Hornish claims fatal attack was only an “enthusiastic” greeting
SUFFIELD, Connecticut–– Even after Dexter the alleged pit bull/pointer mix fatally injured Janet D’Aleo, 95, on November 6, 2019 in the home of Anne “Annie” Hornish, Connecticut senior state director for the Humane Society of the U.S., Hornish remained in adamant denial about the threats pit bulls and pit mixes, including her own, pose to public health and safety.
Explained Hartford Courant reporters Christine Dempsey and Nicholas Rondinone, “D’Aleo had been visiting Hornish’s mother at the home when the dog bit her on her lower extremities, causing ‘substantial and severe injuries,’ [Suffield police] chief Richard Brown said. The dog has been quarantined.
WFSB Eyewitness News in Hartford, Connecticut later reported that “D’Aleo was alive and attempting to communicate after the attack,” in which she sustained “massive injuries including flesh, muscle and tendon loss to the lower extremities.”
Hornish told Dempsey and Rondinone, they wrote, that “She arrived home after the incident, and was told that the dog was reacting to being hit repeatedly with a metal stool by her mother’s home health aide. The aide apparently thought the dog was greeting their visitor too enthusiastically when he jumped on D’Aleo, who used a walker.”
The simplest, most obvious interpretation of the events would be that the as yet unidentified home health aide was desperately, frantically trying to interrupt an all-out attack that was already underway, merely telling Dexter “No” having failed to stop him, and the walker frame having failed to obstruct his charge.
But Hornish and apparently whoever told her what had happened discarded the Occam’s Razor hypothesis that the simplest, most obvious interpretation is usually correct.
Rather, Hornish insisted to Dempsey and Rondinone, “It seems as if the dog got excited and it was over-exuberant. [The dog] jumped on a friend with a walker and she fell backward and we believe that’s what killed her.”
Hornish added that the home health aide “hit the dog so hard, one of the legs of the stool bent,” Dempsey and Rondinone reported.
“People who have pit bulls understand”
“The dog has no history, whatsoever, of aggression,” Hornish contended. “The dog has been around children and has been around Janet D’Aleo multiple times. These are not breed-specific issues and that is something people who have pit bulls understand.”
Or at least claim. D’Aleo was the fourth pit bull fatality in Connecticut, against one fatality by all other dog breeds combined, since Hornish in 2013 lobbied to passage a statewide ban on breed-specific legislation.
The Hornish version of events also appears to contradict the information given to the Suffield police dispatcher at at 2:53 p.m. on the day D’Aleo died.
“The caller said a woman had been bitten and was bleeding,” Dempsey and Rondinone summarized. There seems to have been no mention made of a fall and/or injuries from falling.
Medical examiner said death was due to dog bite
D’Aleo died soon after first responders rushed her to the Baystate Medical Center in Springfield, Massachusetts, 16 miles northeast of the Hornish home.
D’Aleo had lived her entire life in Enfield, Connecticut, enjoying a 62-year marriage to Francis D’Aleo, who died in 2007. They operated the Rogers Memorial Studio funeral home together from 1949 until their retirement in 1986.
“The medical examiners’ office said the 95-year-old’s death was caused by the dog bite, but Hornish said she wants an autopsy,” reported Olivia Lank of WFSB Eyewitness News.
“We feel that our dog was greeting in an exuberant fashion and knocked her down, and we believe it was the fall that may have killed her,” Hornish reiterated to Lank on camera.
Dexter had been in the Hornish home since July 2019, sharing the premises with an older pit bull named Tofu.
Though identified as a pit bull/pointer mix, Dexter has the head and body type of a pit bull, with only some coloration, common to both pit bulls and pointers, to suggest any pointer ancestry.
Of particular note may be that Dexter is the first pointer or pointer mix on record as having been implicated in a fatal dog attack in either the U.S. or Canada in the 37 years that ANIMALS 24-7 has logged fatal and disfiguring attacks. Pit bulls, over the same time, have killed 472 people.
ANIMALS 24-7 has found no mention of possible pointer ancestry in social media postings about him prior to the fatal attack on D’Aleo.
“We’re trying to find out about the pedigree of this animal,” police chief Brown told Dempsey and Rondinone. “If it was a rescue, where did it come from?”
