Tulsa silence is deafening
TULSA, Oklahoma––How do the Tulsa Police Department and City of Tulsa Animal Welfare Department suppress rising public alarm over fatal and disfiguring dog attacks, primarily by pit bulls?
Perhaps by pretending that such attacks have not occurred?
On April 19, 2023, ANIMALS 24-7 received information relayed through a longtime trusted confidential local source that Tulsa cat feeder Glenna Blackwelder, 71, was fatally mauled a day earlier by one or more pit bulls belonging to a neighbor.
“Dogs had a long history of dangerous behavior”
“The dogs had a long history of dangerous behavior that was ignored by the city of Tulsa,” the source alleged.
City of Tulsa Animal Welfare agents and/or police were said to have visited the scene three times, without writing any citations, apparently determining that the dogs were securely contained by fencing.
“The dogs pulled her arm off and her skin was hanging on the fence,” ANIMALS 24-7 was told. “The dogs tore her face off. According to the medical examiner, one of the dogs had to have jumped into her yard and killed her and jumped back out.”
Blackwelder, ANIMALS 24-7 was informed, was in her across-the-street neighbor’s yard looking for a missing cat she was feeding.
Many loose ends
There were many loose ends in the account, as ANIMALS 24-7 received it.
First of all, there was no official confirmation of Blackwelder’s death.
On April 21, 2023, however, Legacy.com posted that “Glennaroy Blackwelder died at the age of 71 on April 18, 2023. She was born on February 4, 1952 in Tulsa, Oklahoma and worked as a retail sales worker.”
Second, available information indicates that least three of Blackwelder’s neighbors have, or recently have had, pit bulls. Two neighboring properties have relatively high fencing.
Third, neither the Tulsa Police Department nor the City of Tulsa Animal Welfare Department issued a media release or posted a word confirming either the alleged fatality or that an investigation was underway.
Upstaged by shooting?
A second confidential local source suggested that the death of Glennaroy Blackwelder might have been upstaged by the near-simultaneous random fatal shootings of Lundin Hathcock, 35, at the Rudisill Public Library in Tulsa, and James McDaniel, 55, at a nearby QuikTrip gas station and convenience store.
Carlton Jefferson Gilford, 61, was arrested for the shootings at the QuikTrip, and was treated for a self-inflicted gunshot wound.
Tulsa often has several high-profile crimes, accidents, and accidental deaths on the same day, however. That Blackwelder was killed the same day as Hathcock and McDaniel should not have significantly strained either police communications or local media resources, if in fact local media were ever alerted.
Blackwelder death echoes that of Klonda Richey
The Blackwelder death parallels the death of cat lover Klonda Richey, 57, of Dayton, Ohio, who was on February 7, 2014 fatally mauled by her next door neighbors’ two dogs, variously identified in court documents as “large-breed pit bulls, mastiffs, or Cane Corsos.”
In the months before her death, Klonda Richey reportedly called the Montgomery County Regional Dispatch Center 13 times and the Montgomery County Animal Resource Center eleven times, seeking protection from the dogs who eventually killed her.
$3.5 million settlement
Sued by Klonda Richey’s survivors for alleged negligent response to her calls, the Montgomery County board of commissioners in 2020 authorized a $3.5 million case settlement.
The dogs’ owners, Andrew Nason, 31, and Julie Custer, 28, each pleaded no contest to two misdemeanor counts of failure to control dogs, and were found guilty in Dayton District Court. Nason was sentenced to serve 150 days in jail, do 500 hours of community service, and pay a $500 fine plus court costs. Custer was sentenced to serve 90 days in jail, do 480 hours of community service, and pay a $200 fine plus court costs.
ANIMALS 24-7 was told, however, that Blackwelder’s survivors are unwilling to sue the City of Tulsa, even though the circumstances of her death look almost identical to those of Klonda Richey’s death.
Mother & son separately attacked by same pit bulls
City of Tulsa Animal Welfare had already become notorious for alleged lackadaisical response to dangerous dog complaints, and in particular for failure to promptly impound and euthanize pit bulls who demonstrate dangerous behavior.
Reported Kaitlyn Rivas for KRJH television news of Tulsa on April 1, 2023, “A Tulsa woman is asking for answers after she said she was attacked by a dog last week. The woman, Melinda Daniel said less than a week after her son was attacked by the same group of dogs, owned by her neighbors, she was then attacked. And now she wants to know why something wasn’t done with the dogs prior to her mauling.”
“Two feet outside my front door”
The Rivas report echoed a January 18, 2023 report from Daniela Ibarra of KTUL television news, also in Tulsa.
Began Ibarra, “A Tulsa man whose dog was attacked by a loose dog is pushing the city to hold animal owners accountable.
“Robert Harrington’s surveillance camera caught the January 12, 2023 attack on camera,” Ibarra detailed.
“I was attacked by a pit bull mix,” Harrington told Ibarra. “Two feet outside my front door when I was trying to walk my dog. It was very scary.”
“Doing the best we can”
Said Tulsa city councilor Laura Bellis, “I think this is one of those situations where the city is doing the best it can with the resources currently available.”
But if dogs who attack people and other animals are not promptly impounded and euthanized, the city is not doing the best it can with the resources available. Rather, it is kow-towing to people who keep dangerous dogs and fail to keep them under control.
The City of Tulsa in a written statement claimed to be “committed in the short and long term to address aggressive dogs in Tulsa neighborhoods. Even amidst recent closures to protect the community from the spread of canine flu,” the statement said, “animal welfare officers have worked diligently to respond to calls about vicious dogs, animal bites and animal cruelty cases, and completed emergency intakes by partnering with SPCA and creating emergency space at the shelter.”
New Tulsa animal control chief
“As work continues to keep Tulsa’s neighborhoods safe from potentially dangerous animals,” the statement continued, “the future of Tulsa Animal Welfare is in good hands with the hiring of a new animal welfare manager,” Sherri Carrier.
Carrier since 1994 was chief court services officer for Tulsa County. Before that, Carrier served as a community sentencing coordinator for Tulsa County Court Services and as a sergeant, corporal, and deputy sheriff for the Tulsa County Sheriff’s Office.
On March 13, 2023, Carrier announced plans to build a $13.8 million new Tulsa animal shelter, with holding capacity for 500 animals.
Ahead of record dog attack death pace
Meanwhile, though, the current U.S. and world record for human dog attack fatalities under one animal control chief is seven, held by Detroit Animal Care & Control chief Mark Kumpf, an animal control director for more than 20 years.
Kumpf has now had two fatal dog attacks on his watch in Detroit, after having had five––including Klonda Richey’s death––on his watch at his previous position in Montgomery County, Ohio.
This is in part because, early in his Ohio tenure, Kumpf helped to lead a legislative campaign that dismantled the Ohio dangerous dog law, which recognized pit bulls as “inherently vicious,” requiring that they be kept under strong security.
Second Tulsa pit bull attack death in a month’s time
Nineteen Ohio residents have been killed by pit bulls and other formerly restricted dog breeds since the dog law was weakened.
Carrier, the Tulsa animal control chief for barely two and a half months, has already had two human fatalities on her watch, and failure to promptly disclose the circumstances of Blackwelder’s death––indeed, failure to disclose it at all––bodes poorly for the future direction of Tulsa Animal Welfare.
Tulsa metro area body count since 2020
The previous Tulsa victim, Don Gibson, 67, was killed on March 23, 2023 while trying to break up a fight between his own two pit bulls.
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 Benjamin Ryan Spence, 35, on April 25, 2022 pleaded guilty to second degree manslaughter.