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Wednesday, May 27, 2015

2015 Dog Bite Fatality: 5-Year Old Boy Fatally Attacked by Pit Bull in Chicago

pit bull kills boy chicago south side
Grandfather Appalled
UPDATE 05/27/15: The owner of the pit bull that savagely killed 5-year old James Nevils III late Memorial Day has been identified as 27-year old Kyle Hannah. The child's grandfather, James Nevils Sr., is appalled by the lack of any criminal charges. Police issued two administrative infractions to Hannah after the boy's horrific mauling death. "That’s all you get? My grandson’s gone forever, and all you get is two tickets? Yeah, I have a problem with that," Nevils Sr. said.
I'm not happy at all at that. I’m not happy at all. I expected something more than what they received. Two citations for a life? - James Nevils Sr.
There will likely be no justice for little James, who is just one of hundreds of children killed by a family dog or while visiting the dog owner's home that go without criminal penalties. Many times there is no justice after a dog kills a person while off its owner's property too. In both cases, prosecutors usually have to prove the owner had knowledge of the dog's propensity to be vicious (a previous attack). Nevils Sr. hopes to raise funds so the family can pay for the boy's funeral.

05/26/15: Pit Bull Kills Visiting Child
Chicago, IL – A pit bull brutally killed a boy on the South Side on Memorial Day. Several witnesses intervened killing the dog, but it was too late. The Cook County Medical Examiner identified the victim as James Nevils III, of the 8200 block of South Escanaba Avenue. The boy was visiting the Auburn Gresham home on the 8900 block of South Carpenter Street when the dog latched onto his neck and shoulder, killing him. The boy was unresponsive when first responders arrived.

The lethal attack began inside the Carpenter Street home, according to neighbor Bianca White. “They were trying to drag the [the dog and boy] out of the house, I guess so people could help,” she said. Neighbor Marquis Lewis, 16, said he and his brother Le Mar, 19, started hitting the dog with a brick and a pole until the dog released the child. The teenage brothers beat the dog until it was dead, Lewis said. Neighbor Marco Clifton stabbed the dog with a pocketknife until it broke.
It had him around the neck, he wasn't letting go. He was just shaking him by his neck ... It was the scariest thing I ever seen. – Bianca White
The child was rushed to Advocate Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn with "traumatic injuries" where he was pronounced dead, according to officials. The owner of the dog was reportedly not home when the attack occurred and returned only after the dog was dead and the boy was being transported to the hospital, Le Mar told ABC 7 News. An autopsy determined the boy died of multiple sharp and blunt force injuries to the head and neck. His death was ruled an accident.

WGN News reported that the dog belonged to the boy's adult cousin, the owner of the South Carpenter home. Neighbors told the Chicago Tribune that James, his sister and mother were visiting the home when the dog attacked. Police cited the dog's owner for failure to license and vaccinate the attacking dog. The owner's name has not been released. The boy's grandfather, James Nevils Sr., wants the owner of the dog to be held accountable -- fat chance in Chicago.

Witnesses Describe Pit Bull Attack

Why are pit bulls so disproportionately responsible for attacks resulting in death? Because of the manner of the breed's attack, described so aptly by witnesses below. Pit bulls often attack without provocation or warning and latch onto the victim's neck or head and shake the victim until he's dead -- the dog executes the killing bite the breed was selectively bred for centuries to perform. Moreover, the pit bull often does not cease its attack until it is dead. SOP in a fatal pit bull attack.
James W. Nevils III, 5-years old, is the 460th person in the U.S. fatally attacked by a pit bull.
pit bullSeveral witnesses intervened, eventually killing the pit bull that just wouldn't let go of the child ... A pit bull had grabbed hold of a little boy's neck and would not let go. "Boy 5, Mauled to Death by Dog in Gresham," ABC 7 News, May 26, 2015 (
pit bullThey saw the white pit bull with the boy in its jaw. Some of them ran to get objects to hit the dog, trying to force it to drop the boy. They say the dog would not let go and it was making vicious sounds... "Police: Boy mauled to death by dog on South Side," Fox 32 News, May 26, 2015 (
pit bull"It had him around the neck, he wasn't letting go. He was just shaking him by his neck ... They finally got him off, and the boy was sitting there lifeless. ... It was the scariest thing I ever seen in my life." - Bianca White ... The entire time the dog had a firm grip on James' neck and would not let go ... "It was just horrible." - Brandon Lindsey ... Another neighbor said the dog briefly let go of James but then "went back and grabbed the little boy." - Unidentified neighbor. Lolly Bowean, "Grandfather of boy killed by dog: 'Person responsible should be made to pay'," Chicago Tribune, May 26, 2015 (
pit bull"It locked onto the little boy and shook his neck." - Marquis Lewis ... "The stabbing didn't even stop the dog at all?" NBC Chicago asked Clifton. "No. I broke the knife." - Marco Clifton Anita Selvaggio and Lauren Petty, "Boy, 5, Mauled to Death by Dog on Memorial Day," NBC Chicago, May 26, 2015 (
pit bullLe Mar Lewis said the dog kept wouldn’t let go of the boy even though at least one neighbor was stabbing it with a knife - Le Mar Lewis. "Boy, 5, Mauled To Death By Dog," CBS Chicago, May 26, 2015 (
pit bullFive-year-old James Nevils was visiting a relative’s house Monday night, when the dog grabbed his throat and would not let go. "No charges for owner of dog that mauled, killed 5-year-old boy," WGN-TV, May 27, 2015 (
map iconView the Google Map: Illinois Fatal Pit Bull Maulings.