Rescuer said only that Dexter was a pit bull
Apparently Dexter came from one Jessica Kaczynski, who has resided at several different addresses in Connecticut within a half hour’s drive of Hornish..
Posted Kaczynski on November 22, 2018 to the Pit Bull Rescue Central page on Facebook: “Looking for a home for Dexter, a 3-year-old male pit bull, whose parents were evicted from their apartment and face homelessness.”
Eight months later, on June 20, 2019, Kaczynski updated on her own Facebook page, “Sadly we are looking for an immediate home/foster home for my parent’s dog Dexter. I had rescued him about six months ago. He is sweet, loyal, house trained––with the exception that he jumps through windows that have screens and today he broke though a glass window to get outside. That was the last straw for my parents.
“My parents want to take him to the Humane Society,” Kaczynski added, but “They said he would euthanize him because he’s a pit bull.”
That posting attracted notice from Hornish, who told Kaczynski, “Please do not bring Dexter to the Connecticut Humane Society,” and gave Kaczynski her telephone number.
On or about June 29, 2019, Kaczynski posted, “We found a potential forever home for him. Just dropped him off there!”
Dexter was with Hornish by July 9, 2019, when Hornish first posted photos of him.
Ignored medical evidence––and insurance data
The D’Aleo death was ironic in view of Hornish’s many public denials of the elevated risks associated with pit bulls.
In 2013, for instance, urging passage of the Connecticut ban on breed-specific legislation, Hornish told legislators that “There is no credible evidence to prove that one breed is more dangerous than the other,” disregarding a wealth of data published in peer-reviewed medical journals.
In July 2015, pushing a bill to prohibit insurance companies from taking dog breeds into account in writing policies, Hornish contended that “Effective dog management has nothing to do with breed type or good public or private policy. Risk factors are not breed-specific and most bites come from family or friends’ dogs.”
Hornish testified that State Farm “doesn’t even ask for breed information and explicitly states that insuring all dogs, regardless of breed, is not a real risk for them,” but failed to mention that State Farm, which has 10.1% of the homeowners insurance market, annually pays out close to 20% of the total for dog attack claims. Everyone who insures with State Farm thereby pays higher premiums.
Tried to include owners of dogs with bite history in working group on bite prevention
In April 2018, Hornish urged Humane Society of the U.S. supporters in Connecticut to oppose a bill which would have protected the ability of animal control officers to impound and order euthanasia of dangerous dogs.
Hornish further urged opposition to an amendment to the bill to form a working group to study dog bites.
“Such amendment must add the line,” Hornish wrote, that ‘The working group’s recommendations shall not be breed specific,’ and must also add the following member to the working group: ‘A dog owner whose dog has been seized in a dog bite case or the owner’s designee.’”
Tried to include pit bull lobby front, too
Further, Hornish wrote, apparently speaking for the Humane Society of the U.S., “We are disturbed that the bill’s authors are resisting inclusion of the National Canine Research Council,” a wholly owned subsidiary of the pit bull advocacy organization Animal Farm Foundation, and “concerned about their push to include a ‘firefighter’ or ‘EMT’ because known anti-pit bull activist and Torrington firefighter Richard Prince” had testified in support of forming the working group.
The Connecticut State Firefighters Association has about 28,000 members in all, who routinely face hostile pit bulls in the performance of their duties.
Hornish, 62, a Democrat who describes herself as a gun owner, was a member of the Connecticut House of Representatives from 2009 to 2011. More recently she was defeated in 2016 and 2018 runs for election to the Connecticut State Senate.
Hornish and her husband Neil Hornish became vegans, according to a 2014 Hartford Courant profile, after a 1995 visit to the Farm Sanctuary location near Watkins Glen, New York.
They went on to cofound the Compassionate Living Project, self-described as “a humane education organization which creates and implements classroom projects for schools grades 4 through college.” Neil Hornish from 2002 to 2012 also produced a public access TV show called Animal Matters.
Representing the Humane Society of the U.S. in Connecticut since soon after her tenure in the Connecticut legislature ended, Anne Hornish in January 2015 was obliged to retract a public allegation that a pet store in Manchester, Connecticut had purchased puppies from breeders with a history of “direct violations” of the federal Animal Welfare Act.