2019 pit bull fatalities & total dog attack deaths surpass 2018 with 10 days left in the year
Hopes that the decline in U.S. pit bull-inflicted human fatalities from a record 40 in 2017 to 32 in 2018 might mark the beginning of a downward trend were dashed by four deaths in eight days, from December 13, 2019 to December 21, 2019, bringing the 2019 total to 33 with ten days left in the year.
Dogs of other or unknown breeds have killed 14 Americans in 2019, only two of them in the second half of the year.
12-year-old killed walking home from school
Victor Garces, 12, of Hollis, Oklahoma, population 1,894, on December 13 became 2019 pit bull attack victim #30 after falling ill at school. As his mother was already ill and unable to drive to pick him up, Garces chose to walk the three blocks home through an unpaved semi-rural alley.
Harmon Electric Company workers found his mauled remains shortly after noon. Police shot two pit bulls allegedly belonging to brothers Jacob Benavidez, 53, and Ruben Benavidez, 44, at the scene.
A third pit bull found at the scene reportedly belonged to Garces, the victim. Pit bull advocates asserted that his pit bull had raced to his rescue. A more behaviorally plausible explanation might be that Garces’ pit bull ran to greet him, the other two pit bulls ran at them, and Garces got between them, trying to prevent or break up a fight.
Both Benavidez brothers were arrested on charges of manslaughter in the second-degree and cruelty to animals.
Neighborhood had pit bull attack history
Garces died less than a mile––eight short blocks east and one block south––from where a pit bull broke through a fence on October 19, 2013 to pull Gage Thornhill, age 4, off of his bicycle. Thornhill suffered a skull fracture and multiple other injuries that left him unable to walk.
The pit bull owners were ticketed for failure to vaccinate the dog against rabies and for allowing the dog to run at large.
The Thornhill family apparently no longer lives in the same house. Unclear, however, is whether Gage Thornhill still lives in Hollis. If he does, he would have been a classmate of Garces at Gillentine Elementary School, probably one year behind him.
Hollis was also the home of Anthony David Montoya, 18, who was apparently killed by a female grizzly bear and her two cubs on September 30, 2018 at a drilling site on the edge of the Hecla Greens Creek Mine property on Admiralty Island in southeastern Alaska.
Hollis is 264 miles southeast of Bennington, Oklahoma, population 334, where Allen Bruce, 56, was killed in a similar unwitnessed attack on September 28, 2019.
79-year-old & his dog killed by pack in front of home
2019 pit bull attack victim #31 was retired Christmas tree farmer Cledith Ray Davenport, 79, of Broken Bow, Oklahoma, 86 miles east of Hollis, population 4,076.
A longtime local church elder, church league softball player, and former Scoutmaster, Davenport was nonetheless unrecognizable when discovered by the local mail carrier on December 14, 2019, “lying halfway in a ditch,” the McCurtain Daily Gazette reported.
The mail carrier reportedly ran to Davenport’s door calling for help and shouting his name before realizing Davenport was the victim.
One of Davenport’s own schnauzers was found dead in the ditch beside him.
Eight or more pit mixes killed the man, but family dismisses the link
Eight pit bull/blue heeler mixes belonging to a neighbor, with pit bull conformation but blue heeler markings, were impounded at the scene. As many as 11 pit/heeler mixes may have been involved, according to the family Facebook page “Justice for Cledith.”
Davenport’s wife Elaine, to whom he was married for 54 years, and his two sons and daughters have reportedly told local media that they would like to see Oklahoma pass stricter dog laws.
The “Justice for Cledith” Facebook page, however, rejects the reality that pit bulls, less than 6% of the U.S. dog population, are consistently responsible for about 60% of all fatal attacks on humans, 75% of disfiguring attacks on humans, and upward of 90% of fatal attacks on other domestic animals.
Homeless woman killed in Houston
Pit bull fatalities #32 and #33 both occurred on December 21, 2019.
The first death came in Houston, Texas.
“One woman was killed and another woman was severely injured in two separate dog attacks involving the same animals,” reported Taisha Walker of KPRC Click2Houston.
“Around 5:45 a.m., police received a call from a man who reported that his wife had been attacked by dogs. Minutes later, police received another call,” Walker summarized, “this time from someone who said he owned the dogs. He said that his dogs attacked a second woman, who he believed was dead in a ditch, according to a spokesperson for the Houston Police Department.”
Little known about the deceased
“A friend of the deceased said the woman made a living working the streets, but said she was sweet and giving,” Walker added. “The unidentified woman told KPRC2 that her friend was walking to get a cell phone,” which was being charged at an acquaintance’s house, “when she was attacked.”
Finished Walker, “The surviving victim was transported to an area hospital in stable condition, according to Houston police.”
Two days later few more details had been released, including the identity of the deceased, whether she was acquainted with the hospitalized victim, and whether one victim had tried to help the other.
Three pit bulls were impounded at the scene.
Recalled 2014 death of Christina Burleson Bell
The unidentified deceased was the second dog attack death in Houston in 2019. Doberman enthusiast Elaine Richman, 66, was found dead in her Houston back yard on February 8, 2019, an apparent victim of her own show dogs.
