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Monday, June 26, 2017

2017 Dog Bite Fatality: Woman Brain Dead After Pit Bull Mauling Near Bozeman, Montana

pit bulls kill woman near bozeman
Melissa Barnes, 65-years old, died after being attacked by two pit bulls in Bozeman.

Woman Brain Dead
Bozeman, MT - The Gallatin County Sheriff's Office confirmed a woman was declared brain dead after being attacked by two dogs Saturday. The confirmation comes after conflicting reports earlier today about whether or not she survived her injuries. Melissa Barnes, 65, was pronounced brain dead on Sunday, Sheriff Brian Gootkin said during a press conference today. Both dogs were euthanized and are being tested for rabies. The results of the tests will determine future actions.
The victim is an organ donor. This is why medical officials are waiting on the rabies results, Gootkin said. Neither of the dogs were vaccinated.
Sheriff Gootkin said the attack happened Saturday morning at a home on Love Lane. Barnes was doing yard work at the time. The dogs belong to a tenant that lives on her property. The victim was airlifted to a trauma center in Billings, where she succumbed to her injuries. Gootkin stated that only one of the dogs, a pit bull, has been confirmed as the attacker at this time. It's unclear if another breed was involved. The investigation is ongoing as the family awaits rabies test results.

Late Evening Updates

Late evening news reports identified the dogs' owner as Wayne Bartlett, who seemed genuine in his interview with KRTV. Bartlett was not home at the time of the fatal mauling, but three children, including his niece, were. Bartlett said he and his pit bull "Bane" have rented from Barnes for six years. "She's sweet, she's very hard-working, she works day and night, she's always really kind to me," he said. "My dog Bane has lived here just as long, never really had a problem with him."

Bartlett clarified that his other dog involved in the attack (white and brown dog) is a pit bull-mix.

The last time Montana came on our radar was during the 2015 legislative session. Utah-based fighting dog advocates, Best Friends Animal Society (BFAS), drafted a state preemption bill prohibiting local governments in Montana from adopting pit bull laws. SB 239 was sponsored by Senator Douglas Kary. The bill died on February 21, 2015 during its Second Reading. Senior BFAS lobbyist, Ledy VanKavage, vowed to "try again" with the legislation in future years.

Since 2005, there have been two documented dog bite fatalities in Montana. The state has a low population, about a million residents. In February 2006, a rottweiler killed a 4-year old boy in Ulm. The pit bull mauling death of this woman marks the second death. Over the 12-year period of 2005 through 2016, the combination of pit bulls and rottweilers accounted for 76% of all dog bite fatalities in the U.S. Both top killing dog breeds are now represented in the state of Montana.

Bane, suspected attacker bozeman mauling
Second dog, a pit bull-mix, killed Bozeman woman
deadly pit bull attack occurred at 5499 Love Lane near Bozeman
Related articles:
04/20/15: 2015 First Quarter Legislative Highlights: Local Control Dominates...
04/20/15: A Primer on State Preemption Laws and Charts for Advocates

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Monday, June 19, 2017

2017 Dog Bite Fatality: Family Pit Bull Kills 3-Week Old Baby Girl in Grand Rapids, Michigan

The Attacking Pit Bull is an Alleged "Support Dog" for a Child

baby killed by pit bull in grand rapids
Susannah Jean Murray, 3-weeks old, was killed by a family pit bull in Grand Rapids.

No Criminal Charges
UPDATE 06/19/17: Kent County Prosecutor Chris Becker issued a three page opinion today regarding the pit bull mauling death of an infant. Susannah Murray, 3-weeks old, was severely attacked in the head after being left alone with her family's three pit bulls for about five minutes on May 25. The attack occurred in the 1100 block of Kalamazoo Avenue SE. The baby died after seven hours of surgery on May 26. The baby's mother, Michelle Murray, will not face any charges.
On June 19, we sent a fax to the prosecutor's office requesting a copy of the three page opinion. At that time, Becker's office was already closed.
Becker states he found no evidence that any of the pit bulls had been violent in the past -- often a necessary requirement to bring charges. The family claimed one of the dogs was a "support dog" for a child -- which is not a "service dog" nor is it covered under the Americans with Disabilities Act. An emotional support animal (ESA) does have rights under the Fair Housing Act and Air Carrier Access Act, but requires a letter from a physician. It's unclear if that obligation was met.

At the time of the attack, there were other children in the home, but not in the living room area where the baby had been left in a bouncy seat. The family's three pit bulls were also loose inside the home. Murray and her friend, Bobbi Rodriguez, had stepped out onto the porch for about five minutes for a smoke. When Rodriguez came back inside, she saw one of the pit bulls, named Rhino, licking the baby's face. She kicked the dog away and saw the infant was covered in blood.

Clarifying the Family Pit Bulls

According to the MLive article, the family's three pit bulls are the same ones identified in earlier news reports: Rhino, a 2-year old male, Devlin, a 2 or 3-year old male and Mommas, a 3 1/2 year old female. As we stated in late May, Rhino passed the Canine Good Citizen test in February and Mommas was adopted to the Murray family by the Kent County Animal Shelter when it was 3-months old. Also, a family member stated in comments that all three dogs were "rescues."

Rhino was the killer, which shows that passing the Canine Good Citizen (CGC) test has no bearing on unpredictable aggression, particularly when the owner is not present. The CGC is not an aggression test to begin with (here are the testing requirements). Earlier, the baby's father had stated the killer dog was a female leading us to believe that Mommas was the killer. However, Becker said that none of the other dogs could be ruled out; all three were euthanized Monday.
According to Becker, Rhino was also the alleged "support dog." With the proper documentation, Rhino could sit next to anyone on an airplane.
Rodriguez told police that her 11-month old had been in the home with these dogs before the fatal attack without any incident. In December, Murray posted a photo to her Facebook page of a baby the same age snuggling with Rhino -- Hey, it was great for social media points back then? In fact, Murray can't get enough social media points. After her pit bull killed her baby, she allowed her daughter to post a photo of the now deceased baby lying with Devlin, the other male family pit bull.

Failure of the Law

Despite unpredictable aggression being a well-documented trait in pit bull terriers, criminal statutes ignore this. "The law imposes culpability in situations where a person knew of a danger and could have prevented something from happening when it must have been apparent injury would result. Neither of these elements are present," Becker states. "Simply having three dogs in the home, even if all of them are a pit bull mix, is not enough to hold a person criminally liable," he states.

First, two of these dogs are full breed pit bulls -- enough with the "mix" nonsense. Second, we remind readers that criminal charges require being proven "beyond a reasonable doubt," the highest standard of all. Since criminal charges are about proving a "mindset" (of criminal intent), why can't statutes be written to address people who choose to own a dog breed 1.) Selected for unpredictable aggression and 2.) Kill more people than all dog breeds combined each year?


Another child, in this case an infant, is dead due to a family pit bull. This particular dog had passed the CGC test and is an alleged "support dog" for a child, which requires no training or certification and is not afforded the same privileges as a "service dog." Obviously the Murray family is enamored by the breed, they had three adult pit bulls in the home, not just one. Furthermore, to prove how "safe" their pit bulls are, they posted multiple photos of their pit bulls lying with babies.

It will be interesting to see how long it takes this family before they obtain new pit bulls. Don't they have an even greater duty now, albeit narcissistic, to prove how "misunderstood" and "safe" pit bulls are? Don't they have an even greater duty now, albeit narcissistic, to prove, "It's all how you raise 'em?" What family members should do is read Misunderstood Nanny Dogs, by J. Thomas Beasley, to learn about the genetic heritage of a dog breed selected to fight to the death in a pit.

pit bull that passed Canine Good Citizen kills baby

05/29/17: When Pit Bull Advocacy Kills
The mother of a newborn recently killed by one of her three family pit bulls has been identified as Michelle Murray of Grand Rapids. Murray left her 3-week old infant alone in her home for about five minutes with three pit bulls roaming loose. We already provided a link that "unpacks" the role Murray's teenage daughter played in caring for the dogs. "I pay for their care all by myself," she wrote in 2016. On Sunday, the daughter posted the below image as her Facebook Cover photo.

The image depicts the now deceased newborn lying on a bed with one of the family's two male pit bulls. As far as we are concerned, Murray is 100% responsible for her daughter's recent Facebook action. Michelle Murray should be prosecuted for the "vividly clear" preventable mauling death of 3-week old Susannah Jean Murray, which Murray then followed up with sociopathic pit bull advocacy. We hope Child Protection Services takes both children away from Murray -- for good.

