Schofield Barracks attack comes as Congress considers ending breed-specific base housing policies
HONOLULU, Hawaii––Strapped into her car seat, and too young to try to escape or fight back, a four-month-old baby girl died from canine head bites at her home on Hall Street, Schofield Barracks, at about five p.m. on October 14, 2020.
Though the victim was formally pronounced dead at the Tripler Army Medical Center, 20 miles south, Honolulu police spokesperson Michelle Yu told the Hawaii Star-Advertiser that the fatal dog attack was officially termed an “unattended death.”
The definition “unattended death” means the victim was found dead, with no surviving witnesses to the death present. Circumstantial indications are that the child may have been carried inside by a parent returning home from work, and might then have been left alone briefly while the parent returned to fetch something from a vehicle.
Hall Street shows on maps as a short stretch of a road otherwise known at both ends as Hoopaa Lane. Aerial photos indicate that Hall Street might actually be a path, perhaps formerly a road, extending a short distance north from Hoopaa Lane.
The only buildings with Hall Street addresses appear to be a cluster of duplexes fronting on Hoopaa Lane, with nineteen currently listed residents.
The name of the victim and her family were not disclosed.
What breed of dog killed the four-month-old was also not disclosed.
U.S. Army pit bull ban not enforced
Schofield Barracks, an outpost of 17,725 acres with 16,370 human residents as of the 2010 U.S. census, is a U.S. Army installation, the home of the 25th Infantry Division since 1941, as well as for the U.S. Army Hawaii command.
Schofield Barracks is accordingly subject to a January 2009 order excluding pit bulls, Rottweilers, Dobermans, chows, and wolf hybrids from U.S. Army base housing worldwide.
The order, however, appears to be very poorly enforced at Schofield Barracks, if enforced at all. ANIMALS 24-7 researcher Beth Clifton found 29 photos of pit bulls posted by Schofield Barracks residents to their Facebook pages, often clearly identified as pit bulls by the owners, within just a few minutes of searching.
Six fatal attacks in Hawaii in 40 years
Fatal dog attacks have historically been rare in Hawaii.
Recalled longtime Honolulu Advertiser science reporter Jan TenBruggencate in February 2004, after a chained dog believed to have been a pit bull/beagle mix killed 17-month-old Truston Heart Liddle, “On June 9, 2001, 18-month-old Tyran Moniz-Hilderbrand was killed when a friend’s pit bull got loose and attacked him at home in the Hawaiian Acres subdivision in Puna. The boy’s mother, Luana Moniz, was seriously injured while fighting off the animal. In 1981, a 6-year-old boy was killed by a pit bull in Kaimuki.”
Then, on October 5, 2008, 2-month-old Lopeka Liptak was fatally mauled by her aunt’s pit bull in Waianae.
And that was all.
But now two in two years, plus close calls
On July 29, 2019, however, two pit bulls escaped from the Containerland warehouse premises to fatally maul Crisencio Aliado, 52, a homeless man, as he washed his clothes in a nearby stream. A homeless woman, Francine Kornegay, told KITV that she had been mauled by two pit bulls, believed to have been the same two, a year earlier.
The pit bulls were nonetheless returned to Containerland.
There had already been at least 21 dog attacks in under three years around homeless camp sites at the Kakaako Waterfront and Gateway parks, reported Allyson Blair of Hawaii News Now, just six weeks before Aliado was killed. Blair cited data compiled by the Hawaii Community Development Authority.
Defense bill could end military restrictions on dangerous dogs
The dog attack death of the unidentified four-month-old girl at Schofield Barracks may have most influence––if adequately amplified to Congressional representatives by victim advocates––4,826 miles from Honolulu, in Washington D.C.
Among the first orders of business for Congress after the national election recess will be reconciling the differing U.S. Senate and House of Representatives versions of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2021.