Related articles:
04/29/14: 2014 Dog Bite Fatality: 4-Year Old Girl Killed by Family Pit Bulls in Bloomington
12/27/13: 2013 Fatal Dog Mauling Image of the Year: The Funeral of Ryan Maxwell
12/10/13: 2013 Dog Bite Fatality: 2-Year Old Girl Mauled to Death by Dogs in South Chicago
03/10/13: 2013 Dog Bite Fatality: 7-Year Old 'Visiting' Galesburg Boy Killed by Pit Bull
08/17/12: 2012 Dog Bite Fatality: Chicago Man Killed by Pit Bull(s) in His Home
12/07/11: 2011 Dog Bite Fatality: Woman Dies Following Attack by Pet Pit Bull Last Month
01/18/10: 2010 Dog Bite Fatality: 56-Year Old Man Killed by Daughter's Six Pit Bulls
07/26/09: Pit Bull Awareness Day 2009 by YouTube Artist Zupf

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Thursday, May 14, 2015

Criminal Trial: Babysitter Jena Wright Found Guilty After Her Pit Bull Brutally Killed a Little Girl While Under her Care

Jury Verdict: Babysitter is Guilty on All Four Counts

criminal trial jena wright, pit bull owner and babysittercriminal trial jena wright, pit bull owner and babysitter
on the witness stand, Jordyn Arndt's mother Jessicajasper county iowa, fatal pit bull attack, brutus

Jury: Guilty on All Counts
UPDATE 05/15/15: After two hours of deliberation Thursday morning, a Jasper County jury came back with a guilty verdict on all four counts. Jena Marie Wright, 26, was found guilty of felony child endangerment resulting in death and felony neglect and abandonment of a child. This combination of felonies carries up to 35-years in prison. The jury also found Wright guilty of two misdemeanor counts of assault on a police officer causing bodily injury and interference with official acts.

On April 22, 2013, 4-year old Jordyn Arndt was horrifically attacked by Wright's pit bull while under her care. She died within 24 hours. At the time of the attack, Jordyn, her brother and Wright's young daughter were playing in the backyard. Wright was inside the home doing laundry. The state successfully argued that Wright knew of the pit bull's propensity to be vicious. Further, the jury did not buy a penny of the canine expert's $18,000 testimony put forth by defense.

KCCI News spoke with Jasper County assistant attorney Kelly Bennett after the verdict. "This has been an extremely emotional trial for me personally," Bennett said. "I just want to thank the jury for all their hard work, they had to sit through some pretty emotional, graphic and heart-wrenching testimony -- and I'm satisfied with the verdict," Bennett said. Just moments before the verdict was read, District Court Judge Richard Clogg reminded everyone in the courtroom to remain calm.

Wright's sentencing date is scheduled for July 13. She will remain in custody until sentencing.

just moments before the verdict was read

We greatly thank KCCI, WhoTV and the Newton Daily News for their outstanding trial coverage.

05/13/15: Day 5 of Trial Coverage - Fatal Dog Mauling
An unexpected rebuttal witness for the prosecution eviscerated testimony from the canine expert today. Kristy Cockerham, a long-time friend of Jena Wright, testified that Brutus latched onto her wrist and Wes had to pry the dog's jaws open. Cockerham also testified that Wright hatched a plan to get rid of Brutus by taking the pit bull out to the country while her husband was gone -- Wright never followed through. Wes claimed in his rebuttal that his pit bull was "just being playful."

This worn out claim, "he was just playing" is a common denominator excuse used by pit bull owners to minimize aggressive acts and damaging attacks by their dogs. Caught red-handed lying through his teeth -- Wes' credibility is out the window at this point and so is Jena's. Cockerham is likely not the only friend that Brutus attacked, but the only one to come forward. Jurors can now see a little more into the mindset of "typical" pit bull owners: deviant, antisocial and perjurers.

Defense attorney T.J. Heir immediately objected to Cockerham's testimony, but District Court Judge Richard Clogg overruled her motion. In a desperate attempt of damage control, defense also made a motion for a continuance to allow the canine expert -- who flew out of Iowa at 6:30am this morning -- to return as a rebuttal witness. Judge Clogg denied this motion too. Following the unexpected and explosive testimony by Cockerham, the state began their closing argument.

prosecutors begin closing arguments jena wright fatal pit bull attack trial

Live Twitter coverage from KCCI | Follow @MTauscheckKCCI for the latest updates.

05/12/15: Day 4 of Trial Coverage - Fatal Dog Mauling
Defense gave its opening argument Tuesday morning. As anticipated, they trotted out multiple long-time friends of Jena Wright. Each provided glowing testimony about Brutus and how the pit bull would never harm a child. Greg Beerends even testified, "Brutus was like a big puppy." Despite the jury already seeing images of the dog soaked in Jordyn's blood. Another friend of Wright, Hanna Faidley, told the court that Wright would have never put any children in danger.

Defense also called Jena's husband to the stand, Wes Wright. He also testified that Brutus never gave him reason to believe the dog would attack Jordyn. While under cross-examination by prosecutors, Wes stated that he and Jena are now legally separated. Surprisingly, he also told the court while under cross-examination that he was comfortable with his daughter being in the backyard alone with Brutus, but that he was not as comfortable with Brutus around other kids.
When asked by prosecution if he would have more hesitation in leaving somebody else's child alone with Brutus, Wes replied: Yes.
This rounds back to the critical issue that Wright was inside the home doing laundry when the deadly attack occurred, not watching Jordyn. Sydney Rinehart, a friend of Wright and former resident of the home, testified that the house has a large and "very thin window" in the living room overlooking the backyard, indicating that Wright still had a view of the children while inside the home. Wright has already admitted, however, that her own daughter first alerted her to the attack.

Wright did not see or hear anything initially, despite the grasping at straws testimony by Rinehart: "You could hear everything, even with the washer and dryer going," former resident Sydney Rinehart told the court. Defense also called Wright's mother-in-law, Robin Wright, to testify. Jena Wright was arrested at Robin's home one day after the attack. Robin was present during the arrest and testified that the defendant did not cause an upheaval while being taken into police custody.

