Milner is fifth of six dog attack deaths in two weeks, four by pit bulls
HALIFAX, Nova Scotia––Wrestler, martial arts expert, and experienced pit bull owner Megan Milner, 38, of Middle Musquodoboit, Nova Scotia, on the morning of June 9, 2020 became the twentieth known pit bull fatality of the year in the U.S. and Canada, the first Canadian victim, and the eleventh to be killed by a pit bull residing in his or her own household.
Milner was also the fifth and seemingly least likely of six known victims of U.S. and Canadian fatal dog attacks within just 14 days.
Nine charges against owner whose pits killed Arkansas child
The first of the other victims in the two-week streak was Robbie Taylor, age 9, of Mount Vernon, Arkansas. Taylor was killed on May 28, 2020 by two free-roaming pit bulls belonging to neighbor Trey Edgar Wyatt, 25.
Wyatt, already facing charges for allegedly beating his pregnant girlfriend on December 15, 2019, was reportedly charged after Taylor’s death with keeping nuisance animals, hazardous animals running at large, possession of animals attacking a human being, felony tampering with physical evidence, felony possession of a controlled substance, two counts of felony possession of drug paraphernalia, and simultaneous possession of drugs and firearms, yet another felony.
Three more children killed & a 70-year-old
Next to die, alone in her family basement on May 31, 2020, was Skylar Headrick, age 11, of Murray County, Georgia. Headrick was mauled by two family Neapolitan mastiffs, one of whom had apparently injured her heel earlier in the evening.
Brice Sanders, age two, was killed by a family pit bull on June 1, 2020 in Stockton, California. Police did not acknowledge the attack, rumored on social media for more than a week, until ten days after it occurred.
Katie Amos, 70, was killed by four family pit bulls on June 3, 2020, in Country Club Hills, Illinois. Pit bull puppies had been sold from the same address by an apparent relative.
The sixth victim was a six-week-old infant, not yet identified by name as this article was posted, killed on June 11, 2020 by the family Belgian Malinois in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.
COVID-19 measures slow dog attacks, but not deaths
Reported nonfatal dog attacks, especially attacks by pit bulls running at large, have steeply dropped in the first half of 2020, coinciding with reduced outdoor activity due to social distancing restrictions meant to slow the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus.
Simply put, fewer people out and about means fewer people vulnerable to dogs. Pit bulls continue to account for about 70% of those nonfatal dog attacks that are reported.
Pit bull fatalities, however, 20 of the 24 total dog attack fatalities through June 12, 2020, are proceeding at a pace likely to eclipse the 2018 record toll of 40, among 57 total U.S. and Canadian fatal dog attacks. Two of the fatalities reported in 2020, moreover, were by dogs not yet identified, meaning that the actual pit bull toll might be even higher.
Milner last seen alive giving water to the pit who killed her
Milner was last seen alive, sitting beside the Wittenburg Road, just west of Middle Musquodoboit, giving water to the pit bull who killed her, at about 7:45 in the morning, a teenaged female jogger told police.
Fifteen minutes later the jogger returned in the opposite direction, back toward Middle Musquodoboit, finding Milner’s remains in the roadside ditch with the pit bull wandering nearby.
“Area resident Jocelyn Parker told CTV News she was driving her own dog to ‘doggy daycare’ when she spotted a dog and a girl on the side of the road,” narrated CTV News Atlantic reporter Bruce Frisko. “Parker said she stopped her vehicle after the teenaged girl waved her down.”
“Come quick, come quick”
Related Parker, “She said, ‘Come quick, come quick. There’s a lady lying in the ditch. There’s a body.’”
“At that point,” Parker explained, “we hadn’t put together that the dog was perhaps behind the incident. He was not aggressive toward us.”
Resumed Frisco, “The dog, which the Royal Canadian Mounted Police described as a large pit bull, took off. Police tweeted a warning that a dangerous pit bull suspected in a fatal attack was on the loose.”
Neighbor ran over the pit bull
Seeing the alerts from police and spotting the suspect pit bull about two miles away, “neighbor Mark Taylor made a snap decision to run the pit bull down with his van,” Frisco continued.
“Taylor said he was at a Bible camp he runs when he learned about the incident from his daughter, who lives close to where the woman was attacked,” Frisco added. “Taylor grew increasingly concerned when his daughter told him she had spotted the dog on the loose. He said he jumped in his van, checked on his grandchildren, and informed people walking along the road about the attack.
“I also have livestock in that direction,” Taylor told Frisco.
Taylor said he “was headed down the road that leads to his livestock when he saw the dog,” Frisco narrated. “Taylor, who describes himself as an animal lover, says [hitting the pit bull] was a tough decision to make, but he believes it was the right one.”
