But the same disregard of safety that killed five would-be Titanic visitors caused five pit bull deaths during the same time frame as the Titan catastrophe
Four billionaires and the son of a billionaire diving for kicks on the already much explored 1912 wreck of the Titanic galvanized global attention from June 18 to June 22, 2023, generating a multi-million-dollar search of the North Atlantic and appeals for international legislation to govern the construction of deep sea tourism vehicles.
The pit bull attack deaths, reported during the same time frame, of Robert Johnson Showalter, Jean Lilly Elizabeth Cluckie, Joseph “Iceman” Brown, Lewis Flores, and a two-year-old girl whose identity has not yet been disclosed each barely drew belated local notice.
Yet their almost anonymous deaths had some similarity to the deaths of Titan submersible passengers and crew Hamish Harding, 59, Paul-Henri Nargeolet, 77, Shahzada Dawood, 48, his son Suleman Dawood, 19, and Stockton Rush, 61, who built and operated the vessel in which they all died.
“Full speed into an ice field on a moonless night”
The Titan imploded under the pressure of trying to descend 4,000 feet under the sea, with a window rated to withstand pressure equal to only a third that depth.
“I’m struck by the similarity [of the Titan disaster] to the Titanic disaster itself,” remarked Canadian filmmaker and ocean explorer James Francis Cameron, 68, a veteran of 33 dives to the Titanic, during which time he believes he spent more time at the wreck than Titanic captain Edward Smith spent aboard the ship when it was afloat.
“The captain was repeatedly warned about ice ahead of his ship,” recalled Cameron, “Yet he steamed up full speed into an ice field on a moonless night, and many people died as a result. For a very similar tragedy, where warnings went unheeded, to take place at the same exact site, with all the diving that’s going on all around the world, I think is just astonishing. It’s really quite surreal.”
Ignoring obvious risks––and Ontario law
Showalter, Cluckie, and Brown owned the pit bulls who killed them.
They and the owners of the pit bulls who killed Flores and the as-yet-unnamed little girl could scarcely have been unaware of the risks they were taking by keeping pit bulls, but ignored the warnings, and in Cluckie’s case apparently also ignored the 2006 ban on possession of pit bulls within the Canadian province of Ontario.
With all of the 700-odd pit bull attack deaths and more than 6,000 permanently disfiguring pit bull attack injuries that have been documented around the world over the past 40 years, about 80% of them coming since 2007, a reasonably aware person might consider the circumstances of these latest five deaths “astonishing” and “really quite surreal.”
“Astonishing” and “surreal” animal advocacy politics
Even more astonishing and surreal is that even as pit bulls continue to kill and maim more people and other pets than all other dogs combined, animal advocacy charities including the American SPCA, Best Friends Animal Society, Dogs Trust, the Humane Society of the U,S., Maddie’s Fund, and the Royal SPCA of Great Britain, among hundreds of others, continue to deny the mayhem; promote pit bull adoptions; and pressure legislators on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean, scene of the Titanic shipwreck, to undo the breed-specific legislation that is the only legislative approach capable of preventing the often fatal and/or disfiguring attacks that are typically the first indications that a pit bull is dangerous.
Repeals of pit bull bans came in Independence, Missouri, and Maysville, Kentucky in the same week that the five most recent fatal pit bull attacks were reported.
Jean Lilly Elizabeth Cluckie
Jean Lilly Elizabeth Cluckie, 76, of Burlington, Ontario, Canada, was apparently in her back yard with her husband of 54 years on June 6, 2023 when their pit bull detonated, injuring both, as well as a neighbor who came to her aid.
Police shot the “highly aggressive” pit bull to effect a rescue. Hospitalized, Cluckie died from her injuries ten days later.
Robert Johnson Showalter
Robert Showalter, 71, of Beckley, West Virginia, on June 8, 2023 “was sitting with a neighbor on his porch when he fell unconscious.
“The neighbor reported to police that he ran next door to get a phone to call 911,” recounted Annie Moore of WVVA television news.
“When Beckley firefighters and emergency medical services arrived on the scene,” Moore continued, they found Showalter’s pit bull biting his throat.