Canine Expert Witness

Defense next called California-based canine expert Ron Berman to the stand. As demonstrated by the KCCI News Tweets, his testimony started with a big bang, beginning with Berman's claim that he has "worked with over 12-thousand dogs." One hot tipper sent in email upon seeing the Tweet and wrote: "I just love 'experts' who are reckless with the details." Subsequent Tweets include, "Says he has been certified as an expert witness 80 times." Then follows up with this humdinger.

canine expert witness claims not a hired gun

How is one "not a gun for hire" if one has already been hired 80 times for the specific purpose of providing expert testimony? We already know the court allotted $18,000 to pay the expert, presumably with state funds. Initially Wright had been assigned a public defender. By December 2014, she had acquired a private attorney. Due to these circumstances, we imagine this is a "fair market" price for his services in this case. The judge allowed it to ensure a fair trial for Wright.
pit bullDuring a hearing Monday, the court decided to allot $18,000 retaining Ron Berman -- a California-based certified forensics consultant with expertise in canine temperament, bites and behavior … Judge Clogg was of the opinion that allowing the expert to testify on behalf of Wright would insure a fair trial. - Mike Mendenhall, Newton Daily News, December 9, 2014
Berman concluded his multi-thousand dollar testimony predictably saying, "nothing in Brutus' behavior could have predicted the attack on Jordyn Arndt." Then cross-examination began, kicking court tension up a few notches Tuesday. After grilling Berman on his education and previous experience, prosecutors unveiled the undoing of his testimony. Berman had to state to the court that he had never even evaluated the pit bull -- Brutus was put down shortly after the attack.

canine expert witness admits never evaluating brutus the pit bull

The Newton Daily News provided more details, including that Berman stated: "Based on all the work I've done there's no evidence prior to this tragic incident with (Arndt) on April 22, 2013 that would suggest (the dog) presented a specific, unusual or serious danger to (Arndt) when she was left unsupervised by the defendant," Berman said. So, the "expert" claims that leaving a child alone with a dog that caused two neighbors to arm themselves with a deadly weapon is normal?
pit bullBerman told jurors he reviewed testimony of all witnesses in the case and interviewed state witnesses Richard Foster, James Billingsley, Tiffany Ewing and Jasper County Sheriff John Halferty who previously testified to their violent encounters with the dog. - Alex Olp, Newton Daily News, May 12, 2015
Closing Arguments Tomorrow

Defense rested their case after testimony and cross-examination of the canine expert. There are two felonies at stake in this case. The first, which carries up to 25-years in prison, is child endangerment resulting in death. This charge requires proving beyond a reasonable doubt Wright "knowingly" acted in a way that created substantial risk to the child's safety by leaving her unattended with Brutus. Proving Wright had knowledge of the dog's vicious propensities is critical.

The second felony charge of neglect or abandonment of a child, which carries up to 10-years, requires proving that Wright "knowingly and recklessly" exposed Jordyn to a hazard by leaving her alone with the dog. Though our understanding of this lesser charge is still gray, there is no doubt that as a babysitter, Wright had the duty to be watching this child, combined with the dog's known aggressive past and Wes stating that even he would not have left other kids alone with Brutus.

Closing arguments are expected Wednesday morning. The case is then handed off to the jury.

Live Twitter coverage from KCCI | Follow @MTauscheckKCCI for the latest updates.

05/11/15: Day 3 of Trial Coverage - Fatal Dog Mauling
Jasper County Prosecutors called a number of witnesses today, most of whom experienced a dangerous encounter with the Wrights pit bull prior to the attack that killed Jordyn Arndt in April 2013. For clarification, Jena Wright, her husband Harmon "Wes" Wright, their young daughter and Wes' father, Buster Wright, all lived at the 300 South Marshall Street home where the deadly attack occurred. Jena and Buster were at the home when the dog attacked, Wes was at work.1
The prosecution rested its case Monday afternoon. Defense begins its case Tuesday morning. A canine expert is expected to testify for defense.
What became evident during testimony on Monday is that a number of people, including Jasper County Sheriff John Halferty, had experienced aggression from Brutus over a several year period leading up to the fatal attack. Further, the Wrights own veterinarian, Jim Walker, testified that Brutus on at least two occasions attacked an injured another dog in the Wright home. Walker treated the injured dog, named Buddy, both times. He shared Buddy's injury photos with the jury.

What also became evident on Monday is that two key testifying witnesses told Wes or Buster about the aggressive encounters, leaving the question open as to whether or not Jena knew about them. First up was Tiffany Ewing, formerly Tiffany Koder, who shared her dangerous encounter of Brutus with the media shortly after the fatal attack. She provided similar testimony in court today. In April 2013, Ewing described the episode with Brutus to the Des Moines Register as below:
pit bullKoder said her brush with Brutus came when she was pregnant and working at the Caseyʼs General Store in Prairie City. Harmon Wright was the store manager at the time, she said.
pit bullKoder said she saw Brutus near his home, walking on Iowa Highway 163, which runs through town. She stepped out of her car to see if she could shepherd the dog back into the fenced yard he had escaped from, she said.
pit bullWhen Brutus spotted her, Koder said, the dog growled, lowered itself into what she described as a hunterʼs crouch, and ran at her.
pit bullKoder said she jumped back into her car, slammed the door shut and drove back to the store to tell Wright what had happened. Wright brushed the incident off, insisting that the dog was “nice,” she said. - Jens Manuel Krogstad, Des Moines Register, April 25, 2013
James Billingsley, who lived across the alley from the Wrights, offered powerful testimony about the pit bull. Billingsley kept a baseball bat in his garage in case he ever had to defend himself against the dog. Billingsley was concerned every time Brutus got loose, he said. He told the jury about one incident where the animal came within 8-feet of him, growled and showed his teeth. "I wish I had the shotgun," he said. Billingsley expressed his concerns about the dog with Buster.

Richard Foster, another neighbor of the Wrights, backed up Billingsley's claims about the pit bull. Foster told the court that Brutus would chew through the chain link fence that separated their two properties and get into his yard, threatening himself and his family. At one point, Foster even grabbed a gun to defend himself. "I walked around the front yard went to the neighbor's, yelled down into the basement, 'Get your dogs out of my yard before I kill them,'" Foster told the court.

