Richey was third of five human dog attack fatalities during Kumpf tenure in Dayton
DETROIT––With the Motor City still grieving over the August 19, 2019 fatal mauling of nine-year-old Emma Hernandez by three pit bulls running at large, Detroit chief operating officer Hakim Berry on September 23, 2019 named a new animal control director: Mark Kumpf, who took office immediately
Kumpf in his previous post as director of the Montgomery County Animal Resource Center, in Dayton, Ohio, had five human dog attack fatalities on his watch, two more than any other animal control director in U.S. history.
“Head & shoulders different”
“Mark Kumpf was among more than 50 applicants in a national search for the job that had been vacant since spring after the city’s last director, Charles Brown, resigned the post after joining the city in late 2018,” reported Christine Ferretti and Candice Williams for the Detroit News.
Kumpf, the fourth Detroit animal control director in as many years, “will earn $100,000 annually,” Ferretti and Williams said.
“He’s taken the opportunity to drive around Detroit and get to know the area,” enthused Berry. “He was just head and shoulders different than anyone we’ve ever seen before. He’s someone who really understood how the shelter runs and how the animal control division runs and where we can have opportunities for improvement.”
“We’ll have experience on how to answer needs of residents”
Berry predicted “an immediate change as soon as Mark hits the ground. We’ll have experience on how to deploy and support those folks out in the field and answering to the needs of the residents,” Berry said.
Relocated into a former Michigan Humane Society shelter “several years ago on the heels of calls for its closure and criticism over unsanitary conditions, unreasonable fees and a high kill rate,” Ferretti and Williams recalled, Detroit animal control recently received a $700,000 budget increase, raising the total departmental budget to $3.4 million a year.
“A capital campaign underway would provide $1.3 million in renovation work for the shelter,” Ferretti and Williams added. “The animal control workforce has doubled in the last year and currently has 10 officers in the field. Nine others will be certified and in the streets next month.”
Fired in Dayton after flunking procedural review
Kumpf became available to Detroit after the Montgomery County Board of Commissioners fired him on December 14, 2018, two weeks after the Montgomery County Animal Resource center flunked an extensive procedural review done from November 26, through November 30, 2018 by the shelter consulting firm Team Shelter USA.
The Team Shelter USA evaluation also found that Animal Resource Center staff “improperly store vaccines, reuse syringes and likely run afoul of the state law and the federal Drug Enforcement Agency by not keeping track of a euthanasia solution called Fatal Plus,” wrote Dayton Daily News staff writer Chris Stewart.
Stewart updated on January 9, 2019 that “Both the federal Drug Enforcement Administration and Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office have opened separate investigations” into the allegations pertaining to possible misuse or mishandling of controlled substances.
Dog’s remains disappeared
“A Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office investigator has been looking into other allegations made against the Animal Resource Center that are potentially criminal,” Stewart added, “including the disappearance of a dog’s body ordered preserved by a judge in a criminal case against its owners.”
The dogs’ owners, convicted of neglect, on August 23, 2019 lost an appeal of their convictions. The appeal was based on alleged procedural violations.
Kumpf earlier survived a string of controversies over allegedly lackadaisical responses to dangerous dog incidents.
Kumpf is still facing related litigation brought by survivors of Klonda Richey.
Richey, 57, was killed in February 2014 by her next door neighbors’ two dogs, variously identified in court documents as “large-breed pit bulls, mastiffs, or cane corsos.”
The dogs’ owners, Andrew Nason and Julie Custer, were eventually convicted of related misdemeanors and served jail time, but it was the non-response of Kumpf and his agency to the victim’s prior complaints that most shocked the community.
The pending lawsuit against Kumpf and Montgomery County charges that Richey “made approximately 13 calls to the Montgomery County Regional Dispatch Center and at least 11 calls to the Animal Resource Center” seeking protection from the dogs who killed her in the months before her death,” summarized Dayton Daily News staff writer Chris Stewart when the case was filed.
“Richey was so scared of the dogs,” Stewart wrote, “that she installed a fence between the two houses, put up a security camera to monitor when the dogs were off leash, and sought a civil protection order [against the dogs’ owner], which was denied.”
In mid-2018 the initial lawsuit against Kumpf and Montgomery County was amended to additionally allege that Montgomery County had “willfully and with malicious purpose destroyed highly relevant public records,” specifically animal control truck logs, to prevent the plaintiffs from obtaining them.
The Richey death was only the first of three in Montgomery County that called Kumpf’s competence into question.
Jonathan Quarles Jr., just seven months old, was killed in July 2014 by a pit bull who had previously attacked a mail carrier and another dog, in separate incidents. The pit bull owner, Kimiko Hardy, had recently completed a two-and-a-half-hour course on responsible dog ownership taught by Mark Kumpf himself.
Convicted on six counts resulting from Quarles’ death, Hardy was in June 2016 sentenced to serve three years in prison.