Milner “gave those dogs the very best training & love”
Milner had on November 25, 2018 posted to the Halifax Regional Police page on Facebook, praising the police for having done “everything they could to handle my two scared very large pit bulls without using violence, unless it had become absolutely necessary. I thank them,” Milner said, “and commend them so much for showing compassion to my dogs, during a time when we more often hear about police shooting/intimidating dogs/family pets without hesitation.”
Describing Milner as “a great neighbor/friend for many years,” area resident Amber Hardy on Facebook elaborated on the circumstances both of Milner’s death and behind the November 2018 posting.
Milner “gave those dogs the very best training, love, and they were her babies,” Hardy said. “The dog she was walking was a male. She rescued the male and female brother and sister. She had a hard time training them and she had professional training and took great care of the dogs. In spite of that, one day about two years ago the male attacked her in her home pretty badly. The SPCA was called. They finally got the male dog out. He had attacked her because there was a certain sound or something he didn’t like.”
“This dog had full-blown mental issues”
Added another “neighbor/friend,” John Keenan, also via Facebook, “This dog just had full-blown mental issues. He was born bad. She [Milner] loved the dog, which is why she didn’t put him down when he attacked her previously. This one was always aggressive and always struggling to get out of her control to attack other dogs or people. She usually walked it when others were not around or when she went away from the village. The thing was just wired wrong.”
But the pit bull who mauled Milner in 2018 may not have been the same one who killed her.
Reported Andrew Rankin for the SaltWire Network, “The victim’s [current] neighbor said he was shocked to find out which of the dogs was responsible for [Milner’s] death. He said one of the pit bulls she owned, who was at the victim’s home at the time of the incident, was known to be very aggressive and had attacked the owner last year. The other was always mild-mannered and well behaved, he said.”
“She would walk the dog at odd hours outside the village”
Said the unidentified neighbor, “When I found out it was that dog, I was shocked. I couldn’t believe it.” he said. That neighbor told Rankin he had seen the other dog being taken from Milner’s home by Animal Services.
“Honestly, the other dog was always a constant worry for myself when I’d leave the house to go to work,” the neighbor told Rankin. “We have a small farm, so we were always worried about the dog getting out and attacking the animals or attacking my wife when she was out working.”
The neighbor “said she would walk the dogs at odd hours outside of the village boundaries to make sure it would be away from residents,” Rankin said. That appears to be the case on” the morning Milner died.
“The woman had driven her car about 10 minutes away from her home to take her dog for a walk,” Rankin finished.
“She normally had the male muzzled”
Resumed Hardy, “She [Milner] moved out to the country and took a job at the Shubie zoo. She normally had the male muzzled while walking him, but perhaps that changed since she moved out there.”
Or perhaps Milner simply took the muzzle off the pit bull to enable him to drink. Police found a loose muzzle near her body.
The “Shubie zoo,” short for the Shubenacadie Wildlife Park, begun as a private wildlife refuge, opened to the public in 1954, and is among the leading Nova Scotia tourist venues. Milner, who also kept pet snakes, appeared to friends to have found her vocational calling.
Wrote sci-fi & fantasy
A Nova Scotia resident for most of her life, Milner attended Amherst Regional High School, in Amherst, Nova Scotia, almost on the provincial border with New Brunswick. She spent six years pursuing her higher education in Calgary, Alberta, and then lived for five years in Moncton, New Brunswick.
“Homesick, she returned to Nova Scotia,” to Halifax, “where her love for fantasy and science fiction inspired her to start writing,” said the biographical note accompanying a short story Milner contributed to Bluenose Paradox, a 10-story anthology co-edited by local writers Larry and Valerie Gent, published for the 2013 Halifax science fiction and fantasy convention.
“Queen of the ring”
Mostly, though, Milner in Nova Scotia pursued a career in martial arts, at first as “queen of the ring” in local “athletic wrestling entertainment,” said a January 2012 SaltWire Network profile.
“Working upward of 50 hours a week at the Blue Ocean Contact Centre call center, she tries to spend the remainder of her day working both sides of the counter at her local gym,” continued the SaltWire Network.
Milner at the time had “recently made the cut to participate in the television documentary Cubicle to The Cage, where Milner and a hand-selected cast” were to “trade in the routine of their office jobs for 10 months of mixed martial arts training and the prospect of a professional fight at the end.”
Missed the cut to become cage fighter
To prepare, the SaltWire Network recalled, Milner “lifted heavier weights, stayed in the gym longer, and strived to be in top shape when she showed up for the audition.”
But, while Milner remained a top local lady wrestler, she did not make the Cubicle to The Cage final cut.