The last witness of the day for prosecutors was Jasper County Sheriff John Halferty. He took the stand and testified that he and his wife encountered Wright's pit bull when he was campaigning in Prairie City to be sheriff in 2012. Sheriff Halferty told the court he was ready to draw his weapon to protect himself and his wife. He said the dog was growling, bearing his teeth and his ears were pinned back. An unnamed adult eventually came out of the house and got the dog under control.

Defense Begins Tuesday

Though the trial coverage is limited, we are still seeing the highlights. Not only was Brutus a problem dog -- apparently constantly breaking out of its owner's fenced yard and running loose -- the pit bull was also animal aggressive, attacking another family dog in the home at least twice, requiring veterinarian treatment both times, and created enough alarm in at least two neighbors that each armed themselves with deadly weapons at different times in fear of Brutus attacking.

All of the adults in the Wright household knew that Brutus consistently got loose, attacked other dogs and had dangerous confrontations with neighbors and strangers in the past. The prosecution does not have to prove the fatal attack was absolutely foreseeable. They do have to prove that Wright knew of the dog's vicious propensities and exposed Jordyn to the dog anyway. This exposure included leaving Jordyn and the other two children outside with Brutus unsupervised.

Live Twitter coverage from KCCI | Follow @MarcusKCCI for the latest updates.

05/08/15: Day 2 of Trial Coverage - Fatal Dog Mauling
On Friday, Jasper County prosecutors showed jurors graphic images of Jordyn's fatal neck injuries. These images combined with testimony from the trauma surgeon and medical examiner, who told the jurors that the injuries were consistent with a dog violently shaking its head back and forth, should have painted a vivid picture of the violent attack. The trauma surgeon, Dr. Cass Franklin, also told prosecutors that he had never seen injuries like it before in his 37-year career.
Prosecution: As a trauma surgeon, I assume that you've seen dog bite injuries before?
Dr. Cass Franklin: Yes, several.
Prosecution: In your experience had you ever seen injuries like the ones you'd seen on Jordyn?
Dr. Cass Franklin: I have not.
Polk County Chief Medical Examiner Gregory Schmunk, who performed the autopsy on Jordyn, also testified on Friday. He testified that the lacerations were consistent to a dog attacking from behind. Jordyn likely never knew the killing bite was coming, nor would she have known if it had come from the front. Unpredictable attacks by pit bulls occur instantly. KCCI would not show the graphic injuries of the child, but they did show the pit bull covered in blood after the fatal attack.

Police Officer Testimony

Former Prairie City Police Chief Louis Modlin testified on Friday as well. Modlin now works for the Altoona Police Department. Video from his dash camera and audio captured by his body camera, just minutes after the vicious attack, were played in court. Wright is heard saying to Modlin, "My daughter came inside and said there's blood everywhere" and "he's never shown aggression like that." In the video, Wright describes to Modlin the moments leading up to the deadly attack.
pit bullAccording to Modlin's testimony, Wright told him the three children – the defendant's daughter, 7-year-old Aden Arndt and Jordyn Arndt – were playing in the backyard. She then left the residence to run to the store and told her father-in-law to keep an eye on the kids.2 When she returned, she checked on the children and went back inside the house. Minutes later, Wright's daughter came inside and said "there's blood." - Alex Olp, Newton Daily News, May 8, 2015
Wright also faces charges of assault on a police officer causing bodily injury and interference with official acts, which occurred when she was arrested one day after the attack. Modlin, who was the arresting officer, testified that Wright kicked him multiple times in the chest as he tried to take her into custody. Modlin said the defendant was "not cooperative" and tried to get away from him, but fell down a staircase near a backyard door in the process. Modlin was halfway up the staircase.
"As soon as she fell down on the stairs she rolled over on her back and began kicking and she kicked me several times in the chest," Former Prairie City Police Chief Louis Modlin
Among the many atrocities that jurors learned today, what they did not learn details about (at least none were mentioned in the news coverage), may be even more haunting. Both Jordyn's brother and Wright's daughter witnessed the attack. All three children were outside with the dog when it latched onto Jordyn's neck and violently shook its head back and forth, causing a blood spray and killing the girl. The trial continues on Monday. The defense may also start their case on Monday.

Live Twitter coverage from KCCI | Follow @MarcusKCCI for the latest updates.

08/07/15: Fatal Dog Mauling Criminal Trial Begins
Prairie City, IA - On April 22, 2013, Jordyn Arndt, 4-years old, was brutally attacked by her babysitter's pit bull while under her care. She was airlifted to Mercy Medical Center in Des Moines where she died of her injuries the next day. Hours after her death, Prairie City police arrested her babysitter, Jena Marie Wright, in connection to her death. This week, after over a dozen court delays, the criminal trial finally begins. Wright faces up to 35-years in jail if convicted on all counts.
The case hinges on whether or not Wright exposed Jordyn to the male pit bull named Brutus knowing of the dog's vicious propensities.
Part of the court delays involves the expert canine witness for the defense. Last December, the court allotted $18,000 to retain Ron Berman, a California-based expert in canine temperament, bites and behavior. First, the expert needed more preparation time, later, he suffered injuries in an accident and was unable to travel, causing another continuance. Berman is expected to testify to the issue if Wright had knowledge of the dog's propensity to be vicious or to attack a person.

