What you don’t know about a pit bull will kill you––and so will what you think you do know
TULSA, Oklahoma; VISALIA, California; CENTRE TOWNSHIP; Pennsylvania––“Try to find out some background, try to find out some other things before you actually take this dog into your home,” advised Sergeant Brian Collum of the Tulsa Police Department on March 23, 2023.
Easier said than done
Collum spoke after responding to the third U.S. dog attack fatality in six days.
One death was inflicted by pit bulls, a second is believed to have been inflicted by pit bulls, and the first of the string was inflicted by three Great Danes.
The most recent victim, Don Gibson, 67, was killed while trying to break up a fight between his own two pit bulls.
Sergeant Collum, himself a pit bull owner, offered reasonable advice, but advice often difficult to follow, as another pit bull attack in the news that morning illustrated.
“Rebekka Bolline,” of Slidell Parish, Louisiana, “fostered three-year-old pooch Tater Tot from a local animal shelter on March 15, 2023,” Madeline Patrick and Ryan Merrifield of the British newspaper The Mirror reported, “after three-year-old daughter Emily Roark asked for a pet dog.
Tater Tot, allegedly misrepresented by shelter, mauls child day after adoption
“This little girl is now missing half her smile after the family’s rescue puppy turned into a ‘man-eater’ within 24 hours – devouring some of her cheek.
“Rebekka claims she was told the dog was a Labrador-retriever mix but now fears it had some pit bull in it,” wrote Patrick and Merrifield.
ANIMALS 24-7 repeatedly put the shelter photo of Tater Tot into the Google photo identifier program. Google identified Tater Tot as a pit bull seven times in a row, suggesting no other possibilities.
Only two states, Virginia and California, require animal shelters and rescues to disclose the bite history of dogs offered for adoption. No state requires shelters and rescues to tell the truth about a dog’s breed, while the Best Friends Animal Society and Maddie’s Fund, in particular, actively encourage shelters and rescues to downplay or even conceal pit bull genetics in order to promote adoptions.
(See Virginia bars shelters & rescues from hiding dogs’ bite history.)
Pit bull & pit mix “got in a fight”
“Don Gibson and his wife, Gena Carter, were trying to break up a fight between two of their dogs when their pit bull Isabella started attacking Don instead,” reported Kaitlyn Deggs of NewsOn6 in Tulsa.
Carter described to Amy Hybels of Fox23 how the fight began. “Angel,” whom Carter identified as a pit bull mix, “came bombarding through the door and Isabella, I guess, was already out of her pen, and they got in a fight,” Carter said.
Gibson and Carter separated the combatants, but Isabel, whom Carter identified as a “purebred pit bull,” “came charging back in the gate to get at Angel and when she found out she couldn’t, she went after Don and tore chunks out of his arm, his legs, everything.”
Four metro Tulsa dog attack deaths in four years
Gibson previously owned a restaurant called Ralph’s Hot & Juicy Burgers. He and Carter, together for 23 years, had as many as 13 rescued dogs, according to neighbors, including an Akita mix named Wolfie, but only the pit bulls took part in the fatal attack, the fourth fatal dog attack in less than four years in the greater Tulsa metropolis.
Earlier Tulsa-area victims included seven-year-old James McNeelis, killed by a dog never identified in Kiefer, a southern Tulsa suburb, on October 20, 2021; pet sitter Rebecca McCurdy, 28, fatally mauled by one or more pit bulls kept by a breeder in Skiatook, a northern Tulsa suburb, on June 20, 2021; and Curtis Wickham, 26, fatally mauled by three pit bulls in Tulsa on October 22, 2020, in an attack for which Benjaman Ryan Spence, 35, on April 25, 2022 pleaded guilty to second degree manslaughter.
Jack & Jeff & mauled to death
Don Gibson’s two pit bulls killed him in Tulsa just 24 hours after two dogs rumored on Twitter to be pit bulls used as guard dogs by the Jack & Jeff Transfer Company in Visalia, California, killed an as yet officially unidentified man at about 8:00 a.m. on what was said to be his first day on the job.
“Visalia Police Department officials say their violent crimes unit responded and took over the investigation. The California Division of Occupational Safety & Health also responded to the scene,” reported John Houghton for KSEE/KGPE television news in Fresno.
The chain link-fenced Jack & Jeff Transfer Company property is surrounded by homeless encampments under an overpass, a pedestrian bridge, and under trees alongside Packwood Creek, forming the northern boundary of the lot.