Meanwhile, Kent County Animal Shelter has five days to reply to our public information request.

Michelle Murrays baby before being killed by family pit bull

05/27/17: Dog Mauling Victim Identified
A 3-week old baby girl killed by a family pit bull has been identified as Susannah Jean Murray. An autopsy confirms the infant died due to severe dog bite injuries to her head. The Murray family owned at least three pit bulls -- two males and a female according to their Facebook pages. On Saturday, we sent a public information request to the Kent County Animal Shelter (KCAS) asking them which of the pit bulls inflicted the attack, and if that dog was adopted out by their facility.1

Late Friday, we posted an image of three pit bulls belonging to the Murray family that was posted to a family member's page on June 21, 2016. These same three pit bulls were also posted in another photo as recently as January 1, 2017. The black pit bull-mix, a female named Mommas, was adopted to the Murray family about four years ago by KCAS. A family member also created a "Mommas Journey" Facebook page last year that details a surgery that pit bull underwent.

Finally, as we try to sort through which of the three family pit bulls attacked and killed the infant, a man who claims to be the baby's father said the attacking dog was a female. Thus, we are led back to Mommas as the primary suspect, until KCAS answers our public information request or clarity is gained through new media reports.2 We invite readers to watch two videos posted to the Mommas Journey page. The pit bull playing tug-of-war and the three dogs interacting as a pack.
Remember, the infant was left alone in the house in a glider (which is similar to a bouncer) for five minutes with three pit bulls roaming loose.

05/26/17: Infant Killed by Family Pit Bull
Grand Rapids, MI - A 3-week old baby girl is dead after being left alone with three family pit bulls, Grand Rapids police report. The fatal dog attack happened about 6 pm Thursday at a home in the 1100 block of Kalamazoo Avenue SE. After about 5 minutes, an adult checked on the infant and found her bloody with severe head injuries. One of the pit bulls had blood on its mouth, detectives said. The baby was transported to Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital where it died Friday morning.
The dogs were taken to Kent County Animal Shelter where they are under quarantine. All three are pit bulls. - Grand Rapids Police Department
Grand Rapids police Sgt. Terry Dixon said during a press conference the baby girl underwent seven hours of surgery before dying. No one heard crying or sounds of an attack. Child Protection Services was contacted because another child lives in the home, he said. Once the investigation is complete, police will meet with Kent County prosecutors to determine if any criminal charges will be brought. The pit bull suspected in the baby's death is about 2-years old, reports

Dixon also said during the press conference, "Any dog can bite." That is not the issue to discuss after a mauling death or an attack resulting in catastrophic injuries. Both horrific scenarios are largely inflicted by a very small group of dog breeds. Pit bulls make up about 6% of the total U.S. dog population, yet are responsible for 65% (254) of all dog bite deaths (392) from 2005 to 2016. The second leading killer, rottweilers, trails significantly, responsible for only 11%, (43).

Infant Fatalities in 12-Year Period

Reviewing our 12-year dog bite fatality data set -- January 1, 2005 to December 31, 2016 -- we see the U.S. infant fatality rate for ages under 12-months old. During this period, canines killed 392 Americans. 12% (47) were infants under the age of 12-months. Of this subset, 45% (21) were neonates ages 3-weeks old and younger. Of all 47 deaths, pit bulls were responsible for 51% (24). Huskies were the number two killer, inflicting 7 deaths, followed by rottweilers, inflicting 6 deaths.

During this same 12-year period five infants were mauled to death by dogs in Michigan, the majority killed by family pit bulls. Holden Garrison of Davisburg, was killed by "catahoula leopard" dog while being held by his uncle in 2014. Tarilyn Luciana Bowles of Detroit, Darius Tillman of Kalamazoo and Leonard Lovejoy Jr. of Eastpointe, were all killed by family pit bulls from 2009 to 2012. Lastly, Kylie Cox of Warren was killed by a rottweiler while siting in a car seat in 2007.
map iconView the Google State Map: Michigan Fatal Pit Bull Attacks.

three pit bull in home that killed baby in grand rapids

The family pit bulls from left: Devlin (male), Rhino (male) and Mommas (female). Rhino passed the Canine Good Citizen test in mid February this year, according to Happy Tails Dog Training LLC.

family pit bull kills baby in grand rapids
1There is significant history with the Kent County Animal Shelter. Back in 2014, artist Joan Marie Kowal created an entry for the Grand Rapids ArtPrize 2014 competition titled, "Out of the Blue." It was the nation's first physical memorial for victims of fatal dog attacks. Nearly 30 differently decorated crosses represented a person killed by a dog. Kent County Animal Control Officer, Rachel Jensen, participated in an effort to sabotage the memorial by intimidating art viewers by partially blocking them from the memorial with their bodies and their pit bulls. Kent County defended Jensen's actions as well. In this light, it makes sense that police spokesman Sgt. Terry Dixon dished out the "any dog can bite" propaganda routine to the public after the baby was killed by the family pit bull.
      Also, at that time, attorney Kenneth Phillips, left a related comment, stating: "In law, there is a saying: 'the appearance of justice is as important as justice itself.' (Offutt v. United States (1954) 348 U.S. 11, 14 (U.S. Supreme Court).) This officer has damaged the appearance of justice by showing his or her bias. The results will damage Kent County in the future: the officer’s word will not be trusted in court and other legal proceedings, and significant numbers of residents will feel less safe as long as he or she remains on the job. Kent County: Fire this officer!"

2As if this cannot get more confusing, there is another female pit bull named Bella -- the red and white dog in the Cover photo for the Journey page. This dog is "around" but it's unclear who owns it or where it lives full time.

Related articles:
05/09/17: 2017 Dog Bite Fatality: Family Pit Bull Kills Baby in Northwest Las Vegas
03/24/17: 2017 Dog Bite Fatality: 8-Month Old Baby Boy Killed by Family Pit Bull in Maryland
04/29/16: 2016 Dog Bite Fatality: Pit Bull Rehomed by Humane Society Kills Newborn Baby
09/26/14: ArtPrize Exhibit, 'Out of the Blue,' First Physical Memorial for Fatal Dog Attack Victims

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Monday, June 12, 2017

2016 Dog Bite Fatality: Former Officer Charged with Felonies After his 'Personal' K-9 Killed a Man and Injured a Woman

The attacking Dog, a Belgian Malinois, Was a Dual-Certified Police K-9

david fear killed by police k9Former deputy Alex Geiger performing K9 demo
david fear vigildavid fear vigil
On December 13, a police-trained K-9 escaped its property and attacked two people killing one.

Manslaughter Charge Added
UPDATE 06/12/07: At a court hearing today, prosecutors added a third felony charge against former Grover Beach police officer Alex Geiger -- involuntary manslaughter. In February, the San Luis Obispo County District Attorney filed two felony charges against Geiger after his "personal" dual-certified police-trained K-9 brutally attacked two neighbors, killing one of them. Geiger was initially charged with two felony counts for failing to maintain control of a dangerous animal.

If convicted of the new charge, Geiger still only faces a maximum sentence of four years, District Attorney Dan Dow explained. However, adding the involuntary manslaughter charge allows prosecutors more choices as the case moves into the preliminary phase, which is now scheduled for July 18. The standards for proving both types of charges vary, but the evidence in the case, according to Dow, proves both. Gieger did not enter a plea today for the manslaughter charge.
For the previous charges -- failing to maintain control over a dangerous animal -- Wagner must prove simple negligence and that Geiger had knowledge of his dog’s propensity for violence, Dow said. For involuntary manslaughter, Wagner has to prove gross negligence, a higher standard, but doesn’t have to prove that Geiger was aware the dog was dangerous. - The Tribune, June 12, 2017
On December 13, Geiger's attack-trained Belgian malinois and a German shepherd escaped his property and attacked 86-year old Betty Long, who lived nearby. Long's neighbor, 64-year old David Fear, intervened to save her life. He suffered critical dog bite injuries, including two arteries in his arms being severed. Fear died three days later. Long remained at a rehabilitation facility until March. Long was in the courtroom today, along with many of Fear's family and close friends.

