Almost any explanation seems more plausible than that a sheltie/corgi mix killed a seven-year-old
KIEFER, Oklahoma––What animal killed 7-year-old James Mcneelis at around twilight on October 20, 2021 just outside Kiefer, Oklahoma might eventually be established by forensics.
Or maybe not.
About all that can be said for now is that both the Creek County Sheriff’s Office and Oklahoma Department of Wildlife are on the case.
But either James Mcneelis fell victim to one of the one of the flukiest fatal dog attacks on record, a possibility which the available information indicates must be considered, or the killer animal was neither a sheltie/corgi mix, as the Mcneelis family reportedly indicated to Jeannette Quezada of KRJH News 2 television, nor a collie, as local rumor suggested.
Who was the German shepherd mix?
ANIMALS 24-7 has emailed to Quezada seeking clarification of the identity of an apparent German shepherd mix shown running in the background of one of her news clips from the death scene, a dog easily twice the size of a sheltie, a corgi, or any sheltie/corgi combination.
Quezada, unfortunately, has not yet responded.
The killer animal might not have been the boy’s own dog of any breed, and not a black bear, either, as the social media rumor mill amplified.
Did a pit bull charge the smaller dog?
The simplest possible explanation of the observed phenomena associated with James Mcneelis’ death, occurring in many similar previous cases around the U.S. and the world, would usually be that a significantly bigger, more aggressive dog, most often a pit bull, charged James Mcneelis’ small dog and Mcneelis intervened, with fatal consequences.
The attacking dog then ran away, leaving only Mcneelis’ dog at the scene.
Yet there is no other suspect dog, at the moment, nor anywhere in the immediate neighborhood where such a dog might have come from.
An alternate possible explanation might be that Mcneelis and his dog somehow cornered a wild coyote, probably by accident around the old sheds in the back yard where Mcneelis’ remains were found. The yard borders a cow pasture where a coyote might have been hunting rodents along the fence line. A cornered coyote might have inflicted a fatal bite while escaping.
But though accidentally cornered coyotes bite children several times per year in the U.S., only one child has ever been killed by a coyote in U.S. history, a three-year-old girl in Glendale, California, in 1981. That victim was less than half the size of James McNeelis, and was not accompanied by a dog at the time.
Father found the victim
What is known, as Quezada reported, is that “The sheriff’s office said they received a call about a missing child around 7:20 p.m. after James McNeelis didn’t come home for dinner and didn’t respond to calls from the family. James’s father,” Miki Mcneelis, 30, “found him dead, according to the family.”
“The Oklahoma Department of Wildlife’s early investigations indicated the child was attacked by the family dog,” Quezada continued, without mentioning why the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife had become involved.
“The boy’s family told 2 News Oklahoma,” Quezada continued, “that they had only had the sheltie/corgi mix for three weeks after taking it in as a stray and that the dog hadn’t shown aggression before the attack. The dog is now being held at an animal control facility.”
Why fatal attack by a sheltie/corgi is unlikely
Images of the suspect dog have not been released––unless the suspect dog was the apparent German shepherd mix in the Quezada video.
Both shelties and corgis are small dogs, much smaller than the average seven-year-old boy, who stands about four feet tall and weighs about 50 pounds.
Sheltie/corgi mixes are common enough to have a name of their own: the Pembroke sheltie, or sometimes Pembroke Welsh corgi.
A Pembroke Welsh corgi stands about 12 to 15 inches high when fully grown, weighing from 14 to 30 pounds.
Neither a sheltie, nor a corgi, has ever previously been involved in a fatal dog attack on record, either in the U.S. or abroad.
A Pembroke Welsh corgi named Corky, running with two pit bulls who were suspected in many other local incidents, was at the scene of the May 26, 2007 fatal mauling of Carshena Benjamin, 71, in Collier County, Florida.
Corky, however, was not believed by Collier County Domestic Animal Services to have been directly involved in the attack.
Even if the dog who was with James Mcneelis when he was killed was really a collie, as some social media pundits suggested, that would scarcely have made a fatal attack more plausible.
Only one collie of any variety other than border collie has ever been involved in a U.S. fatality, and only two border collies, of whom one was part of a pack attack also including two pit bulls and a mastiff.
What about the rumored black bear, whose existence may have been postulated merely because the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife did look into the case?