In February, the prosecution made their frustration about the many delays and the relevance of the expert canine witness quite clear. "The defendant has had almost two years to find an expert witness and it wasn’t until the last couple of months this was done," Kelly Bennett, Jasper County assistant attorney told the court. Bennett also questioned the necessity of the canine expert's testimony, given that the dog's behavior -- the dog ripped out the girl's throat -- is not in dispute.
pit bull"There is no question about the behavior of this particular dog," Bennett said. “Two years ago this dog ripped the throat out of a 4-year-old little girl.”
pit bullThe only issue is the behavior of the defendant -- and the defendant’s actions, what she did or did not do -- knowing at that point in time of the previous behavior of the dog." - Kelly Bennett, assistant attorney, Newton Daily News, February, 2015
Opening Day of Criminal Trial

During opening arguments Thursday, prosecution stated that Wright was aware of the dog's vicious tendencies. The pit bull had previously attacked another dog and Wright's neighbor kept a bat in his garage for protection against the dog. Jordyn's mother, Jessica Arndt, took the stand in tears. She and Wright had been friends for 15-years and attended school and graduated together. She admitted that she initially did not blame Wright. That changed after she learned more details.3

Carl Vander Kamp, who was among the first EMTs on scene, also took the stand today. He said that he arrived to "quite a bit of blood" and a child lying motionless without a pulse. "She had a large wound on her side of her face and also on what appeared to be the back of her head and some marks on her neck area," Vander Kamp testified. He said that from the time he arrived to when the child was airlifted to Mercy the child never showed any vitals or signs of breathing.

The Newton Daily News includes more details, including that the jury listened to the 911 call and saw bloody images from the aftermath of the attack. The attack occurred between the defendant's house and garage. One of the photographs showed blood spatter on the garage wall. Jasper County Deputy Jeremy Burdt, who responded to the attack, provided testimony about the blood splatter on the garage, explaining it was the result of a dog rapidly shaking its head back and forth.

The criminal trial is expected to last 5 days. will cover each day. The jury of course will not hear about Wright's prior criminal history, unless introduced by defense. Two years before the fatal dog attack, Jena was arrested on multiple felony charges in connection to a marijuana grow operation. Those charges included a charge for neglect and abandonment of a child. In a plea deal, Wright pled guilty to one count of misdemeanor possession of a controlled substance.4

Partly why is so interested in this case is because it involves a babysitter whose pit bull killed a visiting child that was under her care. This scenario appears over and over again in fatal dog maulings, primarily, fatal pit bull maulings. We are also interested in the testimony by the canine expert witness for the defense. What testimony will he provide and how much weight will the jury give it? Also, what questions will prosecutors ask the expert during cross-examination?

Consequences if Convicted

Jasper County authorities charged Wright with felony child endangerment resulting in death, which carries up to 25-years in jail if convicted, and felony neglect or abandonment, which carries up to 10-years in prison if found guilty. Wright is also facing a charge of assault on a police officer causing bodily injury. Wright allegedly kicked the arresting officer -- former Prairie City Police Chief Louis Modlin -- in the chest during a struggle while being arrested, an aggravated misdemeanor.

Some readers might feel sorry for Wright or believe the potential penalties are too harsh. The serious charges, however, are case-in-point about the responsibility a babysitter takes on when watching a child, a babysitter who also had three dogs at her home.5 Usually, in criminal cases like this, the negligence is more egregious, like in the criminal trial of the babysitter whose pit bull killed a 2-year old girl in 2003. In that case, the babysitter left the child unattended to "run errands."

Jena Wright was apparently inside the home when the deadly attack occurred. Jordyn and Wright's own daughter were in the backyard playing when Brutus viciously attacked the girl. During the 911 call made by Wright, she said, "She and my daughter have played outside with the dog numerous times. I don't know what happened." Jordyn and her brother, who was 7-years old at the time, had only started their babysitting arrangement with Wright about a week earlier.

Live Twitter coverage from KCCI | Follow @KStonge12 for the latest updates.

step father of babysitter blames child victim for fatal attack
1Both Wes and Buster Wright publicly speculated the little girl caused the deadly attack in the hours and days following her violent death. Like father like son. Both were also arrested and charged in 2011, along with Jena, in connection to a marijuana grow operation in their basement. Charges were reduced to misdemeanors for all three.
2 On April 22, following the attack, KCCI interviewed Wright's father-in-law, Buster Wright, who said: "I had no clue that was going to happen. That dog was in 7th heaven. Why he would do that? That kid had to do something."
3The little girl's mother is just as beautiful as her daughter. They are literally mirrors only separated by age. Stunning, tragic and forever haunting. Our heart goes out to Jessica Arndt. This was a tough day in court.
4By the age of 22, Jena Wright was already speeding down a runway to disaster. Two years later, her pit bull will kill an innocent little girl. Now she faces serious hard jail time. Her first and only "get out of jail free" card is gone.
5Information about the other two dogs is unknown. Maybe it will become known during the criminal trial.

Related articles:
03/01/15: Video: Grandmother Viciously Attacked by Family Pit Bull During Ice Bucket Challenge
08/26/14: 2013 Dog Bite Fatality: 4-Year Old Mauled by Pit Bull Dies; Babysitter Arrested
07/22/14: 2014 Dog Bite Fatality: Visiting Child Under Babysitter's Care Killed by Family Pit Bull...
07/15/14: New Brunswick Pit Bull Attack: Babysitting, the Zero Margin of Error Rule...
09/24/13: 2013 Dog Bite Fatality: Boy Killed by Pit Bull-Mixes at Babysitter's Home in Gilbert
07/26/13: Beyond the Interview: Essay of a Fatal Pit Bull Mauling -

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Monday, May 4, 2015

2015 Dog Bite Fatality: 7-Year Old Boy Mauled to Death by Dogs in Canyon Lake, Texas

comal county boy killed by dogs in canyon lake
Multiple Dogs Kill Boy
Canyon Lake, TX - For the second time in just over a year, dogs have inflicted a deadly attack in Comal County, Texas. On Saturday evening, 7-year old Gaege Ramirez was fatally attacked by multiple dogs at a home in the Canyon Lake area. The attack occurred at a home on the 2100 block of Rocky Ridge Loop. The boy was airlifted to University Hospital in San Antonio where doctors tried to save the lives of two elderly pit bull mauling victims in 2014, neither survived.
75-year old Betty Clark of Canyon Lake and 83-year old Petra Aguirre of San Antonio both died of their severe mauling injuries while hospitalized.
Gaege was the son of one of the Comal County District Attorney's office investigators. District Attorney Jennifer Tharp said that Gaege was tragically taken from this Earth as a result of a dog attack. "I have had the distinct privilege of knowing Gaege from time he has spent at my office with his mother, Amber Hardcastle, one of my felony investigators," Tharp said. "The Hardcastle and Ramirez family is in our hearts and prayers during this difficult time and tragic loss," Tharp said.