Since the vicious mauling death of David Fear there have been multiple memorial events honoring his life, including the City of Grover Beach unanimously approving the installation of a memorial bench in his name just a few feet from where he was killed by the dogs. Last weekend, family and friends held a paddle out and potluck memorial -- Fear was an avid surfer for over 30 years. A group of surfers paddled out to open water and joined hands while sharing stories about Fear.

david fear memorial paddle out and potluck

02/02/17: Charged with Two Felonies
Today, the San Luis Obispo County District Attorney’s Office filed two felony counts against a former Grover Beach police officer after his "personal" dual-certified police-trained K-9 brutally attacked two neighbors, killing one of them, in December. Former officer Alex Paul Geiger, who was hired by the city of Grover Beach in September, resigned Wednesday and now faces nearly 4-years in jail if he is convicted on both counts. A warrant has been issued for Geiger's arrest.
      SAN LUIS OBISPO, CA, February 2, 2017 – Today, the San Luis Obispo County District Attorney’s Office filed two felony charges against Alex Paul Geiger (dob 7/31/1991) for failing to maintain control of a dangerous animal on December 13, 2016 that led to the death of David W. Fear (64) and serious bodily injury to Betty J. Long (86).
      The two-count felony criminal complaint alleges that Mr. Geiger had custody and control of a dangerous animal; that he knew that the animal was dangerous; that he failed to use ordinary care in keeping the animal; and that the animal killed David W. Fear and caused serious bodily injury to Betty J. Long. The code sections alleged are California Penal Code sections 399(a) and 399(b) respectively. (Read full press release) - District Attorney Dan Dow
Prior to joining the city of Grover Beach, Geiger had worked at the Exeter Police Department in Tulare County for two years with the last full year spent as a K-9 patrol officer with a Belgian malinois named "Neo." The dog was dual-certified in narcotics detection and patrol operations. Geiger left Exeter prior to the dog's annual re-certification and joined Grover Beach, which has no K-9 unit. On December 13, Neo escaped Geiger's property and brutally attacked Fear and Long.

Six months before Geiger moved to Grover Beach -- taking the dog with him as a "personal pet" -- Neo had bitten a trainer during a "bite suite exercise," reports The Tribune. However, the police K-9 was not taken out of service at the Exeter Police Department after the incident. When Geiger purchased the dog from Exeter for $5,287 in late August, he signed a waiver relieving Exeter of any future liability. Such a waiver is standard procedure, but offers no protections to the public.
Geiger wrote that he agreed to "hold harmless, defend and indemnify" the city of Exeter and the police union from all liability "arising out of my ownership and control of Neo." - The Tribune, January 23, 2017
Additional public records obtained by The Tribune revealed the dog underwent K-9 training at Top Dog Training Center, LLC in Visalia, described as a "home-based K-9 training program," and gained certificates in the center’s narcotics detection and basic patrol courses in November and December 2015. The Tribune reports the K-9 center did not have a website. California Secretary of State records showed the company was founded in 2004 and has since been canceled.1

Finally, an investigation by The Tribune showed that one month after Geiger began working for Grover Beach in October -- and a month before his dog attacked Fear and Long -- he lobbied for a police K-9 program in Grover Beach. On November 10, Geiger and a senior officer presented Police Chief John Peters with a 140-page guide explaining how to form a K-9 unit in a small police department. Peters still maintains that his department had "no interest" in Neo as a K-9 officer.

Where Does Liability Fall?

First and foremost the liability of the mauling death of David Fear and injuries suffered by Betty Long falls squarely onto the shoulders of Alex Geiger -- in this case having both civil and criminal consequences. We applaud the San Luis Obispo County District Attorney’s Office for filing two felony counts against former officer Geiger. We hope that a jury of peers convicts. Beyond Geiger, the legal liability question remains murky and will take an excellent legal team to make distinct.

The question the public should consider is: 1.) Why is it okay for cities to absolve themselves of liability through a paper "waiver" after handing off attack-trained police K-9s to officers (or other individuals) after the dogs fail training, retire or in this case when the K-9 officer resigns? As we have emphasized before, these are extremely serious animals, not only trained in damaging bite work (See recent "Bite and Hold" Ninth Circuit ruling), but can also scale fences and walls.

01/16/17: Officer Lobbied for K-9 Program
In a disturbing update by The Tribune -- one that was hinted at in an earlier report by the news group -- Officer Alex Geiger quickly lobbied for a police K-9 program at Grover Beach after being hired. "One month before his police-trained pet dog attacked two Grover Beach residents, killing one of them, newly hired city police officer Alex Geiger presented the police chief with a 140-page guide explaining how to form a K-9 unit in a small police department," reports The Tribune.

Police Chief John Peters had previously told The Tribune that his department had "internally explored" adding a K-9 officer, but that it had "no interest" in Geiger's personal dog. After a public records request, The Tribune was able to view the "binder" that Geiger and Senior Police Officer Matte Goodman submitted to Peters on November 10 -- a month after he was sworn in and a month before his dual-certified police K-9 killed David Fear and seriously injured Betty Long.
"It is our hope that you consider moving forward in putting a K-9 team together for Grover Beach Police Department," states the proposal.
Part of the materials submitted to Peters by Geiger and Goodman included the estimated initial costs of a K-9 program, state certification guidelines, various grant opportunities, a list of specialized K-9 vehicles, a copy of the Arroyo Grande Police Department's K-9 policy and articles about "establishing a new K-9 unit for a small department," reports The Tribune. All backed by officer Geiger, the city's recent hire, who had a "freshly out of work" dual-certified police K-9.

While the city of Grover Beach tries to distance itself from any liability issues from the December 13 attack, we continue to wonder about Geiger's short stay at Exeter. He was a newbie K-9 officer on that police force, active for only a year before taking a job at Grover Beach, a city with no police K-9 unit. If Geiger's dual-certified K-9 had behavioral or training issues, they started while he was employed by Exeter. Geiger also left Exeter before his K-9's annual re-certification was due.
The dual re-certification (in detection and patrol operations) for his police K-9 named Neo was due in November and December respectively.
Geiger left the Exeter police K-9 unit in late August, several months earlier, and paid the city of Exeter a mere $5,287 to keep his dual-certified police K-9. Geiger was hired by the city of Grover Beach in September. CalCoastNews notes that law enforcement agencies typically require officers to work for 7-years or longer before joining a K-9 unit and that sources from within the Exeter Police Department also told CalCoastNews that "Neo had some training and behavioral issues."2

01/05/17: Dual-Certified Police K-9
In response to The Tribune's exclusive article about officer Alex Geiger's previous employment and his dog's previous role as a trained police K-9 with the Exeter Police Department, the city of Exeter issued a news release Wednesday night explaining more about the dog's background. The dog was a "dual-certified" police K-9 -- trained in narcotics detection and patrol operations. Geiger purchased this "fully trained" and "dual-certified" police K-9 for a mere $5,287 before departing.
This police K-9 was trained in narcotics detection and patrol work -- obedience, search, apprehension and handler protection (bite work).
Geiger left the Exeter Police Department's K-9 unit in August 2016. Exeter police Chief Cliff Bush said Wednesday that his "working police dog," named Neo, had completed all training in narcotics detection and patrol work in 2015. Geiger, as the dog's handler, had also completed "monthly maintenance training" at the Exeter Police Department until he departed to work for Grover Beach, a city that has no police K-9 unit. The city of Grover Beach hired Geiger in September 2016.