“Megan was involved in the Maritime wrestling scene for over ten years,” posted friend David Boyce to Facebook. “I believe her last time was in Wrestlecentre,” of Halifax, which bills itself “Canada’s premier pro wrestling company,” with matches aired “on Bell TV1, the Fite app, and the Fight Network.”
Before Milner’s death, the last fatal attack by a domestic dog in any of the four Canadian maritime region provinces was apparently the March 2003 mauling of four-year-old James Waddell in his family’s back yard in Fredericton, New Brunswick, by three of his family’s four Rottweilers. A pit bull seriously injured a Fredericton five-year-old just a few days later.
The New Brunswick provincial government within days passed legislation allowing municipalities to ban specific dog breeds and breed types.
The next fatal attack in the region by any canine came on October 28, 2009. The victim, Taylor Josephine Stephanie Luciow, 19, a Toronto folksinger/songwriter known professionally as Taylor Mitchell, was hiking alone on the Skyline Trail in Cape Breton Highlands National Park a day earlier, when accosted and mauled by as many as six coyotes.
Hearing Mitchell scream, other hikers chased away the coyotes and called for help, but she was already in critical condition when Royal Canadian Mounted Police officers––already in the area––arrived minutes later. Two coyotes were shot at the scene. One died and was sent for necropsy. The other coyote escaped.
Mitchell was only the second human on record to be killed by wild coyotes, and the first adult. The only other human victim was a three-year-old who was attacked by a coyote in 1981 in Glendale, California. However, a teenaged girl was bitten on the arm by a coyote on the Skyline Trail in 2003, and another teenaged girl was attacked by a coyote in the trail parking lot in 1988.
Less serious coyote attacks on humans followed sporadically in Cape Breton Highlands National Park until 2013, when for no obvious reason they stopped. The prevailing theory is that just one coyote pack was involved, and may have died out or been hunted out.
Pit bull breeders raised Cain
Pit bull issues emerged in Nova Scotia with the May 2011 mauling of Noella Ann McIntosh, 45, in Yarmouth. Police shot the pit bull at the scene. The pit bull owner, Gary Joseph Woods, 40, was charged with criminal negligence causing bodily harm, uttering threats, causing a disturbance and failing to stop at a stop sign, “as a result of separate incidents,” stipulated CBC News.
The Nova Scotia SPCA identified problematic local pit bull breeding in October 2015, seizing 15 allegedly neglected puppies and ten adult pit bulls from North Preston resident Warren Cain, 42. Cain was additionally charged with two counts of assaulting a peace officer and uttering threats.
“Another man, 18-year-old Makell Cain, was charged with animal cruelty and assault with a weapon.after his vehicle crashed into an SPCA van,” CBC Nova Scotia reported.
The two Cains eventually accepted plea bargains including a lifetime ban on owning animals for Warren Cain, who was also fined nearly $14,000, and a 15-year ban on owning animals for Makell Cain, who was fined $1,000.
Despite that history, the Nova Scotia SPCA in June 2016 accepted three pit bulls who had been impounded from an alleged dog fighting operation in Lanark County, Ontario, where pit bulls have been nominally banned under lightly enforced provincial law since 2006.
A near-pit bull fatality occurred in North Kentville, Nova Scotia on August 30, 2017, apparently around the same time as another rescue transport of pit bulls to the province, though there is no evident direct link between the events.
Responding to a yard sale ad, a woman named Claire Handley knocked on the door at the advertised address.
“When it opened three pit bulls rushed out,” reported Ashley Thompson of the Kings County News. “One of the dogs ran off, but two lunged for her.”
“I fell backwards off the step and hit my head on the pavement,” recounted Handley. “I put my arms up and they grabbed my arms and then went after me on my chest.”
Fifteen-year-old Brooklyn Duncan, walking nearby, rushed to her rescue. Duncan was in March 2018 honored for heroism by Kings West member of the provincial legislature Leo Glavine for fending the pit bulls off and helping Handley to her feet.
Rescue transports coincide with trouble
Pit bull rescue transports to Nova Scotia accelerated in September 2017 with the arrival of 26 dogs, many of them pits and pit mixes, who were evacuated from shelters in San Antonio, Texas a few days after Hurricane Harvey.
This was reportedly the second such transport to Nova Scotia arranged between Hand Me Down Hounds Rescue, of San Antonio, and the Nova Scotia-based Save A Life Canada Animal Rescue Society.
Whether by coincidence or otherwise, the Greater Moncton SPCA at about the same time rehomed a “mastiff mix” who within two weeks killed a Siberian husky.
“I am being told that the [‘mastiff mix’] owners were told that that dog shouldn’t be around other dogs,” grieving husky owner Darrell Fardy complained to the Halifax Chronicle Herald.