Another Dayton resident, musician Maurice Brown, 60, was killed in April 2017 by a pit bull from an address where pit bulls had been the subject of repeated complaints since 2011, including in one instance after a nine-year-old girl was mauled.
In the two Montgomery County dog attack fatalities during Kumpf’s tenure that preceded those of Richey and Brown, Dawn Juergens, 75, was killed by her own two Cane Corsos on September 1, 2012, while Elizabeth Hirt, 93, died on December 11, 2012, two weeks after she was mauled by her own two Boston terriers.
This remains the only fatal or disfiguring attack by Boston terriers on record.
Repealed pit bull legislation
Earlier, working closely with the pro-pit bull Animal Farm Foundation and Best Friends Animal Society, Kumpf used his influence as a longtime board member with both the National Animal Control Association and the Ohio Dog Wardens Association to help secure the repeal of Ohio state legislation defining “any breed commonly known as a pit bull dog” as inherently vicious.
The Ohio Dog Wardens Association under previous leadership had lobbied to win passage of the breed-specific legislation, and had always before defended it.
Despite Kumpf’s questionable history pertaining to dangerous dogs, Montgomery County, before the Team Shelter USA assessment, had strongly defended him, awarding him a 2.5% pay raise in August 2014, six months after Klonda Richey’s death, and allocating at least $165,000 since September 2015 toward the cost of defending him against the lawsuit pursued by the Richey family.
Conflicted with no-killers
Kumpf had been praised in a 2008 cover feature by the Humane Society of the U.S. publication Animal Sheltering for reducing Montgomery County Animal Resource Center shelter euthanasias and increasing adoptions.
But despite Kumpf’s long history of pit bull advocacy, he came under intense criticism toward the end of his Montgomery County tenure from pit bull advocates, in particular, over allegedly euthanizing too many animals, too soon.
Team Shelter USA found that the Montgomery County Animal Resource Center has a “live release rate” of 56.7%, substantially below the 90% plus rate prescribed as the “no kill” goal by Maddie’s Fund and Best Friends.
That goal, however, is unrealistic, in view that successful promotion of spay/neuter will reduce the numbers of healthy, adoptable animals, relative to the numbers of dangerous dogs a shelter receives.
Kumpf might have been able to defend the Montgomery County Animal Resource Center euthanasia rate, had his record on dangerous dogs been better, but he apparently did not try.
Detroit Pit Crew Dog Rescue opposes hiring
Detroit animal advocates mobilized in opposition to the Kumpf hiring almost immediately. Among them was Detroit Pit Crew Dog Rescue director Theresa Sumpter, who on September 3, 2019 complained to Detroit News reporters Christine Ferretti and Jennifer Chambers that, “We’ve had nonexistent leadership at Detroit Animal Care and Control for some time.”
Wrote Ferretti and Chambers, “Detroit Pit Crew Dog Rescue found under a public record request that the animal control office hadn’t issued any tickets from September 2018 through June 2019 for violations of the tethering rules put in place under the city’s last ordinance modification.”
“We know thousands of dogs are out there on chains right now, and there is no consequence for the owners,” Sumpter told Ferretti and Chambers.
“Surprised in the wake of the Emma Hernandez mauling”
Sumpter also criticized allegedly slow response to emergency calls to Detroit animal control.
“If I’m a taxpayer in Detroit and calling because I’m not safe in my own city and they can’t answer the phone, respond to me or help me, that’s a problem,” Sumpter emphasized to Ferretti and Chambers.
Concerning Kumpf, Sumpter said, “I was concerned once I was notified that this person already has a past history of being not good in the animal welfare community. I was extremely surprised that this would be the candidate that the city of Detroit would pick, especially in the wake of the Emma Hernandez mauling and subsequent death.”
Asked by ANIMALS 24-7 to elaborate, since Kumpf until mid-2018 was a star of pit bull advocacy in Ohio, Sumpter responded, “My statement has nothing to do with pit bull advocacy, but rather public safety. Dangerous dogs, regardless of breed, need to be dealt with appropriately.
“We don’t have any concerns” ––Detroit CEO
“Based on what I have read,” Sumpter emailed, Kumpf’s “failure to do that in Ohio contributed the death of Klonda Richey.
“Detroit Pit Crew Dog Rescue, is not a pit bull rescue,” Sumpter added. “We are a stray dog rescue. We are called ‘pit crew’ because we work in Motor City, and yes many of the dogs we rescue are pits or pit mixes. We rescue any breed of dog off the streets of Detroit who is a stray and is injured or sick. We also participate in cruelty cases as well as dog fighting investigations.
“I do not feel that Kumpf is a good fit for the position of director at Detroit Animal Care & Control, nor will our organization be supporting him in his position there,” Sumpter finished.
“We don’t have any concerns,” responded Detroit CEO Hakim Berry. “I would say, judge his experience versus a couple of bad articles,” in apparent disregard of what the articles are about.