On December 13, Geiger's Belgian malinios, Neo, a dual-certified police K-9 in detection and patrol work (bite work), escaped Geiger's property and attacked Betty Long, 85. Her neighbor David Fear, 64, intervened to save her life. Fear suffered life-threatening injuries, including two arteries in his arms being severed; he died three days later while hospitalized. Long suffered serious bite injuries and broken bones from falling. She remains in a rehabilitation facility.
The kennel where the police K-9 was bred and later acquired by the city of Exeter, and the dog's POST-certified trainer, have yet to be identified.
Time Line of Events
  • 2009 - Alex Geiger serves as an Explorer with the Visalia Police Department.
  • 2012 to 2013 - July to July. Geiger serves as a provisional deputy with the Kings County Sheriff’s Office (where he is seen in photo doing a K-9 bite work demo)
  • 2014 - August. Geiger joins the Exeter Police Department as a provisional officer.
  • 2015 - July. Geiger becomes a full-time police officer with the Exeter Police Department in Tulare County, California.
  • 2015 - September. Geiger becomes a K-9 handler with the Exeter Police Department. This same month, the city acquires police K-9 "Neo" (1.5 years old)
  • 2015 - November/December. Neo becomes "dual certified" in narcotics detection and patrol work (bite work).
  • 2016 - January to August. - Geiger completes 16 hours of maintenance training each month, half of this time with a POST-certified trainer.
  • 2016 - August. Geiger pays city of Exeter $5,287 to keep his "fully" trained, "dual-certified" police K-9 in narcotics detection and patrol work.
  • 2016 - August. Geiger departs the Exeter Police Department as a member of its K-9 unit. No explanation as to why.
  • 2016 - September. Gieger is hired by the city of Grover Beach as a police officer. Grover Beach does not have a K-9 unit.
  • 2016 - September. Geiger moves into a "rented" home on Owens Court, one block from the scene of the deadly attack.
  • 2016 - October 3. Geiger is officially sworn in at a Grover Beach City Council meeting.
  • 2016 - December 13. Geiger's dogs (Neo, the primary attacker, and a German shepherd) escape his property and viciously attack David Fear and Betty Long.
  • 2016 - December 15. Animal Services Director Eric Anderson issues news release stating that the Belgian Malinois -- and a German shepherd owned by Geiger -- were not connected to the Grover Beach Police Department.
  • 2016 - December 16. David Fear dies of his injuries. Long remains in rehabilitation care.
  • 2016 - December 19. City of Grover Beach places Geiger on paid administrative leave.
  • 2016 - December 22. City of Grover finally releases the name of dogs' owner, police officer Alex Geiger, to the public. City does not provide any information on the dog's training.
  • 2017 - January 4. The Tribune publishes an exclusive article, detailing Geiger's previous employment and that his dog was a trained police K-9.
  • 2017 - January 4. City of Exeter responds with a news release that expands upon the dog's training -- Neo is "dual-certified" in narcotics detection and patrol work (apprehension, protection and bite work).
  • 2017 - January 5. Grover Beach taxpayers continue to pay Geiger's salary, as he remains on paid administrative leave.

01/04/17: Trained Police K-9
It has been confirmed the Belgian malinios belonging to Grover Beach police officer Alex Geiger, which killed David Fear and seriously injured Betty Long in December, was trained as a police K-9. The Tribune's exclusive report also details Geiger's background. Since 2009, Geiger had worked for three different police forces prior to being hired by the city of Grover Beach in September 2016, including the Exeter Police Department, where Geiger was a member of its police K-9 unit.

In July 2015, Geiger became a full-time police officer with the Exeter Police Department and was a member of its K-9 unit when he departed in August 2016. On Tuesday, Exeter Police Chief Cliff Bush confirmed that Geiger was a handler for a police K-9 named "Neo" while working in Exeter. The dog came into the department with "basic training" and entered a Police Officer Standards and Training (POST) certified K-9 program with Geiger as his handler, according to Chief Bush.
Geiger purchased the dog from the city of Exeter before he moved to Grover Breach. Bush declined to say if "Neo" passed the POST training.
POST Law Enforcement K-9 Guidelines

While we do not know exactly what "basic training" entails -- Bush did not provide these details -- a California document, POST Law Enforcement K-9 Guidelines, describes performing activities of IPO protection training for certification in patrol work, including: obedience, search, apprehension and handler protection -- bite work (See: pages 17 and 18). The guidelines are divided into two parts, patrol and detection -- the latter does not assume the police K-9 is also trained in bite work.

What is known is that Geiger purchased the Belgian malinois, which is a strong indicator -- especially in conjunction with the vague training information provided by Bush -- the malinois failed the POST certification program. Many of these dogs become "personal" dogs for their handlers after failing or retiring. The Tribune has filed a public records request with the city of Exeter to learn if the dog completed the POST training, served as a K-9 officer or failed the program.

Dizzying Array of Police K-9 Lawsuits

Back in 2013, we began tracking civil lawsuits involving police K-9s attacking bystanders and children and when being deployed on minor offenders. We started with multiple lawsuits in the Seattle area, as well as Vancouver, B.C., which came under fire for their deployment tactics. There have been many other lawsuits since. Last year, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that "Bite and Hold" could be viewed as excessive force as well, a violation of the 4th Amendment.

We express again just how serious apprehension and bite trained police K-9's are, whether on active duty or retired! These are advanced training levels, but certainly fit the age of Geiger's malinois of 2.5 years old. "Basic training," which we know the dog underwent, includes agility training, according to, where the dogs learn how to scale fences and walls. Geiger's malinois belonged in a locked six-sided enclosure inside his locked fenced-in backyard.

12/22/16: Police Officer Named
After over a week of withholding the identity of a Grover Beach police officer whose dogs escaped his property and attacked two people, killing one and seriously injuring the other, city officials released his name. Alex Geiger, 25, was identified by the Grover Beach Police Department Thursday as the owner of the dogs. Geiger is a four year law enforcement veteran and was hired by the city of Grover Beach in September. Officer Geiger remains on paid administrative leave.

Geiger previously worked as a deputy in the Kings County Sheriff’s Office, which has a police canine unit. Geiger released a prepared statement Thursday, along with the Grover Beach Police Officers Association, both calling it a "tragic incident." The association went further calling it a "tragic and unusual incident." City officials released no information about the history or training of the Belgian malinios belonging to Geiger that nearly killed two innocent people December 13.

In 2013, former Kings County Deputy Alex Geiger performed a demo with police K9 officer "Bos" at an Easter Egg hunt in Hanford.3 Geiger is not this dog's handler, but he is clearly connected with police K-9s and their training. Geiger is well aware that these are extremely serious animals. It seems safe to assume at this point that Geiger's malinois is from protection-bred stock and is likely protection trained as well. One of these dogs loose in a neighborhood is a recipe for disaster.

K9 demo Kings County Deputy Sheriff Alex Geiger in 2013

12/20/16: Officer Placed on Paid Leave
Late Monday it was reported that the owner of a dog that viciously attacked two people, killing one and seriously injuring the other, has been placed on paid administrative leave. The owner is an unidentified Grover Beach police officer. Last week his two dogs, a Belgian malinios and German shepherd, escaped his property and attacked 85-year old Betty Long and 64-year old David Fear. Fear had stepped into save the elderly woman. He died of his severe injuries three days later.

The primary aggressor was the Belgian malinios, a breed frequently used in police K-9 work. The unnamed officer surrendered that dog to animal control; it has since been euthanized. The owner agreed to quarantine the German shepherd until the investigation is over. It unclear what level of involvement the shepherd had in the violent attack. It's also unclear why the city of Grover Beach waited nearly a week after the attack before placing the officer on paid administrative leave.

San Luis Obispo County Animal Services is leading the investigation. The Grover Beach Police Department is not commenting on the investigation and does not have a police canine unit. The San Luis Obispo County Sheriff's Department is involved in the investigation and does have a canine unit.4 It is unknown if the attacking malinios owned by the unidentified officer is a retired police K-9, if it was trained in protection work or if it has a history of attacking people or pets.

Identification Questions

Some readers might believe that by not naming this dog owner, authorities are giving this police officer special treatment. However, dog owners are often not named in fatal dog attacks by authorities or the media, unless criminal charges apply. Other times, owners will openly talk to the media -- they always have that choice. Generally, withholding the owner's name makes it extremely difficult for the community to know if the dog had a history of aggression or attacks.

Journalists, our nonprofit and others often cannot proceed with research and fact-finding without this information. This horrific dog attack is a special case scenario too. Does the public have the right to know this officer's name after his "personal" dog killed a man and seriously injured a woman? We believe it best serves the public interest that he is identified, along with the history of his Belgian malinios. Otherwise, this obvious missing information only serves to further rumors.

Victim's Family Reaches Out

Yesterday a relative of Fear left a heartbreaking comment on a post at this website. In the comment, his sister-in-law states that Betty Long, whose life was saved by Fear's actions, could hear him crying out, "Help! Help! They're eating me!" over and over again. Her comment was left on the four year anniversary post of this nonprofit's founder. Our hearts go out to his partner Terry and all of his family members. This was a vicious, horrific attack that could have killed two people.
I am David Fear's sister-in-law, and you wrote the clearest article recalling all that has transpired since his mauling and death. My husband has horrifically lost his best friend and brother. We all are devastated when we consider the horror he went through. His neighbor whom he saved could hear him crying out, "Help! Help! They're eating me!" over and over again. I read the same words in your recount.
Close family friends have set up a GoFundMe page to help David Fear's wife.