SPCA worker mauled
Just a few weeks later the Nova Scotia SPCA accepted a pit bull whom SPCA provincial director of animal care Sandra Flemming told Rebecca Lau and Natasha Pace of Global News was “an owner-surrendered dog who was surrendered to us as a friendly dog.”
Two weeks after that, the pit bull seriously injured an SPCA staff member at the Kings Animal Shelter in Waterville, Nova Scotia.
“According to the Nova Scotia SPCA, the 25-year-old woman was taking the American bulldog mix out for a walk when it attacked — biting and holding onto her right arm,” Lau and Pace reported.
Within just another month, in November 2017, Nova Scotia veterinarians reported the arrival of leptospirosis in the province. Leptospirosis had rarely been seen in Nova Scotia, but outbreaks were common in Texas in the wake of Hurricane Harvey.
Killer pit bull came from Texas?
Also in November 2017, two boys, ages six and eight, were injured by a Doberman in Economy, Nova Scotia. As with the other incidents following the transports from Texas, there appears to have been no clear connection, other than timing, but suddenly Nova Scotia was having many dog-related issues that news media archives indicate it had not seen much of before.
Posted Joan Sinden of Halifax, a pit bull advocate and outspoken opponent of shock collar use at least since 2002, who uses “dogkisser” as her social media handle, “This dog [who killed Milner] was rescued from a kill floor in Texas and brought to Nova Scotia. We don’t know if the dog was privately rescued or brought up by one of the plethora of retail/import rescues that are currently making hundreds of thousands of dollars off the backs of dogs every year here in Nova Scotia. We also know that this dog was supposed to be muzzled 24 hours a day.
“Why are we importing dogs who need to be muzzled?”
“You have to ask yourself,” Sinden continued, “why are we importing dogs from the southern U.S. who need to be muzzled 24 hours a day. It would seem to anyone that this was a tragedy just waiting to happen.
“In 2014 the writing was on the wall for a lot of people in rescue locally,” Sinden recalled. “At that time we suggested to [Nova Scotia minister of agriculture Keith] Colwell that rescue regulations were desperately needed. We failed spectacularly. Why we failed, you will have to ask Colwell––I still have no idea why we failed.
“After the tragedy of the death of this woman has passed,” Sinden continued, “questions need to be asked as to how this dog came to Nova Scotia. I’m too old to be doing this any more. I’m sure there are young people out there just loving to take this advocacy on, right?”
“I was just contacted by Beth Clifton”
Despite that attempt to pass the buck, Sinden was within minutes rallying fellow Nova Scotia pit bull advocates against the possibility that the province might institute breed-specific legislation.
This came about after ANIMALS 24-7 merely sent Sinden a Facebook “friend” request, preliminary to asking whether she knew exactly where Milner’s pit bulls came from, and when.
“Heads up people,” Sinden warned. “I was just contacted by Beth Clifton – the wife of Merritt Clifton. If you don’t know who these two people are, Google them. We are in for the fight of our dogs’ lives.”
“The preponderance appears to be related to the pit bull breed”
Also immediately rallying opposition to breed-specific legislation was Meghan MacAdams, a pit bull advocate who in July 2019 fought for the repeal of an eight-year-old pit bull ban in Clark’s Harbour, Nova Scotia.
The Halifax Chronicle Herald had erroneously identified MacAdams as the victim of the fatal attack on Milner.
“The woman involved shared the same name as myself which, as you can imagine, has been a bit confusing and overwhelming on my end,” MacAdams posted to Facebook.
Milner’s pit bulls were from B.C. breeder, not Texas rescue
As matters developed, Megan Milner turned out to have acquired her two pit bulls, one of whom killed her, not from Texas and not from a rescue, but rather from Mega Built Bullies, a British Columbia pit bull breeding operation.
Mega Built Bullies on November 8, 2016 described how the brother-and-sister pit bulls were “on their way to Halifax to spend a very spoiled life with their new mommy,” identified as “Megan.”
Milner herself posted a photo of her recently acquired pit bulls to Facebook on March 22, 2017, four to five months before the known rescue transports from Texas began.
Pit bull ban pending?
Neither a provincial nor a local pit bull ban has been proposed so far, but “Halifax Regional councilor Steve Streatch brought up the possibility of banning certain breeds of dogs and says it’s an issue that should be examined,” mentioned CTV News Atlantic reporter Paul Hollingsworth.
“I’m not proposing a ban,” Streatch said. “I’m just saying that the discussion has to be had that maybe a ban needs to be put in place. Animals, at any time, can turn on their owners or turn on humans. But for some reason, the preponderance appears to be related to the pit bull breed.”