Trent Williams case appears to exemplify national trend
MISSOURI CITY, Texas––Pit bulls appear to have killed 50,541 other animals in 2019, the most ever, including 9,976 other dogs, 4,092 cats, and 27,450 other pets, poultry, and hoofed species, according to the seventh annual ANIMALS 24-7 projection from reported cases.
Pit bulls accounted for 91% of all reported fatal attacks on other animals in 2019, 91% of all fatal attacks on other dogs, 76% of all fatal dog attacks on cats, and 82% of all fatal dog attacks on other pets, poultry, and hoofed species.
Pit bulls also injured 10,428 other dogs, 94% of the reported total, while amounting to just 5.8% of the U.S. dog population.
All of these numbers are consistent with past years.
Two of the 2019 statistics were Sandy, a 3-year-old black pit bull/Labrador retriever mix belonging to Jerry and Linda Flowers of Missouri City, a suburb of Houston, Texas, and a Basenji belonging to their neighbor’s daughter.
The Flowers’ neighbor is National Football League star Trent Williams, a seven-time Pro Bowl selection at left tackle.
Sandy was killed and the Basenji allegedly badly hurt in a December 11, 2019 fence line fight. Regardless of who wins pending litigation over the outcome, the incident exemplified the hyper-reactivity, extreme territoriality, and aggressive tendencies that produce the high body count from pit bull attacks.
Seeking monetary damages
Jerry and Linda Flowers on January 8, 2020 sued Williams for the death of Sandy.
“They are seeking monetary damages for the brutal killing of their dog,” reported Chloe Alexander of KHOU 11 television news.
“They have also filed for an injunction to remove Williams’ “illegal” pit bulls from his backyard, and applied for an injunction to prevent Williams from continuing [what they term] his ‘illegal backyard pit bull commercial enterprise.’
On December 17, 2019, Alexander recalled, “KHOU 11 reported that Williams was cited for multiple [alleged] violations [of city code] including exceeding the number of pets allowed for a residence, the pets not being registered with the city, and failing to have the required vaccinations.
“10 to 12 pit bulls” at Missouri City home
“According to the lawsuit,” Alexander continued, “Williams owns approximately 10 to 12 pit bulls, who are all located at his Missouri City home in The Manors at Silver Ridge. Deed restrictions prevent him from having more than two dogs on his property.
“The suit also alleges that Williams’ dogs frequently escape his property, run at large and terrorize his neighbors, including children.”
Vet bills of $5,000 for Basenji
Reported Stephanie Whitfield and Jaime E. Galvan of KHOU 11, “Williams claims his dog was acting in self-defense after he says Sandy broke into his yard and attacked his daughter’s smaller Basenji dog, according to the [police] report. One of his pit bull mastiffs then came over to assist the smaller dog and got hold” of Sandy, resulting in Sandy’s gruesome death.
Williams told TMZ Sports that the Basenji was hospitalized with serious injuries, posted video showing the injuries that he claimed Sandy had inflicted, and said his veterinary bills had reached about $5,000.
Jerry Flowers’ attorney, John Kovach, told TMZ Sports that he would bet that analysis of the bite marks on the Basenji will show that they were inflicted by Williams’ dogs.
“This is about safety!”
Jerry Flowers meanwhile reinforced his case to media and the public by posting to Facebook two brief videos showing four of Williams’ pit bulls (or bull mastiffs, as Williams calls them) racing, leaping, and barking at their shared fence line.
“This is me bringing my dog outside on a leash to pee in the morning,” Jerry Flowers said. But this is normal Missouri City, Fort Bend County??? I tell you this is not about going after a celebrity black NFL football player!!! This is about safety!!!!! I literally have to stand outside locked and loaded to let my dogs pee. Amazing!!! I’m speechless!!!”
Recounted Jerry Flowers to Fox 26 of Houston, “I found my dog halfway ripped apart, head and one leg on the other side of the fence, two fence stakes ripped through the body and one leg just dangling.”
Added Linda Flowers, “They dragged her head through the fence. Half of her body was through the wrought iron fence,” impaled on the broken fence slats.
“Dogs doing what dogs do”
Affirmed Robert Arnold, investigative reporter for KPRC-TV in Houston, “Video recorded by the [Flowers] family shows firefighters helping to remove Sandy from between fence poles.”
Local homeowners’ association board member Julie Baron told Arnold that she and her children “won’t walk the neighborhood” from fear of Williams’ pit bulls.
Another neighbor, Cecilia Hernandez, described four of Williams’ pit bulls menacing her during a walk.
Williams, however, described it all to Randy Wallace of Fox 26 television news as just “Dogs doing what dogs do,” adding that some of his dogs “are worth $25,000 each.”
The Williams case invites comparison to the April 2007 arrest and subsequent conviction of former football star Michael Vick on both federal and Virginia state charges pertaining to dogfighting. For starters, both Williams and Vick kept unusually large numbers of pit bulls in exclusive suburban neighborhoods, in violation of zoning. Both claimed to have paid outlandish prices for some of their pit bulls.
And, if anything, Williams had a more problematic history than Vick before Vick was caught in association with dogfighting. Williams was suspended by four games in 2011 for flunking an NFL drug test, was fined $7,875 for hitting Seattle Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman in the face after his team lost a wild card playoff game on January 6, 2013, missed the 2013 Pro Bowl due to an injury suffered in a night club brawl, and was suspended for four games in 2016 for a second violation of the NFL substance abuse policy.
But while Vick was all but lynched by outraged animal advocates, who continue to hound the NFL over his reinstatement after serving both federal and state prison terms, Williams so far appears to have enjoyed a virtual free pass.