12/17/16: Man Dies After Dog Attack
Grover Beach, CA - Late Friday, 64-year old David Fear died after being viciously attacked by one or more dogs earlier this week. A spokesman at Sierra Vista Regional Medical Center confirmed his death today. The dogs first attacked his neighbor, 85-year old Betty Long. Fear intervened to help save her life. Fear suffered critical dog bite injuries, including two arteries in his arms being severed. Long suffered serious bite injuries and broken bones from falling. Both were hospitalized.
The two dogs -- a Belgain malinois and German shepherd -- belong to a Grover Beach police officer. The malinois is the primary attacker.
The attack occurred Tuesday outside of Long's home on Nacimiento Avenue. The two victims are next-door neighbors. The San Luis Obispo County Department of Animal Services identified the 2.5 year old Belgain malinois -- typically used in police K-9 work -- as the main aggressor. The dog was surrendered by its owner and euthanized Tuesday. The other dog remains with its owner. The unnamed Grover Beach police officer who owns both dogs was away at the time of the attack.

Grover Beach does not have a police canine program and neither of the dogs were city-owned, according to Eric Anderson, the manager of San Luis Obispo County Animal Services. What is unknown, however, is if the malinois is a retired police K-9 from a different city or county or if it was trained in protection work. The Grover Beach police department has referred all questions to Animal Services. Neighbors said the dogs' owner had only lived in the neighborhood a short while.

A close friend of Fear initially created a GoFundMe page to help pay the cost of his medical bills. The goal of the fund has since changed to help Fear's wife pursue a legal case against the dog's owner. Long, who suffered multiple broken bones and staples in her head from falling, is expected to be discharged from the hospital today. Ron Yukelson, a spokesperson for Sierra Vista Regional Medical Center, said that Fear’s family plans to issue a statement about his death later in the day.

Family Releases Statement

Saturday evening, David Fear's family did release a statement. His brother, Steve Fear, earlier described his injuries to as so severe that two arteries in his arms were severed, contributing to him losing six pints of blood. The city of Grover Beach also released a statement, "a tragic and unfortunate dog attack has brought sadness to our hearts," it states in part. The city's words fall flat, especially if the dog was a retired police K-9 or was trained in protection work.
Despite the tireless efforts of the Sierra Vista medical team, David Fear lost his battle for life late Friday evening. Our entire family offers the most sincere gratitude for the selfless dedication of David's world-class doctors, nurses, support technicians, and blood donors who gave us the opportunity to spend his last moments with us in his time of need. We truly appreciate the support and heartfelt sentiments of our community. The family will announce memorial plans in due time and asks that privacy be respected for the time being. - Family of David Fear
david fear dog attack
david fear dog attack grover beach

1It is unclear what happened to Top Dog Training Center, LLC. A quick web search shows the company began a one-year contract with the Reedly Police Department on August 29, 2016.
2Well that would be a mild understatement now wouldn't it? We can only imagine there were "handler" training and behavioral issues as well.
4"Bos" is depicted as the center dog on the Kings County Sheriff's Office K9 Unit page.
5Notably, last year a "highly trained K-9 officer" named "DJ" of the San Luis Obispo County Sheriff’s Office mistakenly attacked a California Highway Patrol officer while in pursuit of a suspect. Afterward, DJ was taken off duty for two weeks and placed under an in-house quarantine to see if the K-9 had "any ill effects from the incident."

Related articles:
11/19/14: 2014 Dog Bite Fatality: 7-Year Old Boy Killed by Trained Protection Dog...
11/19/14: The Tragic Fantasy That A Protection Dog Can Make A Reliable Family Pet...

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Friday, June 9, 2017

2017 Dog Bite Fatality: Baby Boy Attacked and Killed by Family Rottweiler in South Phoenix

Rottweiler kills baby boy in Phoenix
Marcos Raya, Jr., 18-months old, was attacked and killed by a family rottweiler.

Family Dog Kills Baby
Phoenix, AZ - An 18-month old baby boy is dead after being attacked by a dog in south Phoenix. The attack occurred in the 1900 block of East Sunland Avenue around 1:30 pm Friday. Police report the grandmother was doing laundry when she put the baby boy down. She opened a door in the home, which allowed the dog access to the child. The family rottweiler grabbed the baby, dragged it outside and mauled him. The grandmother was unable to pull the dog off the baby.
"The amount of bites this child suffered was the reason this child succumbed to his injury." He "never stood a chance." - Capt. Rob McDade
When Phoenix police officers arrived, they witnessed the rottweiler actively attacking the baby. An officer shot the animal, injuring it. The child was transported to a pediatric trauma hospital in "extremely critical condition," Phoenix fire spokesman Captain Rob McDade said. The baby did not survive his injuries. Fire officials said the animal belongs to the child's father and has been a family pet for three years. Maricopa County Animal Care and Control took the dog into custody.

Late Evening Updates

The deceased child has been identified as Marcos Raya, Jr. His grandmother called 911 after being unable to pull the large dog off the boy. "When officers arrived, they went inside and could see the dog had physical control of the child and was injuring the child," Sgt. Mercedes Fortune said. "At that moment, the sergeant fired one round at the animal and was able to divert attention from the child." He was rushed to a children's trauma center, where he was pronounced dead.

"It wasn't a good scene -- It was a brutal attack by the animal," McDade said. Maricopa County Animal Care and Control (MCACC) impounded the family's rottweiler and it was euthanized Friday, according to Al Aguinaga, Field Enforcement Division Manager with MCACC. The baby boy's father had owned the male rottweiler for three years. "It's a horrible scene, and a horrible, tragic incident out here," McDade said. "It's hard when you see a child in that much trauma."

grandmother after family rottweiler destroys baby boy
Marcos Raya, Jr. killed by family rottweiler
map iconView the Google Map: U.S. Fatal Rottweiler Attacks By State

Related articles:
08/23/16: Fatal Rottweiler Attacks - The Archival Record
11/18/15: 2015 Dog Bite Fatality: Newly Adopted Rottweiler Kills Owner in Madison County

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Wednesday, June 7, 2017

2017 Dog Bite Fatality: Adopted Out Pit Bull Attacks, Kills Elderly Woman in Virginia Beach

Pit Bull Attacks Woman Same Day as Adopted Out

pit bull adopted out by Forever Home Rehabilitation kills woman
This pit bull killed a woman just hours after being adopted out in Virginia Beach.

Previous Adopter Speaks Out
UPDATE 06/07/17: On May 31, Forever Home Rescue and Rehabilitation Center (FHRC) adopted out a 1.5 year old male, neutered pit bull named Blue. The dog arrived at the adopter's home wearing a shock collar. Seven hours later, its new owner, Linda, removed the shock collar. After doing so, the dog attacked and killed Linda's 90-year old mother. WAVY spoke to a woman who adopted Blue on April 22, but returned the pit bull to FHRC two days later due to its aggression.
Linda had told FHRC the one "deal breaker," in the terms of adopting this pit bull, would be "aggression." - Kerry Dougherty, The Virginian-Pilot
Tia Walke said Blue attacked her 26-year old nephew as soon as she let the dog out of its crate. The dog jumped on him, she said. "I had the leash and I was yanking and pulling as hard as I could to get the dog off,” Walke said. In a text message to FHRC she wrote: "I can't control him. And he's scaring me now." Walke described it to WTKR as a "very frightening experience." She quickly returned the dog to FHRC. A month later, the rescue adopted "reactive" Blue to Linda.

In our last update, we explained how "reactivity" and "lack of impulse control" can quickly escalate to dangerous "impulsive aggression," which is how Walke and Linda described both attacks.

FHRC responded to Walke and her nephew's experience by marginalizing the incident down to an "insect bite" and denying any culpability. After the horrific mauling death of Linda's mother, FHRC denied any foreseeability or culpability as well, despite the dog's documented history of aggressive behavior, including being surrendered to NYCACC after biting a child and thereafter multiple rescue groups using "code words" to describe Blue's dangerous "impulsive aggression" behavior.

On top of this, Blue was sent to Linda's home wearing a shock collar. According to a Virginian-Pilot article, FHRC described the collar to Linda as sending a "signal" to the dog by remote control. Linda thought it sent out sound waves, reports The Pilot. It was not until she took the collar off to recharge it that she realized the "signals" were jolts of electricity to shock (and correct) the dog. FHRC is quite literally drowning in foreseeability and culpability, yet they continue to deny both.
By the time rescue workers arrived, the woman's intestines were on the floor ... Her mother's arms were mangled. - Kerry Dougherty, The Virginian-Pilot
The Experts Respond

Multiple experts responded to this fatal dog attack, including pit bull expert Diane Jessup, who wrote on Facebook: "She [Linda] bought a breed she didn't need from a charlatan "trainer" [FHRC] who tried to suppress a dog's true character with shock, who got it from a facility [New York City Animal Care and Control] that didn't have the wherewithal to euthanize a dog that bites family members." Jessup added, "A 'rescue' that sends a dog home with a shock collar on ... Nuff said."