A Beckley police officer shot the pit bull to stop the attack.
Joseph “Iceman” Brown
Joseph “Iceman” Brown, 65, of Bronx, New York, died on June 19, 2023.
About two weeks earlier, “His pit bull attacked him and almost tore his arm off,” according to a Facebook posting by his cousin Karen Miles, confirmed by another cousin, Christopher Brown.
“He was in surgery for over 10 hours,” Miles wrote, “and in the hospital for almost two weeks. Unfortunately he caught an infection and it went to his bloodstream.”
Lewis Flores, 40, was on June 20, 2022 fatally mauled by multiple pit bulls in Rockport, Texas, “three days after Texas governor Greg Abbott vetoed a bill that would have made it easier for local animal care service departments to investigate dangerous dogs,” noted Eric Lagatta of USA Today.
“The proposed legislation,” Lagatta explained, “would also have strengthened criminal penalties for owners whose dogs have repeatedly been behind unprovoked attacks, and would have protected the identity of anyone who reports dangerous dogs.”
The “Ramon Najera Act,” as the vetoed bill was called, “was named for the 81-year-old Air Force veteran who was killed in a February 2023 dog attack in San Antonio.”
Governor Greg Abbott opposes “over-criminalization” of pit bull attacks
Pit bull owners Christian Alexander Moreno and Abilene Schnieder, both of San Antonio, “were arrested after their dogs mauled Najera to death and injured three others — including Najera’s wife — on February 24, 2023,” Lagatta continued.
Both were charged with possession of a dangerous dog causing death and with causing injury to an elderly person. Both are felonies in Texas.
Moreno and Schnieder are now awaiting trial. Their three pit bulls were euthanized.
The “Ramon Najera Act,” introduced by Texas state representative Elizabeth Campos (D-San Antonio), cleared the state house on May 12, 2023, and the state senate on May 22, 2023.
Said Governor Greg Abbott in his veto statement, “Texas’s existing criminal laws penalize attacks by dangerous dogs — so much so that felony arrests have already been made of the dog owners responsible.”
Abbott asserted that “The justice system should be allowed to work without the over-criminalization found in this bill.”
Two charged with Flores’ death
Flores was attacked while walking near his home. An Aransas County sheriff’s deputy shot and injured one pit bull, but the entire pack fled while medics performed CPR on Flores. The sheriff’s department said later in the day that all of the pack had been captured, but subsequently warned Rockport residents to beware of one or two probable pit bulls who remained at large.
Charged with attack by dog involving death, a second degree felony, were Guadalupe Carreon, 33, apprehended at the scene, and Mario Alberto Mendoza Pena, also 33, who was arrested two days later at the McAllen-Hidalgo-Reynosa International Bridge.
Pena “arrived from Mexico at the bridge, where an officer matched him with an outstanding warrant from Aransas County, Texas, U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials said,” reported Sandra Sanchez for Border Report.
Pit bulls rip two-year-old out of mother’s arms
According to a Facebook posting by a woman who identified herself as a distant neighbor, in the ghost town of Concho, Arizona, population 38, the mother of the two-year-old who has not yet been named by authorities “was holding her little girl in her own fenced yard. The dogs,” identified by the Apache County Sheriff’s Office as three pit bulls, on June 21, 2023 “ran from the neighbors’ property and attacked the little girl in her mother’s arms, tearing the little girl’s arm off. The little girl bled out before emergency personnel arrived.”
According to the Apache County Sheriff’s Office, “The girl was transported to Summit Regional Medical Center,” in Show Low, Arizona, 38 miles south, “for emergency treatment, but later died from her injuries.”
Arrested at the scene, the Apache County Sheriff’s Office media release said, were pit bull owners Jason Brad Kruse, 50, and Tonjia Maria Chubokoff, 51.
Kruse and Chubokoff “were booked into the Apache County Jail on one charge each of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, which is a class 2 felony in this case because of the victim’s age, and assault by vicious animal at large, a class 5 felony,” the Apache County Sheriff’s Office media release finished.
“The case is under investigation, and further details should emerge in the next few weeks,” offered Molly K. Ottman, editor of the Mountain Daily Star.