Pit bull fatalities, meanwhile, proceed at record pace
JEFFERSON CITY, Missouri; PORTSMOUTH, Virginia; HOUSTON, Texas––With all eyes on COVID-19, pit bull advocates on March 11, 2020 pushed a bill through the Missouri state House of Representatives to prohibit and repeal breed-specific legislation.
The bill, similar to bills that have failed annually in the Missouri legislature since 2014, “will need another vote in the House before moving to the Senate,” reported Austin Huguelet of the Springfield News-Leader.
“If it is ultimately enacted,” Huguelet wrote, “it would preempt rules in dozens of Missouri cities, including those still on Springfield’s books, enacted in 2006 after widely publicized attacks.”
Springfield ordinance under attack again
Out-spending voices for animal and human safety by a margin perhaps as high as $10,000 to $1.00, pit bull advocates in August 2018 defeated a proposed expansion of the Springfield ordinance to prohibit bringing new pit bulls into the city.
This was the first-ever defeat of a pit bull ban in a municipal general election, after pit bull bans were overwhelmingly upheld by voters in Miami-Dade County, Florida in 2012, and Aurora, Colorado, in 2014.
“Springfield owners of pit bulls or pit bull mixes must have their pets spayed or neutered, microchipped, registered and under control at all times,” Huguelet explained. “Owners must also have signs on their property notifying people that a pit bull is present.
“The Springfield-Greene County Health Department provided data to the Springfield City Council in 2016 showing that under the restrictions, there have been fewer bites attributed to pit bulls and fewer pit bulls coming into the shelter and being euthanized,” Huguelet added.
COVID-19 kills 40; dogs killed 46 in 2019
As of March 12, 2020, amid unprecedented public panic, the COVID-19 coronavirus has reportedly killed 40 Americans out of perhaps hundreds of thousands or even millions exposed, causing more than 1,600 medically confirmed cases of illness.
Dog attacks killed 46 Americans in 2019, mostly to little notice beyond the victims’ own communities. Thirty-three of those victims were killed by pit bulls. The 2018 toll was similar: 40 deaths, 32 by pit bull. This was down from 57 deaths in 2017, 40 by pit bull.
Dog attack deaths, however, over the 38 years that ANIMALS 24-7 has logged fatal and disfiguring dog attacks, result from only about one dog bite incident in 100,000. Pit bulls, never more than 6% of the U.S. dog population, have accounted for 60% of the deaths.
Permanently disfiguring injuries result from about one dog bite incident in 10,000. Pit bulls have accounted for more than 75% of the disfigurements.
Pit bulls alone kill at epidemic level
Altogether, more than 4.5 million Americans per year suffer dog bites.
This is magnitudes of order fewer than the number who are infected by any of dozens of fast-spreading illnesses each year, most notably the many variants of common cold and influenza, but dog bites and attacks are annually inflicting deaths, disfiguring injuries, and other avoidable suffering at what would be recognized as an epidemic level if the cause happened to be an infectious disease.
Indeed, five of the “Top eight zoonotic diseases of national concern in the U.S.” listed by the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention” kill and lastingly injure fewer Americans per year, on average, than pit bull attacks alone.
Fatal attacks coming at twice pace of 2012-2019
Thus, if all levels of panic were proportional, Americans might also be expected to be at least mildly concerned that dog attack fatalities in the first 62 days of 2020––usually the quiet winter months, when relatively few fatal attacks occur––are proceeding at a record pace.
Should dog attack fatalities continue at the pace of the first 62 days, 77 Americans will be ripped apart alive by dogs before the year is over, 20 more than the previous high.
Sixty-five of those victims will have been killed by pit bulls, 59 of them by pit bulls living in the same household.
To further put the early 2020 statistics into perspective, the U.S. from 1982 to 2002 never had as many dog attack fatalities in a year as the 13 logged so far. The 13 pit bull fatalities occurring in 2002 were exceeded by one in each year from 2005 to 2008.
The average number of pit bull fatalities per year, 2012-2019, was 33.
The present pace threatens to double that average.
2-year-old was most recent victim
The most recent victim, Demi Marie Witherspoon, age 2, of Portsmouth, Virginia, previous identified to ANIMALS 24-7 as Demi Herod Killebrew, was fatally mauled by her family’s pit bull on the afternoon of March 9, 2020. Her mother responded to the attack but was unable to save her.
Little information was immediately available about the attack, except that the victim appears to represent the fourth generation of her family to suffer a violent death within 35 years.
Her father, Antonio Lamonte Killebrew Jr., 23, was in July 2019 fatally shot in a domestic violence incident. Eric Antron Ingram, 36, identified as the uncle of Killebrew’s girlfriend at the time, was charged with first-degree murder and possession of a firearm by a felon.
Killebrew’s father, also named Antonio Killebrew, then 25, was shot dead in a September 1998 robbery attempt. His uncle had been shot dead in 1986.
Nursing home fatality
Beginning in the U.S. on March 5, 2020, the COVID-19 deaths, almost all of them involving residents of nursing homes and assisted care facilities, also upstaged the pit bull mauling death two days earlier of Beverly Jean Dove, 60, a resident of the Home Sweet Home Assisted Living Facility in Chipley, Florida.
Dove was killed, according to the Washington County Sheriff’s Office, by a pack of five free-roaming pit bulls who frequented an adjacent open field.
Alzheimer victim was attacked twice
Her death was reported by local media just one day after Houston Chronicle reporter Sonia Ramirez described a lawsuit filed by the family of 92-year-old Norma Graves, who was attacked twice in February 2020 by a pit bull kept by the Village Green Alzheimer’s Care Home in Tomball, Texas.
“The first time,” Ramirez wrote, “Graves suffered wounds to her nose on February 12, 2020. The lawsuit claims that the dog bit or scratched Mrs. Graves, but the incident report was forged, stating the cause as “unknown”. The family was not notified of the attack, according to a press release” distributed by personal injury lawyer Mike Kerensky, representing Graves and her family.
“The second attack allegedly occurred ten days later, with the dog reportedly mauling Mrs. Graves face,” inflicting a serious eye injury and “requiring her to have multiple stitches for deep lacerations,” Ramirez continued.
Pit bull “allowed to roam the halls”
“They didn’t tell us about the dog hurting my mother 10 days before she was mauled,” said her son, Jim Graves. “If they had told us, we would have gotten her out of there ASAP.”
Added Ramirez, “According to the lawsuit, the dog was found on the side of a road, and was adopted by Village Green and allowed to roam the halls of the facility for about two months before the mauling of Norma Graves, and after these incidents.
“The dog also allegedly bit another resident on the nose before mauling Graves and was not removed from the facility at that time, her lawyers contend.”
Second attack caught on video
The intent of the lawsuit, Kerensky told KPRC-2 reporter Brittany Jones, beyond to “get justice for Norma,” is “somehow to get the owners of this facility and all Alzheimer’s facilities to understand that if you are going to use dogs for companions and therapy support, they have to be properly trained. They have to be properly supervised, and you have to do it the right way.”
The Village Green Alzheimer’s Care Home in a prepared statement alleged that Kerensky “has issued press releases and called a press conference apparently to disseminate false information.”
The second attack, however, and the several minutes preceding it, were documented by security video aired on KPRC-2.