In June of 2014, 6-months after the pit bull mauling death of Betty Clark, a Comal County grand jury indicted the dogs' owners in connection to her death. Rachelle Lucas, 47, and Peter Lucas, 49 both of Canyon Lake, were each charged with a second-degree felony. The last known update of their criminal case was October 2014. The Comal County District Attorney's office prosecuted the couple's case, the first case ever brought in Comal County under the state felony dog attack law.

Family members have set up a GoFundMe donation page to help pay for his memorial service.

Texas Dog Bite Victims' Advocacy - Join our Texas email list to stay informed

Related articles:
04/29/15: 2015 Dog Bite Fatality: Family Pit Bull Kills Baby Boy in Dallas, Texas
12/12/14: 2014 Dog Bite Fatality: San Antonio Woman, 83, Dies After Pit Bull Attack
04/15/14: 2014 Dog Bite Fatality: Comal County Woman, 75, Dies After Pit Bull Attack
05/28/13: Publishes Rebuttal Letter in Defense of Texas Medical Study
03/12/13: Report: Texas Dog Bite Fatalities, January 1, 2005 to February 17, 2013
05/21/11: Texas Doctors Produce Study: Mortality, Mauling and Maiming by Vicious Dogs

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Wednesday, April 29, 2015

2015 Dog Bite Fatality: Family Pit Bull Kills Baby Boy in Dallas, Texas

family pit bull kills Dallas baby
One of two consecutive posts published on the mother's Timeline in January 2015.

Images of the Dog
UPDATE 04/29/15: On the day this fatal pit bull attack was reported, we located the mother's Facebook page in Google Cache. At least temporarily after the baby's horrific death, it had been deactivated from Facebook. Upon checking again last night, the page had been reactivated. As recently as January 11, 2015, the mother posted two consecutive photographs to her Timeline of a male pit bull with a graying muzzle that she lovingly refers to as a "big baby" in both public posts.1
In the two posts, it appears she is referring to the 8-year old dog's tapering ability to hop up on the couch, "Well....he made it up here..."
The deceptive propaganda about the breed, "It's all how you raise them," promoted by pit bull owners, breeders, animal groups, television programs and more, is clearly evoked in these two photographs. This false narrative wholly denies the heritage of the breed, involving centuries of selection for bull baiting then dogfighting. The purposely-bred form and function of a fighting dog is to attack without warning signs, to execute the killing bite and to relentlessly attack until death.

The aging family pit bull that lumbered onto the couch in January, with no history of aggression, had no problem suddenly executing the killing bite a few months later. Latching on to the baby's head, killing it, was just part of the deadly attack. When the father succeeded in getting the dog to release the baby, the pit bull next attacked the mother who intervened. At some point, the father was able to drag the 8-year old pit bull outside where he shot it to death, ending the attack.

04/20/15: Family Pit Bull Kills Baby
Dallas, TX - Dallas police report that a 2-month old baby boy was mauled to death by his family's pit bull on Sunday afternoon. The deadly attack occurred in the Red Bird neighborhood on the 6800 block of Beechnut Street at about 5:00 pm. At the time of the attack, the boy and his father were alone at the home. The father had stepped outside to turn on the sprinkler system. When he returned, the pit bull was attacking the baby who was in a bouncing seat, according to police.

As the father tried to pull the dog off his baby boy, the mother arrived home and walked in on the fatal dog mauling scene and was bitten twice by the attacking animal. The father was eventually able to grab the family pit bull by the neck and tear it away from the boy and his mother. The father then dragged the animal outside and shot it twice, according to Dallas police. The 2-month old baby boy, Brayden Wilson, was transported to a local hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

Family Pit Bull was 8-Years Old

CBS 11 News reported Monday that the family pit bull, named Grady, was 8-years old. The dog had been with the family for nearly a decade and had played with other children before. CBS spoke with the child's grandmother who said that family members are "in shock" that the pit bull would suddenly turn on the child. The grandmother also told CBS 11 that other children were at the home at the time of the savage attack, but were playing outside and did not see the violence.
“It’s just unexplainable. You just don’t get it when you’ve had the dog so long, I don’t know what could have happened. I don’t know." - Willetta Tate
Tate said the other children are 8 and 11 years old and had grown up with the dog. "Those kids, they sleep with him and everything," she said. A similar case occurred in 2013 in Georgia, when a family pit bull of 8-years, named Kissy Face, savagely killed a 2-year old boy. The female, spayed pit bull had known the boy since his birth and his older sister who was 6-years old when the attack occurred. The boy's mother, Angela Rutledge, later told her painful story to a state legislator.

The video shows Brayden's mother emotional after returning home from the hospital. "Like I said, kids play with him every day, littler kids, nieces and nephews and I just... I don’t know," Tate echoed. Then the video cuts to neighbor Chanel Villarreal who also owns a pit bull that she dragged for out the cameras. Because by all means, just after the violent mauling death of a baby by a family pit bull is certainly a ripe time to showcase anecdotal nonsense by a pit bull owner.

Child Protective Services interviewed the family twice. CPS has no prior history with the family.
map iconView the Google Map: Texas Fatal Pit Bull Maulings.

Texas Dog Bite Victims' Advocacy - Join our Texas email list to stay informed

1It is unknown how long the page was deactivated. On April 20, the Google Cache of the mother's page did not contain any posts, just the cover and profile images. By April 28, the page was active again with many public posts.

