Two-thirds of first dozen pit bull fatalities of 2020 were killed in their own homes
FORT WORTH, Texas––Roger James Kirk, 69, of Horatio, Arkansas, and Sharon Rene Baldwin, 60, of Fort Worth, Texas, on April 12, 2020 became the first known U.S. victims of fatal dog attacks since state governors began issuing stay-at-home orders on March 19, 2020 in response to COVID-19.
Their deaths, however, kept U.S. dog attack and pit bull attack fatalities occurring at a record pace through the first third of the year.
Both Kirk and Baldwin died several days after pit bulls mauled them.
Kirk, a stonemason and harmonica player, was attacked on March 19, 2020 by a pit bull on a back road near his home. Hospitalized at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences in Little Rock, Kirk died a week later. Authorities and family have disclosed no information about who owned the pit bull who killed him.
Texas, where Baldwin was killed, is among the three states whose governors have not issued a stay-at-home order, but such an order would not have helped Baldwin, who was attacked in her home, as were seven of the other 12 U.S. pit bull fatalities thus far into 2020.
Died two weeks after mauling
Baldwin, who used a wheelchair, died late on Easter evening, two weeks after she was mauled by a pit bull on March 28, 2020 at 809 Hammond Street, a 1952-vintage ranch-style house on a wooded lot in a quiet residential neighborhood just south of downtown Fort Worth.
“A man who stayed at Baldwin’s home told animal control officials that he had found the stray [pit bull] several days before the attack,” reported Domingo Ramirez Jr. for the Fort Worth Star-Telegraph. “Baldwin either rolled over the [pit bull] in her wheelchair or fell on the canine, prompting the dog to attack her, authorities said. Baldwin suffered bites to her arm, shoulder and neck,” Ramirez finished.
Added CBSDFW.com a day later, “Officials said the man [who found the pit bull] was caring for the [pit bull] until the owner came forward. The relationship between the man and the woman is not known at this time. According to officials, the dog’s owner eventually came forward and surrendered the dog to animal control officers,” who euthanized the pit bull on April 13, 2020.
Baldwin, who worked in financial services, was a 2000 graduate of South Mississippi Community College. Little other information was immediately available about her, her male housemate, or the dog who killed her.
Four pit bull-related deaths in same area in barely more than a year
Baldwin was the fourth person dead in 372 days as result of a pit bull attack occurring within a few miles of the 26-mile stretch of U.S. 30 linking Fort Worth and Irving, Texas, via Arlington.
Johana Villafane, 33, of Irving, was fatally mauled at a veterinary clinic by her own two pit bulls on March 23, 2019, who were quarantined at the clinic after biting another person.
Margarita “Maggie” Victoria Brooks, 30, of Arlington, who was homeless, was on August 1, 2019 shot accidentally when a police officer fired at her charging pit bull.
Nine days after the Brooks shooting, three pit bulls killed Nelson Cabrera, 16, also homeless, also in Irving, after Cabrera scaled a fence and jumped into the pit bull owner’s yard for unknown reasons.
Other pit bull attacks of consequence
Many other pit bull attacks of consequence have occurred in the same area during the same time frame. A 73-year-old woman was seriously injured by two pit bulls on February 2, 2020, for instance, while walking near her Arlington home.
Earlier, on March 3, 2019, nationally ranked marathon runner Caitlin Keen was injured by a loose pit bull named Taco while training on Trinity Trail in Fort Worth.
Keen received 21 stitches, resumed training, and on February 29, 2020 placed 202nd among 390 female contenders at the Olympic Trials Marathon in Atlanta. Her time of 2:48 was easily good enough to win the women’s division at most marathons, but was 21 minutes behind the three qualifiers for the 2020 Olympic Games, which were later postponed due to COVID-19 until 2021.
First death in 33 days maintains record pace
The 14th and 15th known U.S. dog attack fatalities of 2020, Kirk was attacked 10 days after the death of Demi Marie Witherspoon, age 2, of Portsmouth, Virginia, also known as Demi Herod Killebrew, mauled on March 9, 2020 by her family’s pit bull.
Baldwin was attacked two days after Kirk’s death.
When Witherspoon was killed, through the first 62 days of 2020, fatal dog attacks––11 by pit bulls and two by unidentified dogs––were proceeding at a rate projecting 77 for the year, 20 more than the 2017 record of 57, 40 by pit bulls.
The stay-at-home orders due to COVID-19 have apparently slowed the pace, currently projecting to 60 for the year, 48 by pit bulls. Both totals would still be new highs.
To put those numbers into perspective, the U.S. before 2008 never had as many dog attack fatalities in a year as the 15 logged so far.
Disfiguring attacks also continue at close to record pace
The first U.S. deaths from COVID-19, reported on March 5, 2020, all involved residents of nursing homes and assisted care facilities.
Those deaths rapidly 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.
The COVID-19 stay-at-home orders have apparently also slowed either the pace of disfiguring dog attacks or the rate at which they are reported. ANIMALS 24-7 logged 121 disfiguring dog attacks in 2020 through February, 74 of them by pit bulls, but received information about only 54 disfiguring dog attacks, 36 of them by pit bulls, in March and the first 14 days of April.