The Republican-controlled U.S. Senate quietly bootlegged language into S.4049, the Senate version, which would repeal the bans long in effect on keeping pit bulls, Rottweilers, and other dangerous dogs in military housing.
Bill omits input from medical & genetic experts
The Senate language, “Section 1050. Department of Defense policy for the regulation of dangerous dogs,” requires that “Not later than 90 days after the date of the enactment of this Act, the Secretary of Defense, through the Veterinary Service Activity of the Department of Defense, shall establish a standardized policy applicable across all military communities for the regulation of dangerous dogs that is— (1) breed-neutral; and (2) consistent with advice from professional veterinary and animal behavior experts in regard to effective regulation of dangerous dogs.”
Noteworthy in Section 1050 is the total exclusion of advice from medical, surgical, and genetic researchers, whose perspectives in dozens of recent studies have converged around recognition that pit bulls in particular are extraordinarily dangerous because of a combination of inbred physical and behavioral traits.
Bill also introduces “one free bite” to military housing
Section 1050 orders that, “Not later than 180 days after the date of the enactment of this Act, the Secretary shall prescribe regulations implementing the policy established,” to include “Enforcement of comprehensive, non-breed-specific regulations relating to dangerous dogs, with emphasis on identification of dangerous dog behavior and chronically irresponsible owners.”
This would in effect replace the present military emphasis on preventing fatal and disfiguring dog attacks with a “one bite rule.”
Dogs and dog owners would have to demonstrate both “dangerous dog behavior” and “chronically irresponsible” ownership, implying multiple incidents, before any dog, no matter how menacing, could be removed from base housing.
After stripping the armed services of any authority to enforce meaningful preventive animal control law enforcement, Section 1050 adds pro forma calls for “Enforcement of animal control regulations, such as leash laws and stray animal control policies, promotion and communication of resources for pet spaying and neutering,” and “Investment in community education initiatives, such as teaching criteria for pet selection, pet care best practices, owner responsibilities, and safe and appropriate interaction with dogs.”
Would cover all housing for all armed services
Section 1050 would extend to “all installations of the Department [of Defense]; and all military housing, including privatized military housing.”
After at least six dog attack fatalities in five years and one near-fatal mauling either occurred in military housing or involved personnel who lived in military housing, U.S. Army commanders at more than 40 bases around the world were on January 5, 2009 ordered to implement a new Pet Policy for Privatized Housing.
Issued under the Army’s Residential Communities Initiative Privatization Program, the new pet policy prohibited pit bulls, Rottweilers, Dobermans, chows, and wolf hybrids; limited personnel living in base housing to keeping no more than two dogs or cats; forbade keeping exotic pets and farm animals; required all pets to be microchipped for identification; and forbade keeping pets “tied or staked outside the home or any building.”
“Voice command is not an acceptable means of control”
The order further prohibited keeping “Any other dog who demonstrates a propensity for dominance or aggressive behavior,” indicated by “Unprovoked barking, growling or snarling at people approaching the animal, aggressively running along fence lines when people are present, biting or scratching people, or escaping confinement or restriction to chase people.”
Additional provisions of the U.S. Army order stipulated that “Voice command is not an acceptable means of control,” that “Pets are not allowed in playgrounds or tot lots at any time,” and that pet keepers in military housing must “Maintain appropriate, humane care of pets (e.g. food, water, shelter from extreme weather, etc.)”
Marines, Air Force, & Navy
Residents of U.S. Marine Corps base housing worldwide were on August 11, 2009 prohibited from acquiring pit bulls, Rottweilers, or wolf hybrids. Those who already had dogs of the prohibited breeds were given until October 11, 2011 to meet the requirements for remaining in military housing under a “grandfather clause.”
The U.S. Air Force Standardized Pet Policy, substantially identical to those of the Army and Marine Corps, took effect on March 28, 2011.
The U.S. Navy continued to leave housing restrictions on dogs up to base commanders. Pets of any sort are, however, prohibited on shipboard.