“The early worker gets the mauling”
Founded in 1917, the Jack & Jeff Transfer Company is among the oldest businesses in Visalia, currently owned by Brad Metzner, 58, whose wife is a granddaughter of one of the co-founders.
The circumstances appear to have been essentially the same as were involved in the March 7, 2023 death of Mateo Lucas Salvador, 42, in Jurupa Valley, California.
Apparently arriving for work at Homeland Electric a few minutes early, Salvador was fatally mauled by three Malinois and a Cane Corso, directly across Bellegrave Avenue from Jurupa Valley High School, where students were already assembling for classes.
(See Riverside County, California extends lead in fatal dog attacks.)
Realities of “watchdogs”
Both the Visalia victim and Salvador were apparent victims of the frequent use of dogs of deadly appearance and reputation to deter crime, by property and dog owners oblivious to several realities:
• The legal penalties for crimes against property do not include disfigurement and/or the death penalty;
• Few crimes against property cost the owners even a fraction as much as a wrongful death or disfigurement lawsuit; and
• Dogs have limited ability, if any, to distinguish between unauthorized intruders and others with legitimate business on the premises.
Three Great Danes
Similar thinking may have had something to do with why U.S. Army retiree Wendy Sebathne, 57, kept three Great Danes at her property on Clouser Hollow Road in Centre Township, Pennsylvania, along with horses and a French bulldog.
Sebathne apparently lived alone, about 200 feet from Clouser Hollow Road, but both the Centre Township violent crime rate and the Centre Township rate of crimes against property are about half of the U.S. norm, according to BestPlaces.net and Niche.com.
Across-the-road neighbor Kristen Potter at about 5:00 on March 16, 2023 went to feed Sebathne’s three Great Danes, at request of Sebathne, who was reportedly staying with her hospitalized and critically ill mother.
Middle son saw mother killed
Potter’s ten-year-old son followed, witnessing the attack, police said.
Potter had another son who would have been 14 in 2023, except that he was killed by a car in 2020 while bicycling across the street to Sebathne’s home, soon after the death of his father Tom Potter.
Kristen Potter, a former hairdresser who had become a full-time mother, left a younger son in addition to the ten-year-old, and her fiancé, Jacob Presley Fickett.
Fickett was in Florida arranging the purchase of a home for the family when Kristen Potter was killed.
Kristen Potter was reportedly already packing in anticipation of the move.
Wendy Browne says
In the great Dane attack, the French bulldog was NOT involved, just wanted to leave that statement that police made involving the case.
Jamaka Petzak says
Tragic, senseless, and completely avoidable in every case.
Sharing with gratitude, and the lyric, “When will they ever learn?” playing in my head.
Annoula Wylderich says
While the caveat to learn as much as possible about a dog’s history prior to adopting is wise, there doesn’t appear to be any explanation or logic behind long-established family pets who suddenly turn on their owners – other than the human was trying to break up a fight. Scary.
Ban these dogs immediately!
The sheriff’s comment is common sense, but also impossible. Modern rescue just doesn’t work that way, and if you try to get it to work that way, you’re simply blackballed from adopting from that group. From 2016-2018, I had several interactions with animal shelters and rescues in an effort to find a pet dog. I hadn’t adopted since the early 2000s, and didn’t realize how much things had changed in sheltering and rescue. In every single modern interaction with a rescuer, it was impossible to gain any information about a dog. One public open-intake shelter concealed the fact that the dog had attacked his last adopter. A private no-kill ‘adoption coordinator’ literally used her upper body to hide the file on the dog we were discussing when I asked if I could see the shelter’s notes; “Why?” she asked, as if it was the strangest, most suspicious thing she’d ever heard.
Crazy about the risk of dogsitting. I was a kid who loved horses and dogs, not into babies, so instead of babysitting, I would take dogsitting jobs. My sensible, risk-averse mom never gave it a second thought – but she likely would have if the dogs were giant and/or aggressive breeds. Without wanting to blame the victim, part of the problem these days is the atmosphere of “must trust all dogs, all dogs bite, it’s all how you raise them, it’s doggie racism to say a breed is aggressive.” Dogsitting spaniels or collie mixes or labs, fine. Dogsitting guard or fighting breeds? We didn’t have pit bulls around us in the 1980s, but there’s no way my mom would have ok’d me dogsitting, say, German Shepherds. Partly because every one near us was nuts, but mostly because they’re guard dogs, that’s the whole point of them – and my not-a-dog-expert mom would have been quite clear that it would be risky to have a stranger walk into a guard breed’s home. How this has been lost on an entire generation of humans is amazing.