Pennsylvania-based behaviorist Ilana Reisner responded as well. We issue a fair warning to readers who may choke on her outrageous use of jargon terms: "impulsive, disinhibited, affective defensive aggression" and "toggle-switch like" aggression and "impulsive, rage-like aggression." However, Reisner also admits what behaviorist Alexandra Semyonova has long stated about temperament testing. Such tests "cannot prevent or predict explosive, disinhibited aggression."

On this same thread, trainer Victoria Harter states this is the fourth attack she knows about after FHRC adopted out a dog. "This is the 4th dog that FHRC has adopted out that has bitten someone, there could be more. I've also worked with several dogs they have adopted out that are supposedly trained and rehabilitated," Harter writes, "They do not disclose to adopters the history of dogs which is dangerous to the family. I am not at all surprised that this has happened."

Tia Walke returned blue to FHRC after it attacked her nephew

06/03/17: A 'Foreseeable' Attack
After reviewing a wealth of information, it is clear that a violent, unpredictable attack by this dog was "foreseeable." We hope the Patterson family sues Virginia Beach-based Forever-Homes Sanctuary, Inc., also known as Forever Home Rescue and Rehabilitation Center (FHRC), after the dog killed a woman just hours after the rescue rehomed it. FHRC is a reckless dangerous dog rescue that has been "saving" death row dogs for years and is no stranger to legal troubles.

In a 2012 article, The Virginian-Pilot describes the two founders, Toni Enright and Jamie Cochran and the birth of their operation that saves "misunderstood" dogs. Enright said the two met while working at Owl Creek Veterinary Hospital in Virginia Beach: "It was chaos," Enright said about their beginnings. "Our dogs didn't get along. They were tearing stuff up," she said. "Another one kept biting me. And my pit -- he was the kind that was going to wind up in the newspaper one day."
The two self-describe as "disciples of Cesar Millan" and that his "pack-based philosophies struck a chord." - The Virginian-Pilot, July 1, 2012
Back then, the duo operated out of Knotts Island, North Carolina and lived in a double-wide overflowing with dog beds, crates, supplies and a mob of dogs. Enright described the trailer as a "ghetto." The gist of the 2012 story is that after The Lexus Project, a New York-based legal group, persuaded a judge to release a 5-time biter, named Alchemy, the dog was sent to the pair. But before reaching their rescue "ghetto," the dog attacked one of The Lexus Project attorneys.

Also at that time, Enright and Cochran where charged with felony embezzlement after their former employer, Owl Creek, claimed the pair outfitted their rescue with dog supplies taken from the clinic, reports The Pilot. We do not know the results of those felony charges. One does not need to in order to understand the "mentally ill mindset" of two young women bent on "saving" dangerous dogs from humane euthanasia through their "self-proclaimed" talents of magical rehabilitation.1

In March 2015, after the rescue moved to Virginia Beach, the Commonwealth of Virginia notified Cochran of "significant findings of noncompliance," including failing to obtain emergency medical treatment for a dog and transferring an unsterilized dog to a "private business" that breeds dogs.

History of Killer Rescue Dog

On Wednesday, the Patterson family adopted a male pit bull from FHRC, named Blue, for $20 after responding to a Craigslist advertisement. Previously, Blue had been a death row dog. Last December, Pennsylvania-based Animals Can't Talk Rescue (ACT) "pulled" Blue from New York City Animal Care and Control. The dog was on death row for biting people. A fundraiser states Blue, who needed "socialization and impulse control," would be sent to FHRC if funds were raised.
Manhattan Center
My name is BLUE. My Animal ID # is A1098430. I am a male white and brown pit bull mix. The shelter thinks I am about 1 YEAR. I came in the shelter as a STRAY on 12/02/2016 from NY 10029, owner surrender reason stated was BITEPEOPLE.
In addition to Blue needing "socialization and impulse control" training, the fundraiser by ACT states Blue "has been through a lot. His behavior -- too -- was cause for concern. He seems to react badly to loud noises and sudden movements." The fundraiser attempted to raise $10,000 in order for Blue and Lexie, another dog pulled from death row in New York City, to be trained and housed by FHRC. In this online effort, they fell dismally short, raising only $10 after 71 shares.2

On February 4, ACT delivered Blue to FHRC after a "whole bunch of donations." In an April 21 update, they state, "He will be ready for adoption in about a month." Apparently, the FHRC gals (Cesar Millan disciples) needed four months to "rehabilitate" Blue, including the heavy use of shock collar training. Just days later, we see Enright, Cochran and two other FHRC devotees walking a pack of 16 large dogs down a residential street, as if posing for a Reality TV show.

Forever Home Rehabilitation Center

The Fatal Pit Bull Attack

On May 31, just hours after Forever Home Rescue and Rehabilitation Center delivered Blue, shock collar and all, to the Patterson home, Blue explodes with impulsive aggression. The victim's daughter, Linda, told The Pilot she was in the backyard with the dog, when she removed the shock and canvas collars. At that time, she also realized she had been locked out of the house. She knocked and called out to her mother, but she had fallen in her room and could not get up.

Linda took a hammer and smashed a window pane to get back inside her home. She was on her way to her mother's room when Blue rushed by her and pounced on her mother, which Linda described as initially being playful. Seconds later, Blue began mauling her mother's arms, abdomen and thighs. Linda swung the hammer at the dog -- other news outlets report she banged the dog with a skillet -- to no avail. Then the dog turned on Linda, biting her in the upper arm.
"I’ve had animals all my life and I have never seen an animal act like that. It was horrible," Linda said. "I’ll never forget that sight." - The victim's daughter
13News Now reports the elderly woman underwent multiple surgeries Wednesday night, including an arm being amputated. She died of her injuries Thursday morning. Attempts to explain the pit bull's explosive unpredictable aggression range from the elderly victim shouting at the dog, "Get the heck off me," which might have riled the dog up, according to Linda, to the dog only ceasing its brutal attack after the victim, who was being horrifically mauled, "stopped screaming and crying."

As animal behaviorist Alexandra Semyonova has explained in the past, selecting for impulsive aggression, as dogfighters did, created an utterly disproportionate response: "It’s also not realistic to pretend that impulsive aggression is not pathological. The environments (the fighting pit, the baited bull, the escaping slave) for which these behaviors were selected as an adaptive response are so extreme that in fact there is no appropriate context for these behaviors in normal life."

Rescue Denies Foreseeability

This brutal mauling death shows just how disproportionate this pit bull's response was, which allegedly began as "play" and turned into a catastrophic mauling claiming two victims. Blue was advertised to the Patterson family as "playful, affectionate" and "gentle, goofy." Yet all three animal groups, FHRC, ACT and NYCACC, knew the dog had been on death row for biting people and had "impulse control" and "bad reactions" (or reactivity) -- often code for "impulsive aggression."
Dogfighters specifically selected for reactivity that quickly escalates to "impulsive aggression," which is exactly how Linda described the attack.
Yet, the most glaring "foreseeability" of this attack is that a dog, allegedly rehabilitated by FHRC, was adopted to the Patterson family and required a shock collar as a condition. This type of dog should not be adopted to anyone, but an experienced trainer who desires a constant "project dog" with continuous management. Linda did not seem to have any experience with shock collars, as evidence by the fact that she took it off because she thought the collar "seemed to be tight."

No matter how the dice is rolled, Blue was a problematic pit bull -- far beyond the help of any narcissistic "disciples of Cesar Millan," who live in a Reality TV fantasy of their own making. The Patterson family should feel lied to because they were lied to by this rescue. We hope the victim's family sues FHRC into oblivion, forcing them to stop all rescue operations for good. In fact, they should sue the whole chain of them, including ACT and NYCACC, as each lent a helping hand.
Forever Home Rescue and Rehabilitation Center's Denial Statement
We send out our deepest condolences to the Patterson family who adopted Blue. Blue went through our 3 month board and train program, and was a favorite amongst all of the staff members and volunteers. Blue loved other dogs, and didn't know a stranger. He never showed any aggression while at our training facility, and passed his final evaluation with flying colors before being adopted out to the Patterson family. Trainers spent yesterday morning checking over Blue's new home and going over training with Blue's new owner. There were 2 other dogs in Blue's new home, who Blue immediately bonded with. We do not know what events transpired in the moments before this tragedy occurred with Blue's owners mother, and none of us could have ever predicted this horrible event. We are devastated for the Patterson family and our thoughts and prayers go out to them.