Related articles:
01/19/15: 2014 Dog Bite Fatality: Texas 'Dog Rescuer' Killed by Dogs She Rescued
12/12/14: 2014 Dog Bite Fatality: San Antonio Woman, 83, Dies After Pit Bull Attack
04/15/14: 2014 Dog Bite Fatality: Comal County Woman, 75, Dies After Pit Bull Attack 
03/12/13: Report: Texas Dog Bite Fatalities, January 1, 2005 to February 17, 2013
05/21/11: Texas Doctors Produce Study: Mortality, Mauling and Maiming by Vicious Dogs

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Monday, April 20, 2015

2015 First Quarter Report: Municipalities and Grassroots Beat Back State Preemption Bills Barring Local Pit Bull Ordinances

A Primer on State Preemption Laws and Charts for Advocates

CDC and state preemption laws prohibiting pit bull laws
Chart illustrates 35-years of U.S. fatal pit bull attacks in 5-year periods. We added short teal vertical bars to indicate when each state passed a preemption law barring municipalities from enacting pit bull ordinances. We also marked the end of the CDC's 20-year study period, 1998, showing the dramatic rise in fatalities since. - During the first quarter of the 2015 legislative season, state preemption bills prohibiting local governments from enacting breed-specific laws were brought in five states: Arizona, Georgia, Kentucky, Montana and Washington. In all five states the legislation failed.1 This is a 100% success rate for cities and counties retaining local control and a 0% success rate for the chief pushers of these bills, Utah-based fighting dog advocates, Best Friends Animal Society.
To reiterate, so far in 2015, Best Friends has a 0% success rate in passing these state bills and in 2014, only had a 33% success rate.
That is the bright news; the dark news is the 35-year death chart. Deaths inflicted by pit bulls have increased by 560% since the 5-year period of 1995 through 1999, which includes the last four years of the CDC study. The CDC has no plans to revisit this issue either. On top of this, a second wave of state preemption bills erupted in 2012. Why any state legislator today would prohibit local governments from regulating this well-recognized dangerous dog breed is frankly inexplicable.

State preemption laws backed by big industry interests are not new. Such laws were historically pursued by the tobacco industry, and continue to be today, to impede local tobacco laws. This strategy by the tobacco lobby was so successful that a range of other big industries began pursuing state preemption laws as well. Grassroots public health movements often suffer the most, as these laws essentially extinguish the motivation to organize and take action locally.
[I]f you take away the ability of people to make policies, to create rules at the local level, then there's far less incentive for people to organize and act because they don't have an opportunity to take action at the local level. That strategy is ... something that can take the wind out of the sails very quickly. - PMB, Key Informant Interviews 2010 | Public Health Law Center2
Two Waves of State Preemption Laws

Wave I of state preemption laws prohibiting the regulation of dangerous dog breeds occurred just after 1987 when the pit bull mauling epidemic exploded across America, dominating local and national news publications and television news coverage. By 1992, dogfighting and dog breeder interests had pushed through preemption laws in ten states, including three of the most populous, California, Florida and Texas, in an effort to stop local jurisdictions from adopting pit bull laws.3

Between 1997 and 2004, three more states passed these laws. Wave II officially began in 2012, chiefly driven by Best Friends and dog breeder interests.4 From 2012 to 2014 six new states passed state-level bills barring local governments from regulating specific dog breeds. Today, there are 19 states with these types of state preemption laws. Jurisdictions in at least one state, Colorado, can supersede the preemption law under home rule authority, effectively muting it.5

In addition to home rule authority variances amongst states, state preemption laws vary as well. Primarily they center upon the prohibition of declaring a specific breed "dangerous" or "vicious" (prima facie legal designation). California, which has a mixed preemption law, explicitly allows for the regulation of specific breeds via spay, neuter status -- mandatory pit bull sterilization laws are legal -- but does not allow specific breeds to be declared "potentially dangerous" or "vicious."

The question lingers, what prompted Wave II? The radically rising number of deaths inflicted by pit bulls is a logical guess. Along with a rising number of voters who do not want a pit bull living next door. It is much easier for the pit bull lobby to fight one state-level battle than to fight many local ones, a page out of the tobacco lobby's handbook.6 Also, state preemption laws pushed by big industries to squelch health and safety grassroots movements are "trending" again in general.7

Despite 19 states passing these preemption laws, currently over 850 jurisdictions across 37 states in this country regulate pit bulls. On a federal level, all three major military divisions, the U.S. Army, U.S. Marine Corps and U.S. Air Force, outright ban these dogs and several other breeds on base and privatized housing. Federal and state housing authorities typically ban this same small group of dangerous dog breeds too. Even a large number of Indian reservations have followed suit.

Preemption Wave II Hits Resistance had its hands full after the 2012 Solesky decision and the ensuing four legislative sessions spent defending the Court of Appeals decision. This lasted until March 2014, well into the second wave. However, 2014 is also the first year our nonprofit and a grassroots effort to fend off these state laws gained traction. Preemption laws were brought in six states in 2014 and just two passed, a 33% pass rate. One of the passing states was Utah, the home base of Best Friends.8

Victories in Missouri and Washington last year, and a growing number of advocates engaging in letter writing campaigns to state legislators, evolved into an even stronger effort during the first quarter of 2015, likely helping to tip the scale to a 100% victory. The real powerhouses, however, are the municipal associations that fight at a state-level to protect cities and counties from losing local control in a range of areas. Once that area of local control is gone, it's usually gone for good.
Since the passage of the first state preemption law in 1989, barring breed-specific ordinances, not a single state has managed to repeal one.
In addition to municipal associations, other state-based groups, our nonprofit and a grassroots campaign fighting these state preemption bills, we believe that some state legislators are growing tired of the "breed controversy." Many legislators do not like hot potato issues that light up their phones and stem from out-of-state special interest groups. At least momentarily, 2015's current 100% victory record for municipalities retaining local control has thrown a wrench into Wave II.9

We expect four of these bills to return in 2016. Some may emerge in other states as well. It is not costly for Best Friends or dog breeder interests to get these bills introduced, often they are only one or two sentences long. But trying to pass them through both chambers can become expensive by hiring more lobbyists, local recruiting and more. Like the tobacco lobby, we expect these groups to be relentless in bringing these preemption bills in the coming years, until Wave II officially dies.

