Mourning on Valentine’s Day
Having taken to heart the pit bull advocacy claim that “It’s all in how you raise them,” young people in at least eight communities scattered among Argentina, Britain, and the U.S. spent Valentine’s Day 2021 in shock and mourning after eight pit bulls, a Dogo Argentino mix, and a Rottweiler unexpectedly turned on them and their families––and this was only a partial catalog of attacks occurring during the preceding month.
Raising children and dogs with what the young people thought was responsibility and kindness brought the deaths of three children and an adult, with another five children hospitalized.
Of course the dog owners and victims can be second-guessed, but the biggest mistake any of the young people appear to have made was simply to believe the propaganda propounded by defenders of dangerous dog breeds.
Tried to set humane example, but it backfired
Victoria Rose LaBar, 23, of Seabrooke, South Carolina, a former competitive swimmer and runner, had some brushes with the law when younger, but was determined to do well by her six-year-old son Cameron Hatfield, and was immensely proud when he learned to swim.
When LaBar and Hatfield found an abandoned pit bull in early January, LaBar––who had rehomed lost dogs before––first tried to reunite the pit bull with the suspected owner.
Then, when the pit bull remained unclaimed a week later, LaBar advertised him for adoption.
Posted LaBar to Facebook on January 15, 2021, “So I gave the owners an adequate amount of time. At this point I believe they ditched their fur baby on purpose. Having spent a week with this sweet boy, I cannot imagine why! He needs a home, [with] someone who can be more dedicated to [giving him] the tender loving care he needs. I will be looking into all offers, as you can never be too careful homing pitties! He’s great with other dogs, big and small, children big and small, and my cat! He’s amazing! Truly wish I could keep him!”
Updated LaBar five days later, “My 6-year old little boy was attacked early this afternoon by the pit bull I had been trying to find a home for. I was an advocate, supporter for pit bulls. What happened, happened so fast that there was nothing that anybody could do.”
LaBar promised to post funeral arrangements when able.
Pit bull killed kickboxer
Two weeks later, on February 5, 2021, another trusting young pit bull rescuer, Keira Ladlow, 25, of Kitts Green, Birmingham, England, a café manager and amateur kickboxer, was asleep in her home after working a night shift when her recently adopted pit bull tore her arm off.
Ladlow alarmed neighbors with her screams, but had already bled to death before police and paramedics arrived.
Reported The Sun newspaper, “Abeygail Barrett, believed to be a relative, posted on Facebook that ‘Her previous dog was a pit bull who died of cancer, so she rescued this dog after finding him in a garden where he had been on and off for four years.’”
“A momentary lapse of care”
At about the same time on February 5, 2021, in the city of Rivadavia in Mendoza province, Argentina, Natalia Florencia Mendoza Peirano, 24, crowned “Queen of the Trees” in a 2017 beauty pageant, thought her 19-month-old daughter Micaela Rufina Mendoza would be safe in the temporary care of her parents and sister.
Unfortunately, when what police called “a momentary lapse of care” allowed the little girl to slip outside into a patio, the family Dogo Argentino reportedly tore her throat out.
The newspaper Diario Norte mentioned that a Dogo Argentino also killed a two-year-old girl, who was not named, in November 2020 in Ensenada, a Buenos Aires suburb. That Dogo Argentino was also a pet kept by the victim’s family, Diario Norte said.
In September 2020 a pit bull running at large killed nine-year-old Lara Rebecca Agüero in San Miguel, another Buenos Aires suburb, Diario Norte added.
The three fatalities inflicted by “bully breeds” within six months gave Argentina a “bully breed” fatality rate per million residents of about half that of the U.S.
“No prior known aggressive behavior”
In Kearney, Nebraska, five days after the two February 5, 2021 fatalities, the as yet unidentified parents of a month-old baby girl reportedly awakened around 3 a.m. to discover that their “American bulldog” variant pit bull had killed the girl by inflicting what Buffalo County attorney Shawn Eatherton called “blunt force and cranial trauma.”
“Investigation into the history of the animal revealed no prior known aggressive behavior,” reported Lorena Carmona of WKYT.
Two 62-year-olds rescued by strangers
Between the deaths came a flurry of other dog attacks which could have become fatalities but did not because of heroic interventions––two of them in Detroit.
A 62-year-old Detroit man on January 21, 2021 survived an attack by four dogs, believed to be pit bulls, with injuries to both legs, his shoulder, and an ear, when “A witness at the scene attempted to help the victim by hitting the dogs with an object,” reported Jasmin Barmore of the Detroit News.
That attack was almost identical to an attack on David Weaver, 62, by three pit bulls in Louisville, Kentucky, the same day, also ended by a stranger’s intervention.