Even with the slowdown, disfiguring dog attacks and pit bull attacks are still occurring in 2020 at close to a record pace.
Fatalities in U.K. & Ireland
At least two dog attack deaths have occurred in Europe since the arrival of COVID-19 was confirmed in Bordeaux, France, on January 21, 2020.
Jonny Halstead, 35, of Shaw, Oldham, England, was “bitten multiple times” by his own pit bull on January 29, 2020, police said, “while suffering a medical episode” of an undescribed nature. Police shot the pit bull at the scene. Relatives denied that the pit bull was responsible for the death.
Glen Murphy, age 8, of Tallaght, Ireland, near Dublin, was fatally mauled by two Rottweilers on Mother’s Day, celebrated in Ireland on March 22, 2020. Both Rottweilers were impounded and killed.
A similar attack involving two Rottweilers sent a 6-year-old girl in Zuidhollandsedijk, Kaatsheuvel, Brabant, Netherlands to hospital by helicopter on April 9, 2020.
One of the Rottweilers was killed at the scene. The second Rottweiler, who reportedly did not bite the girl, was impounded and will not be returned to the home, police said.
The victim was said to be recovering well, a day later. Her parents elected not to press charges against the Rottweiler owners.
Jamaka Petzak says
Sharing to socials with gratitude.
Julie Wall says
Personally, I think the media is focused on reporting on COV-19 pandemic than dog attacks. I think there are at least 3 dog bite related fatalities that the media has not covered. When were averaging a person killed by a dog every 9 days. We have uncovered one person killed in end of March 2020 that was not covered by the media.
Minneapolis Animal Care and Control said animal aggression has become a big problem in the city since the ‘stay at home’ order went into effect, with reports up 80% over this time last year. Be careful out there. Our neighborhoods have turned into killing fields for pit bulls.https://kstp.com/news/officer-shoots-kills-dog-in-minneapolis-amid-rising-number-of-animal-aggression-reports-april-9-2020/5697187/?cat=1&utm_medium=social&utm_source=facebook_KSTP-TV&fbclid=IwAR0oJj7g2lq0oOqJgA0xVgaXGfjYR5gbP1nXdjKCyYU24ZasUDOMiy6r034
I am not surprised that there has been a cluster of pit bull attacks in the Fort Worth/Arlington/Irving corridor of central Texas. After Hurricane Harvey, I (with 40 years experience in homeless animal volunteer work) volunteered to try to reunite pets with owners. Although I live in New York, I now work on lost-and-found now every day in Houston and surrounding area. When it came time for owners to be looking for their dogs lost in Harvey, no one was. Instead, people began reporting many, many dogs on the streets. They spoke of how many people moved away and “put out their dogs,” or left the house and left the dogs locked in. Rescue and shelter volunteers told me there are streets in Houston where packs of abandoned dogs run day and night, called street dogs. They are constantly being hit by cars, injured, limping, starving, and fighting. The shelters, and there are quite a few, are packed with beautiful dogs, of course mostly pit bulls. Some shelters kill every day and seem to hold strays for only three days. Some do not screen adoptions, so if an adoption does not work out, the dog is often just dumped out on the street. Females are often abandoned with up to 9 or 10 puppies. Everyone is aware of the many dogfighters all around, who take give-away dogs and cats to use for bait.
The dog you wrote of who killed Sharon Rene Baldwin was a stray. It is living hell to be a stray dog in Texas, where there are also horrible episodes of animal cruelty and many shootings of dogs and poisonings of cats.
There are wonderful volunteers and people who care but it is far too great a problem for just animal lovers to solve. I am shocked that there have not been any rabies epidemics there, and sadly not horrified that there have been many deaths by dog.
Merritt Clifton says
By way of perspective, Houston is farther from Fort Worth than New York City is from Washington D.C.; the Houston metropolitan area of about 10,000 square miles is nearly three times the size of the 3,500-square-mile New York City urban area; Hurricane Harvey left dogs and cats homeless from Corpus Christi to Houston, an area approximately the size of the New York City to Washington D.C. corridor; and it is in fact farther across Texas, east to west, than it is from Texas to either the Pacific or the Atlantic Ocean. Texas is, in short, a very large place, larger than most whole nations. It is misleading to presume from incidents and conditions in specific locales that these are true of the whole of the state.
With that much said, we have in fact spent considerable time over several decades investigating humane issues in Texas, are still in frequent communication with Texas leaders of humane organizations, and must observe that Texas is often a study in contrasts. Some of the oldest, largest, and most successful spay/neuter programs in the world serve the more affluent cities, yet there is often little or no effective outreach to desperately poor and often unincorporated suburbs, across cultural and language barriers, and against the reality that the boundaries of the 254 Texas counties often demarcate political and economic fiefdoms as rigidly guarded as national borders.
Dr Duke says
Wasn’t the latest victim alone when she was attacked?
How would police or anyone know that she rolled over the pit or fell on it?
Even if that is what happened if the dog had not been a fighting breed she might have gotten one nip, not mauled to death.