When a nine-year humane society president and a four-year animal control agency chief in the same city both have had more dog attack fatalities on their watch than anyone else in comparable positions ever, 85% by pit bulls, what does that tell you?
DETROIT, Michigan––Lovell Anderson, 4, playing in his own fenced Detroit backyard under supervision of his grandmother on the afternoon of October 18, 2023, was grabbed, pulled under the fence meant to keep him safe, and killed by a neighbor’s pit bull.
Lovell’s aunts, Monique Grant and Maple Blackshear, told WXYZ Action News 7 in Detroit that the pit bull got into the grandmother’s yard by jumping over her fence.
Dragged under fence
“Police said that after the initial attack,” summarized Jerry Lambe for LawAndCrime.com, “the animal attempted to drag the child out of the yard through a gap in the fence as Lovell’s grandmother screamed for help. Neighbors as far as a block away from the home told the station that they heard her screaming.
“Several people in the neighborhood told Detroit CBS affiliate WWJ that loose dogs roaming in the area had increasingly become a problem of late. One woman told the station she had called animal control several times, but had not seen the agency take any steps to fix the problem.”
The unprovoked attack evoked memories of how four-year-old Xavier Strickland was on December 2, 2015 was pulled away from his mother by four pit bulls on Bayliss Street in Detroit, dragged under a fence, and fatally mauled in a nine-minute attack that left Strickland with more than 90 puncture wounds, despite the efforts of his mother and multiple neighbors to save him.
The same four pit bulls had previously attacked Strickland’s nine-year-old sister.
Convicted of involuntary manslaughter for Strickland’s mauling death, the pit bulls’ owner, Geneke Lyons, 42, was sentenced to serve 12 months in jail with work release, followed by four years on probation.
The alleged lack of Detroit Animal Care & Control follow-up in response to previous complains about the pit bulls who killed Lovell Anderson also recalled the August 19, 2019 death of nine-year-old Emma Hernandez, fatally mauled by three pit bulls while riding her bicycle in an alley between her family’s Detroit home and that of neighbor Pierre Cleveland.
A Detroit jury on June 30, 2023 found Cleveland, 37, not guilty of second-degree murder, involuntary manslaughter and possession of a dangerous animal causing death.
Lack of animal control follow-up allowed alleged perp to walk
Detroit Animal Care & Control, with just ten full time officers when Hernandez was killed, to cover 138 square miles inhabited by more than 673,000 people, had in March 2018 responded to neighbors’ complaints about Cleveland’s pit bulls by leaving a “notice of dog laws” on his front door.
As there were no further complaints, Detroit Animal Care & Control did not follow up.
That lack of further complaints and follow-up allowed Cleveland to walk.
Eighth fatality on Mark Kumpf’s watch
Detroit Animal Care & Control chief Mark Kumpf, introduced in the position on September 23, 2019, just over a month after Emma Hernandez was killed, has now had three fatal dog attacks on his watch in Detroit, after having had five on his watch at his previous position in Montgomery County, Ohio.
Several of the Montgomery County fatalities, like the fatal maulings of Strickland and Hernandez before Kumpf came to Detroit, and now the death of Lovell Anderson, involved failures to impound dogs who had repeatedly been reported to Montgomery County Animal Services for dangerous behavior.
Dismantled Ohio dangerous dog law
While heading Montgomery County Animal Services, 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.
Nineteen Ohio residents have been killed by pit bulls and other formerly restricted dog breeds since the dog law was weakened.
Warehouse pit bull killings
The two previous Detroit dog attack deaths occurring since Kumpf was hired to head Detroit Animal Care & Control appear to have both involved the same “rescue” pit bull, at the same old warehouse that was undergoing renovation.
The second of those fatal attacks came to light first.
Daniel Joseph Bonacorsi, 58, was on April 4, 2023 killed by three pit bulls inside the warehouse while reportedly trying to feed them.
One of the pit bulls was named DeNiro.
“My boy DeNiro got another body”
“It happened again. My boy DeNiro got another body. Two guys broke into the building today and my dogs felt threatened, so one of the guys did not make it out,” owner Dustin Shepherd posted to Facebook.
FOX 2 staff investigators confirmed the previous fatality.
“Another suspicious death reportedly took place at the building almost exactly seven months ago,” Fox 2 said. “On September 7, 2022, police were called to the same address when someone apparently broke in and was found dead. Police at the time said that it was unclear how he died.”
Volunteered a reader well-known to ANIMALS 24-7 after reading that account, “This is the same building where in the summer of 2021, a woman was trying to help some pit bulls there and she was mauled so badly she almost died. This did not make the news. I believe she lost an arm. [Detroit Animal Care & Control chief] Mark Kumpf was trying to get the city where the building owner lives to take the dogs, instead of bringing them to Detroit Animal Care & Control,” the reader alleged.
Sergeant Pepper on the Memphis beat
Kumpf is scarcely the only prominent pit bull advocate heading a Detroit-area animal care agency. And Kumpf is not the only head of a Detroit-area animal care agency to have been in his position through more dog attack fatalities than anyone else in the world, ever, heading a comparable agency.
