a pit bull in 2012; Carol Harris, 59, of the Akita Advocates Relocation Team Arizona, killed by an Akita in December 2017; and Happy Hound Hotel boarding kennel worker Laura Williams Ray, 53, of Ouachita Parish, Louisiana, killed by a pit bull in a January 2018.
Each was around one or more dogs who were not their personal pets. All were working without backup and without any way to quickly summon help.
Hazel, 14, a high school freshman, had reportedly often assisted 3 Dogs Running kennel owner and trainer Scott Dunmore, 49, over the year before his death.
Dunmore was away in Boston, however, about an hour’s drive north, when Hazel’s grandmother dropped him off at the kennel to help do the evening dog care chores at about six p.m.
“His grandmother told investigators she waited in the car, as he expected to spend just 30-45 minutes completing his tasks,” recounted Dalton Main of WFXT. “After an hour, police say the grandmother became worried about Hazel and contacted his parents, who were away in New York. The boy’s parents contacted neighbors of Dunmore and asked them to check on their son. The neighbor called police to report the attack on Hazel at 7:59 p.m.
Dutch shepherd & three Belgian Malinois
“Police say they found four dogs – one Dutch shepherd and three Belgian Malinois – roaming the property outside of their enclosure,” Main added.
In addition to the Dutch shepherd, an American Kennel Club-recognized variant of the Malinois and German shepherd dog types, and the three Belgian Malinois found running free at the 3 Dogs Running site, police found seven other dogs still in their kennels.
Often used for police and military work, Malinois are only known to have killed one person in the U.S. before Hazel: David Fear, 64, of Grover Beach, California, who suffered fatal injuries on December 13, 2016 while rescuing neighbor Betty Long, 85, from an unprovoked attack by a Malinois previously trained as a police dog by another neighbor, then-Grover Beach police officer Alex Geiger.
Malinois owner/trainer acquitted
Geiger was on April 12, 2019 acquitted of involuntary manslaughter and failure to maintain a large animal causing serious bodily injury and death.
Commented California dog bite attorney Kenneth Phillips immediately afterward, “”The worst part about this ‘not guilty’ verdict is the ‘get out of jail free’ message. The defense was largely based on the absence of standard guidelines that would dictate how to protect the public from police dogs that are out of training.
“The defense used that argument to its advantage to get this particular defendant found not guilty, but the long term effect of the jury’s decision will create the missing guideline,” Phillips predicted. “Freedom from criminal responsibility means less of a need to be vigilant. The guideline will admit more casual confinement of these dogs. Public safety will suffer.”
Kenneth Phillips called it
Less than a month later, Phillips’ words appear prophetic. Dunmore’s dogs are not known to have been police dogs, but are Malinois apparently used in combat sports, and Dunmore is a “name” trainer who might have been expected to be acutely aware of the risks to which Hazel was exposed when visiting the 3 Dogs Running kennels alone.
Dunmore, originally from Britain, earned a degree in engineering from the University of Surrey. Turning to dog training in 1998, Dunmore on the 3 Dogs Running web site boasted of “titled dogs in Schutzhund, French Ring, Mondio Ring, Protection Sports Association, and Dock Diving,” and of being “the only decoy in the country certified in Schutzhund, Mondio Ring, French Ring and PSA.”
While Lisa Kashinsky and Marie Szaniszlo of the Boston Globe found victim Hazel remembered as being from a “super, super family, a very nice kid, [and] an excellent athlete,” who played baseball, football, and ran track, victim Liquori appears to have led a troubled life.
Was Liquori infamous in Philadelphia?
Graduating from high school in Staten Island, New York, Liquori crossed paths repeatedly with several other women of the same name, but of differing ages.
Some online sources place LIquori in Philadelphia before she arrived in Florida, where she lived in several different cities.
A man named Samuel W. Landis, then 46, of Telford, Pennsylvania, was in 1995 convicted of beating to death Edna Hiestand, 71, on March 7, 1994, after extensively embezzling from her.
“In 1981,” summarized Allentown Morning Call reporter Debbie Garlick, “the former Quakertown councilman was convicted of embezzling funds from the borough fire department where he was chief. He later forged his mother’s checks and stole from her.”
