British bully breed advocates urge U.K. to adopt approach failing in Kansas City
KANSAS CITY, Missouri; LONDON, U.K.––Members of the House of Commons of the United Kingdom currently reviewing possible amendments to the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991, many of them inclined to pay excessive deference to dog advocacy organizations instead of the public, might look 4,350 miles west to Kansas City, Missouri, U.S.A., to see what happens when bully breed advocates are allowed to run animal control.
K.C. animal control takes 24 hours to respond to pit bull rampage
“For three hours on April 22, 2023,” reported Sam Zeff of KCUR on May 30, 2023, “two pit bulls named Branch and Nia—a mother and daughter—menaced a Kansas City neighborhood.
“The pair attacked three people, including a child on a bike who managed to kick the dogs and escape.
“They sent a woman to the hospital with 20 bite wounds, several of them labeled very serious.
“They then forced a man to jump on top of a car to escape the attack after he was bitten 13 times, according to municipal court documents.
“Neighbors,” wrote Zeff, “said Branch and Nia—both unspayed—roamed freely around the neighborhood.
“It wasn’t until the next afternoon, 24 hours after the triple attack, that an animal service officer from KC Pet Project finally made contact with the owner and managed to quarantine the dogs.”
KC Pet Project opposes mandatory s/n of pit bulls
KC Pet Project, founded by pit bull advocate Brent Toellner, won the Kansas City animal sheltering contract in 2012, and won the animal control enforcement contract in 2020.
Toellner moved on in 2016 to become senior director of national programs for the Best Friends Animal Society, primarily engaged in dismantling breed-specific ordinances around the U.S. that protect the public and other pets from bully breeds.
KC Pet Project, meanwhile, did finally charge the owner of the two pit bulls who went on the unprovoked April 22, 2023 rampage with 10 offenses, including creating a public nuisance and failing to spay or neuter the two pit bulls, as required by a Kansas City ordinance which KC Pet Project opposes.
Both pit bulls were “humanely euthanized due to the severity of the bites and attacks,” KC Pet Project told Zeff, but as a no-kill organization, KC Pet Project also objects in principle to behavioral euthanasia, at least before one or more victims are severely mauled.
Drastic drops in all categories of enforcement
Learned Zeff, “In the two years before KC Pet Project took over, Kansas City animal control officers wrote 3,683 citations, according to Kansas City Municipal Court data.
“In the two years after, KC Pet Project officers wrote 1,973—a 46% drop.
“In that same period,” Zeff added, “the number of citations for abuse dropped 88% and tickets for dangerous dogs dropped by a third.
“The number of tickets written for failing to spay or neuter pit bulls dropped 66%.”
The nonprofit Kansas City spay/neuter clinic Chain of Hope previously did “30 surgeries a month for [pit bull] owners who didn’t want to pay the fine. Now, they only do ten a month,” Zeff reported.
89% of dogs offered for adoption are pit bulls
“KC Pet Project says about a quarter of the dogs in its shelters are pit bulls and that has been steady over the last decade,” Zeff said.
But of the 249 dogs offered for adoption on the KC Pet Project web site as of May 30, 2023, 222––89%––were either pit bulls or pit mixes with pit bull traits clearly dominant.
The KC Pet Project rated shelter capacity, incidentally, is 140 dogs.
KC Pet Project spokesperson Tori Fugate “said the real problem is a lack of affordable spaying and neutering in Kansas City,” Zeff continued, which begs the question why Kansas City pit bull owners are no longer using the Chain of Hope services at the previous rate.
Keeping more dangerous dogs in homes is not a plus
Boasted Kansas City council member Teresa Loar, “a vocal supporter of KC Pet Project,” according to Zeff, “We’re keeping more pets in homes and educating the public and fulfilling the needs that they have to allow their pets to stay home,” Loar said.
But keeping more dangerous dogs in homes from which they might escape to wreak havoc, as occurred on April 22, 2023, is not a positive accomplishment.
Instead of issuing citations and fines, and impounding dogs who exhibit dangerous behavior, KC Pet Project chief of animal services Ryan Johnson told Zeff, “What our officers are trained to do is to partner with that family and provide them with resources first, and issue a corrective action period for that owner to come into compliance with whatever that particular violation may look like. We are very, very successful at doing that,” Johnson boasted.
But as Zeff noted, “KC Pet Project did not offer data to prove their approach has been successful.”
KC Pet Project, even before taking over Kansas City animal control, had a questionable history and attitude about protecting the public and non-bully breed pets from dog attacks.
On November 6, 2016, for instance, Kansas City Animal Control, then a city agency, impounded a Cane Corso who had injured a young couple who were out for a walk.
Kansas City Animal Control division manager Patrick Egberuare reportedly emailed KC Pet Project executive director Teresa Johnson, telling her ‘please do not release to owner or transfer ownership,’ stating that ‘the dog needs to be euthanized.’”
Mauled owner’s father
Instead, about 24 hours later, KC Pet Project returned the Cane Corso to the female owner. On November 13, 2016, the Cane Corso attacked the owner’s 54-year-old father, who was hospitalized for at least four days with undisclosed injuries.