As noted by our commenter, K-Hart, "These rescuers need to be held liable" for their "mauler peddling ads." Such ads regularly use "code words" for aggression to hide this behavior from the public and greatly minimize -- if not totally erase -- any mention of aggression. There is no such thing as "proof of rehabilitation" either, especially in the area of "impulsive aggression," by self-appointed experts, whose claim to fame is self-described as "disciples of Cesar Millan."

In their Denial Statement and web advertisement, Forever Home Rescue and Rehabilitation Center claimed they never saw aggression while at the same time supposedly rehabilitating Blue for behavior problems that are described with "code words" for aggression: “needing socialization" and "lack of impulse control" and bad reactions to "loud noises and sudden movements.” In other words, they claimed to rehabilitate a dog of negative behaviors they now say they never saw.
Simultaneously, their web advertisement describes a practically perfect dog, which required the new adopter to use a shock collar for correction.
The other arrow needs to be shot through city and county funded shelters that release death row dogs with documented aggression to unregulated rescues and rescue transporters en masse across the country. Blue was an owner surrender by the ripe age of 1 after lashing out at a child. By the ripe age of 1.5 years old -- when pit bulls reach sexual maturity and the bite, hold and shake trait typically kicks in -- he unleashed an unbridled attack on an elderly woman, killing her.

forever home rescue and rehabilitation center adopts out pit bull that kills woman

06/01/17: Rehomed Pit Bull Kills
Virginia Beach, VA - A pit bull adopted out by Forever Home Rescue and Rehabilitation Center viciously attacked an elderly woman the same day it was adopted. Police said the attack happened Wednesday. Police were dispatched to a home on Bunker Hill Lane in Pembroke Manor about 7:30 pm and found the victim with life-threatening injuries from the dog mauling. She died Thursday morning. Police said the dog is a 1-year-old pit bull terrier, weighing 50 pounds.

Investigators said the dog attacked the woman after she fell on the floor (See: fatal pit bull attack of 86-year old Bessie Flowers. Her daughter's pit bulls killed her after she tripped on the dog bed last year). The woman's granddaughter told 13News Now the attack was "gruesome" and lasted about five minutes. She also said the family adopted the pit bull on Wednesday; the day of the attack. The pit bull showed no signs of aggression "until they took the shock collar off," she said.
The web advertisement also states the pit bull is male and that "all dogs will be spay/neutered and up to date on vaccines when adopted."
The granddaughter also shared with 13News Now the web advertisement for the dog: "Good with dogs, Good with older/considerate kids only, Good with adults, Does good in the car, Leash trained, Crate trained, Plays fetch, Likes to play with toys, Obedient, Playful, Affectionate, Eager to please, Intelligent, Even-tempered, Gentle, Goofy." Which is why the dog was wearing a shock collar? The dog is currently in quarantine at the Virginia Beach Animal Care and Adoption Center.

Liability "Denial" Statement

The Virginia Beach-based rescue group subsequently released a liability "denial" statement to 13News Now that essentially blames the adopting family: "We do not know what events transpired in the moments before this tragedy occurred with Blue's owner's mother, and none of us could have ever predicted this horrible event," it reads in part. The news group reports the Patterson family is considering obtaining an attorney and taking legal action against the rescue organization.

It remains unclear if the rehomed pit bull was delivered to the home with the shock collar or not. What is clear is that in March 2015, Jamie Cochran, the president of Forever-Homes Sanctuary, Inc., was sent a notification letter by the Commonwealth of Virginia after "significant findings of noncompliance" were discovered at the rescue located at 4937 Broad Street. One of them was adopting out a dog unsterilized to a "private business" whose business is BREEDING dogs.

The Virginian-Pilot documented a deeper disturbing history of this rescue group back in 2012.

virginia beach rescue group walking 16 large dogs down residential street
1Several days after publishing, we did look up the embezzlement charges. Virginia Beach Circuit Court records show that both Jamie Cochran and Toni Enright pleaded guilty to the embezzlement charge on May 6, 2013 after the charge was lowered to a misdemeanor.
      Also, General District Court records show that in April 2015 (one month after the Commonwealth found "significant findings of noncompliance" at Forever-Homes Sanctuary, Inc.), Cochran was charged with 7 misdemeanor violations for BRD/GROOM failure to provide care and 10 misdemeanor violations for inadequate animal care. Toni Enright was charged at the same time with 18 misdemeanor violations of the same nature. All of the General District Court charges appear to have been dismissed and were likely related to the failed inspection.

2It was 71 shares as we wrote this update. By the time we finished, it was 170. Obviously, sharing this fundraiser has taken on new meaning since the fatal pit bull attack due to the role it plays in the dog's known behavior.

Related articles:
09/20/16: What's Behind the Click and Bait Web Advertisements of Aggressive Shelter Dogs?
04/29/16: 2016 Dog Bite Fatality: Pit Bull Rehomed by Humane Society Kills Newborn Baby
11/18/15: 2015 Dog Bite Fatality: Newly Adopted Rottweiler Kills Owner in Madison County...
08/06/15: 2015 Dog Bite Fatality: Recently Adopted Out Pit Bull Kills 6-Year Old Boy in...
05/05/09: Alexandra Semyonova: Heritability of Behavior in the Abnormally Aggressive Dog

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Wednesday, May 17, 2017

South African Boerboel Suspected in Breeder's Death in Asheville, North Carolina

A Brief History of the South African Mastiff - The 'Farmer's Bulldog'

Boerboel breeder found dead in Asheville
Jane Marie Egle, 59-years old, was found dead in her Asheville home on May 1.

Time for Honest Dialogue
Asheville, NC - On May 5, it was a reported that a 59-year old woman was found dead in her home with an aggressive South African boerboel. Deputies had discovered her body four days earlier -- red flag. We looked into the case and quickly learned that Jane Egle was a breeder and seller of South African mastiffs. She had a dedicated website, "Beloved Boerboels," that notes she previously worked with rottweilers and bullmastiffs, along with Facebook and Instagram pages.

In addition to the delayed release of her death information, the Buncombe County Sheriff's Office quickly resorted to, "visible cuts on her body that are consistent with an animal attack, but her exact cause of death" is undetermined. It remains unknown today, 15 days later, if her death is an actual dog bite fatality -- red flag number two. In our ten years of tracking dog mauling deaths, when law enforcement limits the release of injury information, there may be other factors at play.
In the past, other factors have included trying to dampen public interest or media attention to the mauling case, which we have seen backfire too.
When deputies arrived at the scene, the gladiator dog -- one of the fiercest guarding breeds -- predictably would not allow first responders into the home. Deputies were forced to dispatch the massive dog to reach the woman. Seven other boerboels were also seized from Egle's yard along with a great pyrenees. Asheville Humane Society, which operates the Buncombe County animal shelter, stated right away the adult boerboels were dangerous and slated them for euthanasia.

One of Jane Egle's Boerboels

Memory Lane: In 2015, the Asheville Humane Society (AHS) adopted out a pit bull that passed a temperament test. Three weeks later, the dog brutally killed a 6-year old boy. No temperament test can measure unpredictable aggression. These tests can measure obvious aggression, as can observation, which is the case with the boerboels that Egle liked to dress up with bling. Recall that AHS also had a habit of anthropomorphizing pit bulls with bling to make them more palatable.

The Dog Behavior Consultant

On May 8, WLOS interviewed Kim Brophey, a certified dog behavior consultant that evaluated the South African boerboels, six adults and one 4-month old. As one would imagine, she was terrified of the dogs. "I was terrified, and I've done this a long time," Brophey said. "It was a difficult thing to do. Both myself and the other evaluator were appropriately cautious given the expressed threatening behavior of the dogs, it was warranted. We had a job to do, and we did it," she said.