But the December 21, 2019 Houston fatality most resembled the January 5, 2014 fatal mauling of Christina Burleson Bell, 43, homeless for much of her life, who had only recently moved into an apartment with her husband, Benjamin Franklin Bell.
Tiara Deshawn Thomas, 26, was issued 12 misdemeanor citations for allowing the two unvaccinated and unlicensed pit bulls who killed Bell in a 2:00 a.m. attack to run loose.
Tiara Deshawn Thomas and Timothy Dewayne Coleman, 34, were both criminally charged for the attack about six months later. Coleman, who had a prior conviction for dealing cocaine, is now serving a nine-year sentence at Bridgeport State Prison in Texas.
Thomas was reportedly no longer in custody as of July 2, 2014.
Seizure victim became pit bull victim
Pit bull attack fatality #33 of 2019 was Melissa Ausmus Astacio, 44, of Somerset, Rhode Island.
“Astacio, 44, was having a seizure inside her home when the family dog began to attack around 5:20 p.m., according to the Bristol District Attorney’s Office,” reported Scott J. Croteau of MassLive.com.
One of Astacio’s three daughters called 911.
“When police and paramedics arrived on scene, police were forced to deploy a Taser on the dog before being able to assist the victim, who was then rushed to Rhode Island Hospital,” Croteau continued. “Astacio was pronounced dead at 6:20 p.m.”
The eight-year-old pit bull was impounded.
Single parent to three girls
“Elysandra Astacio started a GoFundMe to help pay for her mother’s funeral,” Croteau mentioned.
The victim “suffered from seizures and the details still are unclear why our family dog attacked my mother while having a seizure,” posted Elysandra Astacio. “My 13-year-old little sister ran to get help, but she passed away due to her injuries. I don’t know how or what to do. My mom was a single parent to us three girls.”
The third daughter, Heaven Astacio, 17, who in February 2019 was briefly reported as a missing person, told WCVB-TV that the Astacio family had raised the pit bull since puppyhood.
“I don’t know what to make of it, but I know that it wasn’t on purpose,” Heaven Astacio insisted.
72 bites by pits, 99 by all other dogs combined
The Rhode Island legislature prohibited breed-specific legislation in 2013, undoing pit bull bans that protected communities including Pawtucket, whose ban was judicially overturned a year later.
In July 2019, after a pit bull attack disabled Woonsocket assistant animal control officer Tiffany Marie Forrest, Valley Breeze staff writer Lauren Clem learned through a Freedom of Information Act request that 72 of the 171 dogs reported for bite incidents since 2014, or 42%, were pit bulls.
That was more than twice as many dogs as the sum of all other breeds involved in multiple attacks.
“Other breeds involved in multiple dog bite incidents in that time included shih tzus (six), chihuahuas (six), German shepherds (five), Labrador retrievers (five), poodles (three), Rottweilers (three), boxers (three), huskies (two), and bulldogs (two),” Clem wrote.
687 pit bulls have killed or disfigured people thus far in 2019
Across the U.S., with 10 days left in 2019, 687 pit bulls and/or close pit mixes had attacked 184 children and 371 adults in incidents in which 33 people were killed and 480 people were disfigured. Another 42 people escaped with lesser injuries from attacks in which others were killed and disfigured.
The 687 pit bulls involved in fatal or disfiguring attacks was already the third highest annual total on record, up from just 79 in 2007, the year when the arrest of football player Michael Vick on dogfighting charges caused the American SPCA, Best Friends Animal Society, Humane Society of the U.S., and Maddie’s Fund, among others, to markedly escalate pit bull advocacy.
The 184 child victims in 2019 represented the lowest toll since 2012. But the corresponding total for 2007 was 79.
New record in 2019 for adult victims
The 371 adult victims was already a new record, marking the fifth consecutive year in which more than 350 adults were involved in fatal or disfiguring pit bull attacks. The corresponding total for 2007 was just 31.
The 33 fatalities were two more than the average for the decade 2010-2019. The 2007 fatality total was a then-record 14.
The 480 total disfigurements, though well below the totals of 2015 and 2016 (574 and 570, respectively), would have been a record as recently as 2014, up from 37 in 2007.
Organized pit bull advocacy by leading humane organizations can be traced back to 1984, but in the 24 years prior to 2007, an average of fewer than 50 pit bulls per year were involved in fatal and disfiguring attacks, causing an average of 27 disfigurements and 4.7 disfigurements per year.
5,778 pit bull attacks over the baseline since 2007
Thus post-2007 pit bull advocacy by humane organizations has coincided with at least 5,778 pit bull attacks over the baseline, or 445 additional pit bull attacks per year.
Post-2007 pit bull advocacy by humane organizations has further coincided with at least 2,062 additional pit bull attacks on children, or 159 additional attacks per year.
Post-2007 pit bull advocacy by humane organizations has additionally coincided with at least 2,753 additional pit bull attacks on adults, or 212 additional attacks per year.
Also occurring coincidental with post-2007 pit bull advocacy by humane organizations have been at least 366 additional fatalities, or 28 additional deaths per year.
Likewise occurring coincidental with post-2007 pit bull advocacy by humane organizations have been at least 4,127 additional disfigurements, or 318 additional disfigurements per year.
These numbers will be updated with the final totals for 2019 in early 2020.