KC Pet Project director of marketing and development Tori Fugate told Fox 4 reporter Robert Townsend that the shelter quarantined the Cane Corso for 10 days after the November 6, 2016 attack, as required by law.
But, had the Cane Corso remained in quarantine for 10 days from November 6, the attack on November 13, 2016 could not have happened.
U.K. town called the zoo to capture pit bull
Meanwhile in England, even as Sam Zeff broadcast his findings about the Kansas City animal control meltdown, “A huge American bulldog [pit bull] ran riot in a playground–– and attacked his owner,” Samuel Port and Bradley Jolly of The Mirror reported.
“The play area was evacuated while police and animal experts from the Royal SPCA, local zoos, and a wildlife park worked to control the aggressive mutt,” in Thorpe Willoughby, North Yorkshire.
Zoo and wildlife park personnel might have been called to the scene in part because public confidence in Royal SPCA willingness and ability to address dog attacks has been in visible decline.
This may have begun with the August 2016 publication of a report Breed Specific Legislation: A Dog’s Dinner, advocating that the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991 be scrapped entirely, in favor of an animal control approach which would in effect ensure that a dog could kill or maim at least one person before being impounded and euthanized.
Royal SPCA sued for foster pit bull attack
The most recent major blow to Royal SPCA credibility on dangerous dogs came on April 19, 2023, when Mark Duell of Daily Mail disclosed that Joanna Harris, 49, “who lost an arm after the American bulldog she rescued mauled her during a vicious attack, is suing the RSPCA for more than £200,000 in London’s High Court.
“Harris was fostering Kiwi the dog for the RSPCA, and had been hoping to adopt him,” Duell summarized.
“Harris claims the RSPCA allowed her to foster the animal, who was destroyed, knowing he was an unsafe, dangerous dog who had previously attacked two other women,” Duell wrote.
Lawsuits over dog attacks rare in U.K.
Harris lost her arm at her home in Crowborough in September 2021.
“It is also alleged,” Duell added, “that the RSPCA failed to remove Kiwi from Harris’s house when she reported that he tried to bite her on August 26, 2021––a week before the incident in which she was injured.”
Similar lawsuits are common in the U.S., costing shelters, rescues, and insurance companies millions of dollars per year, but until now have been almost unheard of in the United Kingdom.
Comparable allegations against the British animal adoption agency Dogs Trust have surfaced recently via social media, but have apparently not yet led to publicized lawsuits.
An ongoing string of other pit bull attacks meanwhile illustrated the ineffectiveness of British response to bully breeds, even though the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991, if enforced to the letter as written, which it never has been, could allow for impounding most if not all, before their involvement in a fatal or disfiguring attack.
Where did 13 of 17 impounded pit bulls go?
On March 26, 2023, agreed Robert Fisk of The Express, the Manchester Evening News, and the BBC, the Greater Manchester Police impounded 17 American Bully pit bulls from breeder Bernard Valentine’s property in Carrington, after a six-year-old girl who had been playing in the street nearby was mauled to unconsciousness despite the efforts of another girl, an unidentified man, and her mother to save her.
The story changed somewhat when Valentine on May 4, 2023 pleaded guilty to multiple violations of the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991 and to possession of cannabis.
The Sun reported then that only four dogs had been impounded from Valentine, but as two other people were also said to have been charged, the remaining 13 pit bulls may have belonged to them.
“Multiple bites to the neck” from victim’s own pit bull
Surrey police, meanwhile, disclosed at a May 17, 2023 inquest that professional dog walker Natasha Johnston, 28, died on January 12, 2023 from “multiple penetrating bites to the neck.”
Those bites, Surrey police indicated, were delivered most likely by Johnston’s own American XL Bully pit bull, who has been euthanized.
Johnston was walking eight dogs when mauled, but forensic evidence cleared most of the rest of having had any involvement in the fatal attack.
Staffordshire got the finger
Jessica Murray, Midlands correspondent for The Guardian, on May 20, 2023 reported that the family of Annette Tonyin, 61, an immigrant from Nigeria, were appalled by a police decision to return to the owner a Staffordshire pit bull who raced across a street to attack Tonyin’s somewhat smaller Staffordshire mix.
When Tonyin intervened, Murray wrote, the attacking Staffordshire bit off “part of her left index finger and left her with severe bites on her right hand.”
Jonathan Hogg, 37
The Tonyin case, however, was upstaged within hours when the Greater Manchester Police disclosed the May 19, 2023 death of Jonathan Hogg, 37, fatally mauled late the night before by an American Bully XL pit bull, one of 15 discovered on the premises.
“The animal was destroyed as it posed a ‘significant risk’ to the public,’ while a 24-year-old man was arrested on suspicion of being in charge of a dangerously out-of-control dog causing injury resulting in death,” Sky News reported.
“Officers subsequently searched two houses and seized 15 dogs, including six adults and nine puppies.
“A 22-year-old woman was also arrested on suspicion of money laundering,” Sky News added.