Yet, Brophey's logic goes south with the young boerboel, which also should have been put down, effectively wiping out Egle's entire breeding operation.1 Pertaining to the adult boerboels she states, "Given their propensity to harm others, it would have been negligent to do anything other than what was done." Speaking about the breed as a whole, she states: "If we have no tolerance for the specific behaviors that dogs were bred for, maybe we shouldn't be breeding them."
"They were so highly threatening that one could not even interact with them in order to assess them -- all of them." - Kim Brophey, dog behaviorist
By May 15, as we began writing this post, Brophey spoke to the Citizen-Times and admitted the adult boerboels were so dangerous they could not even be assessed by personnel, outside of observation. In a stunningly forthright video, Brophey states, "Our message really is ... we should take the opportunity to open a very honest dialogue ... about the big picture of our dog's behavior. We like to act as if dogs are all simply just pets, and that it's all how we raise them," she said.

"The truth is there are many other factors that are facilitating their behavior. If we are not prepared for those behaviors, if we don't look into their history, understand the biology and the genetics, the interplay of their environment, their socialization" and more, Brophey said, "then we are going to continue to find ourselves surprised and in some cases, tragically so ... These incidents are doomed to continue to happen if we don't get honest and practical in our discussion," she said.

Two of Jane Egle's Boerboels

History of the South African Boerboel

The South African boerboel is one of several "reinvented" ancient gladiator breeds used for the purposes of guarding and fighting (combat dogs). There is no trustworthy source of information online, in English, about the breed's history -- most are written by boerboel breeders who glorify the dogs. As visually apparent, the bullmastiff was a heavy influencer in resurrecting the breed as they share common ancestors. Calling these dogs a "farm dog" or a "farmer's dog" is deceptive.
The boerboel name is more appropriately translated into the "farmer's bulldog" or "farmer's mastiff," according to academic researchers.
No one has done more to "resurrect" the ancient gladiator breeds than Dr. Carl Semencic, who was once billed as a "world-renowned authority on fighting dogs" and continues to get his aging books reprinted: The World of Fighting Dogs (1984), Pit Bulls and Tenacious Guard Dogs (1991) and Gladiator Dogs (1998). The Gladiator Dogs book "brings to life 13 breeds originally used as fighting dogs." All of the usual suspects are on the list, including the South African boerboel.

Semencic's book purports to explain the history of these gladiator breeds and their different "combat techniques." The fact that Semencic dedicates an entire chapter to the boerboel is telling, right along side the better known baiting, fighting and war dog types, such as pit bulls and presa canarios. South African boerboels are rare in the United States but certainly are not in South Africa. We reached out to animal behaviorist Alexandra Semyonova who provides more details.

Alexandra Semyonova - Gladiator Breeds
      The story of the "boerboel" (which means "the farmer's bulldog" in Afrikaner Dutch) is basically the same as that of the Cuban Bloodhound (second profile).
      They were created by crossing the bull / bear / horse baiting bulldog of Elizabethan England and the war dogs European colonists used to subdue, terrorize and sometimes help eradicate native populations. These bulldog-war dog mixes were introduced in South Africa by the Dutch in and after 1652, together with the introduction of slavery there. The "boerboel" was used to guard colonizers' farmlands from the natives the lands were stolen from, to guard and terrorize slaves, and in battles with the indigenous populations. To this day, the "boerboel" is still one of the most vicious and destructive guard dogs that exist in South Africa.
      In 2010, a South African surgeon warned that the "boerboel" was presenting an alarming new danger to children:

      "Speaking from his rooms at Somerset Aesthetic Surgery in Somerset West, Toogood said: 'Dog bite cases outnumber the cases I see involving motor vehicle accidents, incidents involving pedestrians, and domestic violence.
      'And of the dog bite cases, approximately 80 percent of the cases I see involve boerboels.
      'The remaining 20 percent (are made up) of all the other breeds of dogs combined.
      'I'm simply telling you what's coming through my doors and they are children bitten by boerboels.
      'This is not just an affable farm dog with big slobbery chops," said Toogood.
      'They are inherently dangerous, with a strong streak of unpredictability, but breeders are not saying so and hence they are being kept as house pets.'"
- Murray Williams, "Boerboel attacks on kids on rise," IOL News, February 24, 2010 (

      Cape of Good Hope SPCA CEO Allan Perrins, admits in the article, "I know that the pit bull has the 'killer dog' reputation. But I'm afraid it's being fast superseded by the boerboel," writes Semyonova.
      According to South African government sources, the export of "boerboels" suddenly greatly increased in 2011. In the United States, South African breeders were getting up to $9,600 for a single animal. It's not surprising then, as this surgeon remarked, that "boerboel" breeders are not honest about what they're selling: "[Boerboels] are inherently dangerous, with a strong streak of unpredictability, but breeders are not saying so and hence they are being kept as house pets," writes Semyonova.
Alexandra Semyonova is an internationally acclaimed animal behaviorist and author of The 100 Silliest Things People Say About Dogs. Academically educated in behavioral science and specialized in animal behavior, she has worked with dogs and their owners on a daily basis for more than 30 years. Visit her website at Nonlinear Dogs. View additional posts that Semyonova has provided commentary for in the past.

Two of Jane Egle's Boerboels

Who Worships, Breeds or Owns Boerboels?

It would be dishonest not to discuss the types of people who own and breed these dogs, including Egle, who graduated up to South African boerboels after raising rottweilers and bullmastiffs. There comes a point where people can't claim ignorance anymore about a dog breed's heritage, nor deny that the real motive is often pathological narcissism -- including the narcissist's insistence on living in a self-aggrandizing fantasy world. Neither of these photos are cute; they are disturbing.

A week before her death, Egle posted to Instagram: "Aslan and Mojo ... before they figured out how to break through that gate and take their boerboel five pack out to meet our suburban neighbors and their many adorable kiddos. Whew! Fortunately, they were only out a few minutes and were friendly and sweet. The neighbors were so charmed by them (all five dogs instantly came when I called them, YES!!), that I now have a new posse offering to take them on walks."
We are deeply thankful that no one else in the community was harmed by Egle's pack of gladiator dogs. They were certainly on track to do so.
Semyonova also points out that a neighbor interviewed by WLOS, Jennifer Odom, described Egle as very sweet, friendly and kind. "How sweet, friendly and kind is it to infest one's neighborhood with a type of dog that endangers the lives of every living thing within miles?" Asked Semyonova. "Ones that, as the surgeon pointed out in the 2010 article, are even deadlier than the smaller pit bull types?" Odom also plays the fantasy game by calling the dogs "very sweet, gentle giants."

This is in stark contrast to the heritage of the "Farmer's bulldog" -- selected for willingness to commit sustained, unprovoked attacks and with a physique that makes defense impossible -- that author Semencic worships and promotes in his book. As well as the honest assessment by Brophey, who said these South African boerboels "were beyond threatening and aggressive, as ferocious of an animal as I have ever met in a 20-year career specializing in aggression."


The South African boerboel is still uncommon in the United States. Their high purchase price and annual care costs make it unlikely for this gladiator breed to ever achieve remotely modest population numbers in this country. The American bully, a pit bull "designer" breed frequently infused with bullmastiffs and other mastiffs to create extreme exaggerations in the weight, size and features of a traditional pit bull, appears to be the larger and more troubling trend in the U.S.

Local media outlets are interested in this story and obtaining the cause of death. The Medical Examiner's Office told WLOS it could take 2-3 months to receive the official report -- this is fairly standard and can take much longer when contributing factors are involved. What is not standard in this case is the lack of receiving any preliminary autopsy report or reasons why. We are only left to speculate as to why, which might include trying to dampen public interest or media attention.

Lastly, as recognized by animal behaviorists Alexandra Semyonova and Kim Brophey and columnist John Boyle of the Citizen-Times, this case demands an honest discussion about dog breeds. Some dog breeds are vastly more dangerous than others, which is the focal point of our nonprofit's website. The consequences of believing the myth, "It's all you raise 'em," and ignoring the genetic heritage of a dog's breed results in life-altering injuries and deaths every year.

asheville boerboels jane hoffman egle
1Other news reports said there were three 4-month old boerboels discovered at the scene. Family members may have taken two, perhaps to continue the lineage. Also, calling these dogs puppies is misleading given that they are already over 50 pounds by the age of four months. Here is one of her 5-month old boerboels.

Related articles:
08/06/15: 2015 Dog Bite Fatality: Recently Adopted Out Pit Bull Kills 6-Year Old Boy...
11/19/14: 2014 Dog Bite Fatality: 7-Year Old Boy Killed by Trained Protection Dog in Dodge...
05/05/09: Alexandra Semyonova: Heritability of Behavior in the Abnormally Aggressive Dog

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