According to the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife online map of known bear habitat, only six counties at the western end of the state, plus parts of seven counties hundreds of miles south, are known to have bears.
Creek County is considered potential bear range, someday, maybe, but the developed eastern part of Creek County, including Sapulpa and Kiefer, is the least likely part of the county for a bear to wander into.
Was a pit bull nearby?
Statistics and precedent make the possibility that a pit bull charged James Mcneelis’ dog and then killed him the most likely scenario––if a roaming pit bull had been near the scene.
In terms of statistics, pit bulls have attacked and killed an average of more than 11,000 other dogs per year since 2013, when ANIMALS 24-7 first began systematically collecting the data. Most of the victims were small dogs.
(See Pit bulls again inflicted 90% of fatal dog-on-dog attacks in 2020; scroll to the bottom for the cumulative numbers.)
In terms of precedent, James Mcneelis would be the second seven-year-old who may have been killed trying to stop a dog attack just in 2021.
If the apparent German shepherd mix shown in the KRJH News 2 television video was in fact the dog suspected of killing James McNeelis, that would also be much more plausible than the notion that a bona fide sheltie/corgi mix was responsible. Fifteen German shepherd mixes have killed people in the U.S. since 1982, as have 24 purebred German shepherds.
The infamous “dachshund” pit bull attack death case
Ardmore, Oklahoma, a three-hour drive south of Kiefer, is where Tracy Janine Garcia, 52, was killed by a pit bull and a pack of pit mixes on the evening of May 10, 2018.
Westwood Veterinary Hospital senior veterinarian C. Douglas Aldridge, DVM, identified and euthanized the dogs who killed Garcia, on instruction from the Ardmore Police Department.
Garcia by May 16, 2018 had nonetheless passed into legend through flagrantly inaccurate tabloid headlines as the purported victim of an attack by dachshunds, despite the efforts of Aldridge to set the record straight.
How the rumor started
Ardmore Animal Shelter co-director Tena Layton––herself owner of multiple pit bulls, according to Facebook postings––saw the dogs only after they were delivered to the shelter for cremation, if then.
Layton suggested to Ari James of The Ardmorite that “All of the animals appeared to be a mix of dachshund and some sort of terrier. The oldest of the dogs was reportedly slightly larger,” James reported, “and could have been mixed with border collie or similar.”
Tabloid media blew that “dachshund” story up from there.
Six other recent Oklahoma victims
As well as James Mcneelis’s death, six other fatal dog attacks have occurred in Oklahoma since Garcia’s death, most of them in the northeast corner of the state, which includes both Oklahoma City and Tulsa.
Allen Bruce, 56, Bennington, Oklahoma, was on September 30, 2019 killed by two pit bulls and a dog of mixed breed. See “National Pit Bull Awareness Month” opens with two pit bull fatalities.)
Victor Garces, 12, of Hollis, Oklahoma, was fatally mauled by two pit bulls on December 13 2019. Brothers Ruben Benavidez and Jacob Benavidez, who owned the pit bulls, in June and August 2021, respectively, were convicted of second-degree manslaughter and cruelty to animals.
Ruben Benavidez reportedly plea-bargained a sentence of four years in prison on the manslaughter charge, plus five years in prison with the first three years suspended on the cruelty charge.
Jacob Benavidez was convicted by jury. The jury, reported Tyler Boydston of KSWO, recommended that Jacob Benavidez serve four years and pay a fine of $1,000 fine for the manslaughter conviction, and serve five years in prison for the cruelty conviction.
Victims in Will Rogers country
Cledith Davenport, 79, of Broken Bow, Oklahoma, was on December 14, 2019 killed along with his schnauzer by eight to 10 pit/blue heeler mixes reportedly kept by a neighbor.
Karen Wilkerson, 76, of Broken Bow, Oklahoma, who lived just a dozen miles from Davenport, was on September 11, 2020 killed by two pit bulls apparently kept by one of her daughters.
Curtis Wickham, 26, of West Tulsa, Oklahoma, was on October 22, 2020 killed by three pit bulls during a violent dispute with Benjamin Ryan Spence, 35, who was charged with murder.
The Oklahoma dog attack fatality previous to James Mcneelis, Rebecca McCurdy, 28, was killed by a pit bull on June 20, 2021, in Skiatook, while reportedly housesitting at a pit bull breeder’s home.