Humane orgs often use the same excuse
At least 240,300 pit bulls have killed or injured other animals in the U.S. since ANIMALS 24-7 began logging the cases and projecting national totals in 2013, yet defending pit bulls against their earned reputation as by far the most dangerous dog breed type has become the obsession of national humane organizations including the American SPCA, the American Humane Association, the Best Friends Animal Society, the Humane Society of the U.S., Maddie’s Fund, and the legion of local organizations taking their cues from the nationals.
Often, not just sometimes, humane organization spokespersons also dismiss pit bull attacks on other animals as just “Dogs doing what dogs do,” as Williams reportedly did.
Williams also burnished his reputation in July 2017 by claiming to have become a vegan, after watching a documentary called What the Health on Netflix.
“I’m bettering my life,” Williams told the Washington Post. “I ain’t [expletive] with that animal product no more.”
Deaths of dogs & cats down, others up
The seventh annual ANIMALS 24-7 projected estimates of animals killed by dogs, and by pit bulls as a percentage of the total, actually show decreases in the deaths of dogs and cats by dog attack and pit bull attack, but indicate that the numbers of other pets, poultry, and hoofed animals killed by pit bulls in particular more than doubled.
Of greater significance, the total numbers of animals killed by dogs and specifically by pit bulls continued a steady trend upward: 46,275 animals killed by dogs in 2016, 37,868 by pit bulls (82%); 47,550 animals killed by dogs in 2018, 37,362 by pit bulls (79%); and 50,541 animals killed by dogs in 2019, 41,518 by pit bulls (82%).
Seven-year average: 34,329 pit bulls killing other animals
Fluctuations in the numbers for any given year are inevitable in extrapolating from the relatively low number of reported dog attacks on other animals to estimate national totals. Thus the numbers from any one year are likely to be less representative than the average from multiple years.
Since 2013 the average number of dogs killing or severely injuring other animals has been 37,959 per year, including 34,329 pit bulls.
The average number of dogs killed by other dogs has been 11,646, including 10,252 pit bulls.
The average number of dogs injured by other dogs has been 13,209, 10,734 of them injured by pit bulls.
The average number of cats killed by dogs has been 4,338, 3,727 of them killed by pit bulls. The 2019 totals in all of those categories were close to the norms.
Pits again kill more animals than human criminals
The numbers of dogs, cats, and hoofed animals killed by pit bulls in 2019 were all higher, for the seventh year in a row, than the numbers of dogs, cats, and hoofed animals impounded in reported neglect cases in any year on record, and around 30 times greater than the numbers of dogs, cats, and hoofed animals killed in any year in prosecuted criminal violence.
Also, for the seventh year in a row, about one pit bull in 90 killed or disfigured another animal or human being, compared to about one dog in 45,000 of all other breed types combined.
This suggests that over the 10-year average lifespan of a dog, about one pit bull in nine will become a killer––if the pit bull lives a normal lifespan. With a turnover rate of nearly 33% per year, and 50% for adult pit bulls, most do not live even half a normal lifespan.
How we get the numbers
ANIMALS 24-7 derives our estimates of the numbers of animals killed by dogs each year, and the numbers killed by pit bulls, through a multi-step process.
First, ANIMALS 24-7 logs dog attacks on other animals reported by electronic media each and every day throughout the year.
This, though laborious, is the easy part. The hard part is compensating for under-reporting.
We begin with awareness that insurance industry data shows that about 25 times more payouts are made in claims for human injury inflicted by dogs than there are cases of human death or disfigurement due to dog attack reported by news media.
As dog attacks on other animals are much less likely to be considered newsworthy than attacks in which humans are killed or disfigured, ANIMALS 24-7 estimates that reported dog-against-animal attacks are not more than 4% (one in 25) of the total number of cases in which an insurance payout would be made if a human had been the victim.
Experience has demonstrated, as more fully explained in previous years’ data summaries, that dog attacks on animals receiving electronic media notice are almost exclusively incidents in which a human was also killed or injured; law enforcement or other intervenors killed the attacking dog; and/or the dog attack caused the death(s) of animals valued at more than $1,000.
Further, dog attacks on other animals belonging to the same household are usually not reported at all.
ANIMALS 24-7 presumes that for every dog attack that is reported, meeting the criteria for making an insurance claim if a human had been the victim, at least one dog attack on another animal occurs within the same household as the dog, and at least one other dog attack occurs in which a person is not killed or injured, no one kills the attacking dog, and/or the dead or injured animal is not valued at more than $1,000.
Therefore our final figure is reported attacks multiplied by 25, to compensate for the gap between reported attacks and hypothetically possible insurance payouts if the victims were human, and then again by three to compensate for under-reporting of dog attacks that do not meet the criteria for hypothetically possible insurance payouts.
This could also be expressed as reported attacks multiplied by 75, a ratio which so far appears to be consistent with local data, where available, on the frequency of dog attacks on other animals vs. local media reporting.
Or, the whole process could be described as a geometry problem, in which one tries to calculate the mass of an iceberg from knowing the altitude of the tip of the iceberg above sea level, a problem that sea captains in Arctic and Antarctic waters resolve hundreds of times a day.
The tip is the number of reported dog attacks on other animals. Sea level is the ratio of reported dog attacks on humans to insurance payouts.
Comparing these two known values to each other produces an estimate of the slope of the iceberg.
Knowing that about two-thirds of an iceberg is below sea level permits making an estimate accurate enough that it keeps ships whose captains look out for icebergs afloat, whereas for the Titanic it was full speed ahead and damn the consequences.