Allowed five-year-old to help in feeding
Back in Detroit eight days later, a 36-year-old man allowed a five-year-old to help him feed “five large dogs” also believed to have been pit bulls.
“The man left the room for a few minutes and when he came back, he saw two dogs attacking the child. It is unclear if the man is a family friend or a relative,” reported Priya Mann and Dave Kelly of WDIV.
“While attempting to rescue the child, the man was bitten on his hands and arms, while the child was bitten all over his body and legs,” Mann and Kelly continued. “They were both rushed to the hospital in serious condition, but are expected to survive.”
Caught at the fence
Also on January 21, 2021, in Greeley, Colorado, “Brenden Wininger, 11, was playing with friends in a field. Suddenly, one of the boys screamed there was a dog coming up,” an aggressive pit bull none of them knew, reported Trevor Reid of the Greeley Tribune.
The five boys ran toward a fence and began climbing over it to escape.
Wininger, pausing to help a 2-year-old and a 5-year-old over the fence, was pulled down and mauled by the pit bull when he tried to scramble over himself, his mother, Brittanie Schmidt, told Reid.
St. Saviour’s Road
The best documented of the near-fatalities in the month preceding Valentine’s Day came on February 5, 20201, on St. Saviour’s Road, a cul-de-sac in the Alum Rock neighborhood of Saltley, a largely Muslim district of Birmingham, England.
Two security cameras caught the entire incident. A 26-year-old Muslim mother saw an escaped Rottweiler guard dog approaching and tried to lead two daughters, ages two and three, across the cul-de-sac.
The Rottweiler, however, pursued them. The mother for nearly a minute tried to fend the Rottweiler away from the girls, accidentally knocking the three-year-old down while pulling the two-year-old away from the Rottweiler. The mother fell too before Nighat Khatoon, 36, herself a mother of two, stopped her car and charged the Rottweiler, who briefly backed away.
“I have never seen a mother so traumatized”
Yaser Baig, 38, a father of three, there to pick up his daughter from a nearby nursery school, kicked the Rottweiler aside and picked up the three-year-old, while Mohammed Zakriyya, 43, ran outside in his sock feet to grab the two-year-old. The men, repeatedly kicking the Rottweiler back, pushed both girls into Khatoon’s car.
“The mother got chased around the car by the dog,” Zakriyya told media, “and I pulled her behind me and said, ‘Stop, don’t run, I’m in front of you.’ She was in such a bad, traumatic state, I have never seen a mother so traumatized.”
The two-year-old and the mother escaped with minor injuries, but the three-year-old was hospitalized with multiple severe but not life-threatening bite wounds.
Left six children with pit bull to avoid exposing them to smoke
Sometimes disfiguring and near-fatal dog attack occur because young parents and dog owners do not understand relative risk.
Reported Todd Wellington for the Caledonian Record, after a February 9, 2021 pit bull attack in Lyndonville, New Hampshire, left a two-year-old boy with severe neck and ear injuries, “According to investigators, the child was one of six children ages 2-11 in the apartment along with four adults and two pit bulls, until all four adults went to an upstairs room to smoke a cigarette together. The adults told police they went upstairs because they did not want to smoke around the children.”
Cigarette smoking, according to the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, kills 480,000 Americans per year, including 41,000 non-smoking victims of secondary smoke––but almost all of the victims are over the age of 30 and have been chronically and repeatedly exposed.
This hardly suggests that children should not be protected from cigarette smoke. Pit bulls, however, present a more immediate risk.
Pit bulls rank second only to car crashes in disfiguring children
After car accidents, attacks by pit bulls appear to be the leading cause of tissue tearing, bone fractures and other injuries severe enough to warrant surgical intervention among small children in the U.S., ahead even of burns.
Summarized a 2019 study by the Section of Maxillofacial Surgery at the Charleston Area Medical Center in West Virginia, entitled Dog-Bite Injuries to the Craniofacial Region: An Epidemiologic and Pattern-of-Injury Review at a Level 1 Trauma Center, “We reviewed 182 patient records distributed among several [dog] breed categories.
“The results showed a disturbing trend toward more severe injuries, especially in younger children, and a reversal in gender, with girls bitten more than boys.
“Young children incurred more extensive facial injuries, including fractures.
“Unprovoked & complex wounds”
“The data showed that compared with other dog breeds, pit bull terriers inflicted more complex wounds, were often unprovoked, and went off property to attack.
“Other top-biting breeds resulting in more unprovoked and complex wounds included German shepherds, Rottweilers, and huskies.
“Management of facial wounds took place more often in the operating room, especially in younger children, with increased hospital stays. Of the patients, 19 (10.4%) had fractures and 22 (12%) underwent a rabies vaccination protocol.”
The Lyndonville pit bull was reportedly euthanized due to lack of proof of vaccination.