Forgery & fraud
Among the alleged beneficiaries of Landis’ crimes, Garlick mentioned, were a “Christine Liquori of Philadelphia, who received expensive gifts from Landis and who traveled with him by limousine to New York City getaways,” while Landis “occasionally paid her rent.”
Landis was sentenced to serve life in prison. The Christine Liquori who was involved in that case dropped out of sight.
The Christine Liquori who was killed by a pit bull at the Humane Society of St. Lucie County appears to have been arrested at least three times on felony charges, in June 2010, October 2012, and May 2013. Her alleged offenses included forgery and fraud, according to arrest reports published by the Hometown News of Fort Pierce and the St. Lucie News Tribune.
Paws Fur Recovery
Liquori had volunteered at the Humane Society of St. Lucie County for about three years, through an organization called Paws Fur Recovery.
Not listed as an IRS-recognized 501(c)(3) charity by Guidestar.org, the IRS service contractor that provides public access to nonprofit accountability documents, Paws Fur Recovery describes itself as “a group of grateful recovering addicts and alcoholics helping shelter dogs find new homes.”
Lori Boettger, founder of Paws Fur Recovery, told Chuck Weber of CBS-12 that Liquori was due to reach six years of sobriety later in May 2019.
According to Facebook postings, Liquori had worked as a chemical dependency technician at the Just Believe Recovery Center in Fort Pierce, had started a new job at the Banyan Treatment Center in Stuart, Florida, on March 30, 2019, and was in a relationship with a behavioral health technician at another addiction treatment center.
David Robertson, Humane Society of St. Lucie County director of administration since 2003, and executive director since 2014, told media that he did not know how long Liquori had been lying in the exercise yard before she was found.
“Robertson said the pit bull arrived at the shelter only a week earlier [actually eight days earlier], and had been up for adoption just two days. He added his agency is evaluating its protocols, in light of what happened,” reported Chuck Weber of CBS-12.
Standard procedures for volunteers at most animal shelters is that they must sign in and check in with a staff supervisor upon arrival, sign for temporary custody of any dog they are taking out of the building, work with dangerous dogs only in the presence of staff, and must sign out upon departure.
Troubled institutional history
But the Humane Society of St. Lucie County has for several years had as troubled an institutional history as Liquori had a personal history, after a decade of relative stability under Frank Andrews, director of operations from 2002 to 2014.
Beginning his career as a field representative for the American Humane Association, when the AHA still certified animal shelters and held annual training conferences for shelter personnel, Andrews later headed the Michigan Humane Society, was in 1970 a founding member of the Society of Animal Welfare Administrators, and from 1989 to 2001 headed the Los Angeles County Department of Animal Care & Control.
When Andrews died, on January 23, 2018, at age 85, he was believed to be second only to Warren Cox, whose career ran from 1952 to 2012, in length of tenure as a humane administrator.
Five-year plan to go no-kill
Andrews’ last years at the Humane Society of St. Lucie County, however, were difficult. Two former employees in 2011 sued the Humane Society of St. Lucie County for alleged wrongful dismissal. No-kill advocates argued that under Andrews the Humane Society of St. Lucie County was euthanizing too many animals, though during Andrews’ administration a successful spay/neuter program helped to cut both animal intakes and euthanasias by half.
The newer of the two Humane Society of St. Lucie County shelters, several miles west of the shelter where Liquori was killed by the pit bull, opened in December 2013, two months behind schedule.
Post-Andrews, the Humane Society of St. Lucie County board of directors in April 2018 committed to a five-year plan to go no-kill.
“Could go upside down at any second”
In September 2018, however, the new shelter flunked an inspection due to “various violations [of standards] in conditions, euthanasia procedures and staffing,” reported Meghan McRoberts of WPTV.
“Concerns about finances for the shelter also emerged,” McRoberts summarized, “prompting Fort Pierce and St. Lucie County to refrain from making annual, lump payments to the shelter. Instead, both make monthly payments and request monthly financial statements from the shelter,” which as of February 2019 was in worsening debt.
“It seems like it could go upside down at any second,” Fort Pierce city commissioner Jeremiah Johnson told McRoberts, soon after newly hired shelter manager Mike Jones resigned for undisclosed reasons.