Michigan Humane Society president Matt Pepper, a longtime pit bull advocate, headed the Memphis Animal Shelter when in July 2010 two pit bulls mauled William Parker, 71, who suffered a fatal heart attack during the mauling. The two pit bulls also injured Parker’s daughter Gardenia when she tried to rescue her father, two paramedics, and a bystander.
The pit bull owner, Bernard Humphrey, was a registered sex offender. His girlfriend, Sherry Wooten, pleaded guilty to manslaughter.
“It’s wonderful to be here; it’s certainly a thrill”
Pepper came to the Michigan Humane Society, which does not have animal control responsibilities, in 2014.
Since then, 26 dogs have participated in killing 12 people within the Michigan Humane Society service radius. Among those dogs were 22 pit bulls (85%), two Rottweilers, a husky, and a Doberman.
The Grosse Pointe Shores city council, representing a northeast Detroit suburb of about 2,700 people, on September 19, 2023 took note that about 70% of all the 12,500-plus fatal and disfiguring dog attacks in the U.S. over the past four decades have been by pit bulls, of which about half have, according to the pit bull owners, been the first known violent incident involving their dogs.
Threatened to cancel “Mutt March”
That should suggest to a person of reasonable concern for public safety that preventing the first pit bull attack is of paramount importance, and that this can only be done with strong breed-specific restrictions.
The Grosse Pointe Shores city council therefore adopted by a 4-3 vote an ordinance banning pit bulls from the community, but allowing those already within the city limits to remain if insured, kept leashed when in public, and kept securely fenced.
Matt Pepper then threatened to cancel a “Mutt March” fundraiser held annually since 1989 at the Edsel & Eleanor Ford House in Grosse Pointe Shores.
“The immediate impact of the decision to ban pit bulls,” wrote Pepper, “is that this celebration in Grosse Pointe Shores is no longer on the table. We will be immediately forced to identify a more inclusive community to host our event.”
A genuinely forward-looking community concerned about public safety might reasonably have told Pepper to take his mutts on a long march off a short pier into Lake St. Clair, taking note that there are many other dog rescue agencies serving the Grosse Pointe Shores area whose adoption and advocacy policies do not jeopardize the community.
Instead, the Grosse Pointe Shores city council on October 10, 2023 rescinded the pit bull ban of September 19, 2023, again by a 4-3 vote.
Twenty years of Motown mayhem
Altogether, forty-four dogs have participated in killing at least 20 Michigan residents since 2004, fifteen of whom were killed in Detroit.
Thirty-one of those dogs were pit bulls; three more, a pair of Cane Corsos and a bullmastiff, were pit bull variants. Four were Rottweilers, three were huskies, and one was a wolf hybrid.
The list of the dead:
Lovell Anderson, 4, Detroit, October 18, 2023. (Attacked by a neighbor’s two pit bulls.)
Girl, 11 months, Madison Township, June 19, 2023. (Grandfather’s pit bull.)
Daniel Joseph Bonacorsi, 58, Detroit, April 4, 2023. (Three pit bulls. One killed a man previously.)
Unidentified man, Detroit, September 7, 2022. (At least one pit bull; killed again on April 4, 2023.)
Sally Frederica Rogers, 91, Bloomfield Hills, September 2, 2021. Daughter’s two Rottweilers.
Emma Hernandez, 9, Detroit, August 19, 2019. (Killed by three pit bulls.)
Sharon Lee Daniels, 77, Big Prairie Township, November 13, 2018. (Killed by three pit bulls.)
Susannah Jean Murray, three weeks, Grand Rapids, May 8, 2017. (Killed by three pit bulls.)
Kiyana McNeal, 4, Sherman Township, October 23, 2016. (Killed by one Doberman.)
Elizabeth Rivera, 71, Detroit, July 16, 2016. (Killed by one pit bull.)
Rebecca Hardy, 22, Port Huron, December 3, 2015. (Killed by a pit bull and a husky.)
Xavier Strickland, 4, Detroit, December 2, 2015. (Killed by four pit bulls.)
Craig Sytsma, 46, Metamora Township, July 23, 2014. (Killed by two Cane Corsos.)
Kyle Holland, 5, Lincoln Park, July 12, 2010. (Killed by a probable wolf hybrid, possession of which would have been illegal, identified by the owners’ attorney as a German shepherd/husky mix.)
Lylie Cox, 4, Warren, September 13, 2007. (Killed by two Rottweilers.)
Edward Gierlach, 91, Iosco Township, September 13, 2007. (Killed by four pit bulls.)
Cheryl Harper, 56, Iosco Township, September 13, 2007. (Killed by four pit bulls.)
Mary Stiles, 91, Detroit, December 5, 2005. (Killed by one bullmastiff.)
Samantha Black, 2, Oakdale, May 6, 2005 (Killed by a Malamute and a husky.)
Cassidy Jeter, 6, Hamtramck, April 5, 2005. (Killed by two pit bulls.)
Two more victims
To this list might be added two more victims:
- Patricia Crosby, 53, of Detroit, was accidentally shot dead on October 9, 2017 by neighbor Michael Williams, 61, a lifelong friend who was trying to protect her from an attacking pit bull.
• An unidentified woman who was found dead of unknown causes in her Detroit home on June 7, 2017. Police removed 32 dogs from the home, among them an unknown number of aggressive pit bulls.