Summary and Call to Action

Despite our health and safety cause lacking lobbyists and formal legislative organization -- which is directly opposite from Best Friends and dog breeder interests who have both -- our vital cause has so far been successful in 2015. Fighting these state preemption bills is not a sprint. Wave I lasted five years. It is unknown how long Wave II will last. We created the charts and information in this post to provide advocates with more materials when communicating with state legislators.

Together we can do this! Grassroots health and safety advocates powerfully impacted first quarter's successful results, as well as in 2014. Our freight train is starting to roll and we need you on board! Understanding state preemption laws -- who typically brings them and who is typically harmed -- is the first step in coming on board. Advocates are now also armed with the powerful 35-year death chart that sends a concrete message to legislators considering one of these bills.

Immediate at-risk states, as of second quarter 2015, include North Carolina. On April 14, state preemption bill HB 751 was filed that prohibits local governments from enacting breed-specific ordinances.10 At-risk states in 2016, expected to again face these state preemption bills, include: Arizona, Georgia, Kentucky and Washington. In Georgia and Washington, both state preemption bills introduced in 2015 automatically carry over into 2016 (known as "carry-over" legislation).

View new release: First Quarter Report: Municipalities and Grassroots Prevail Against State Preemption Bills Barring Local Pit Bull Ordinances

Advocates please also read the related post, 2015 First Quarter Legislative Highlights, for a deeper account of the successes, lockouts and tough lessons learned during the first quarter.

states that preempt local governments from enacting pit bull ordinances

This post originally stated that 1982 was the first year a state passed this type of preemption law based upon reviewing Pennsylvania's 1982 Act 225. Upon closer examination of the 1982 Act, just after releasing this post, we found that Section 507-A was added to the 1982 Act in May 1990, right in the heart of the Wave I.

1First quarter failed legislation: Arizona Senate Bill 1292; Georgia House Bill 124 and Senate Bill 184; Kentucky Senate Bill 124; Montana Senate Bill 239 and Washington House Bill 1018.
2We strongly recommend that advocates read this brief overview, "Preemption in Public Health" and review this slideshow: Preemption and the Public’s Health New Research, Practical Lessons, by Mark Pertschuk, JD. Public Health Law Center (
3Read more about this time period: Historical articles examining pit bulls and their victim | Watch related video
4Of course there are lobbyists from the AVMA, ASPCA, HSUS and other humane groups that support these laws, but these groups are typically not the bringers of Wave II state preemption bills. That role is reserved for the strange bedfellows of Best Friends, dog breeders (AKC) and hunting dog groups.
5Illinois and Rhode Island are also home rule states, but no municipality has ever challenged this legal angle like the city and county of Denver did.
6 "By introducing preemptive statewide legislation we can shift the battle away from the community level back to the state legislatures where we are on stronger ground." -Tina Walls, Philip Morris, July 8, 1994. (Preemption: Tobacco Control’s #1 Enemy). Here is another great read to help understand state preemption legislation and the usual forces behind it. The article also refers back to the infamous 1994 Phillip Morris quote: Big Food Strikes Back, Ag Industry Aims to Strip Local Control of Food Supplies, by Britt Bailey and Brian Tokar, CounterPunch, May 26, 2005 (
7Preemption Takes Center Stage in 2015, Grassroots Change, November 7, 2014 ( and States Are Blocking Local Regulations, Often at Industry’s Behest, by Shaila Dewan, New York Times, February 23, 2015 (
8A no-brainer win.
9When we say momentarily, we mean it. Many state legislative sessions only last for the first 90 to 120 days of the year, but others last longer, even the full year. More of these state preemption bills are coming down the pike in 2015.
10After locating HB 751, we performed more searches on the legislature's website and found that HB 271, a separate state preemption bill, was also filed in North Carolina in mid March. The preemption clause is buried within HB 271, which overhauls the state's dangerous dog law. HB 271 modifies section: 67-4.5. Local ordinances (see existing wording). Underlined type shows the bill's "added" preemption language.
pit bull"Nothing in this Article shall be construed to prevent a city or county from adopting or enforcing its own program, law, or regulation for control of dangerous dogs, provided that no such program, law, or regulation shall be specific as to the breed, phenotype, or appearance of the dogs subject to it."

Related articles:
02/11/15: 2014 U.S. Dog Bite Fatalities - Dog Bite Statistics -
01/07/15: 2014 Fatal Dog Attack Breed Identification Photographs -
11/24/14: Aurora Voters Favor Keeping Pit Bull Ban by Wide Margin in General Election...
07/02/14: Dr. David A. Billmire, MD: "There is no need for Pit Bulls" - Cincinnati Children's
06/01/14: Cities with Successful Pit Bull Laws; Data Shows Breed-Specific Laws Work
05/27/14: Missouri - Proposed Statewide Bill Prohibiting Breed-Specific Ordinances...
03/19/14: 30-Year Anniversary of Historic Pit Bull Attack Victim and The Village of Tijeras...
09/13/13: Dramatic Decline in Pit Bulls Attacks Since Pawtucket Adopted Pit Bull Ban...
08/16/12: Vote in Miami-Dade County to Repeal Pit Bull Ban Fails by Wide Margin

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2015 First Quarter Legislative Highlights: Local Control Dominates, We Salute You Health and Safety Advocates!

Successes, Lockouts and a Doubleheader in Georgia

local control retains control of breed-specific oridances - Municipal associations and grassroots advocates are dominating so far in 2015. During the first quarter, all five state preemption bills prohibiting local governments from enacting breed-specific laws were rejected. This is a 100% success rate for cities and counties retaining local control. Grassroots advocates helped make this victory possible -- we salute you! This post is dedicated to each of you and to all who will help us fight future state preemption law battles.

State Legislative Sessions

Many state legislative sessions occur in the first 90 or 120 days of the year. This is true of the five states in early 2015 that considered state preemption bills that would bar local pit bull ordinances: Arizona, Georgia, Kentucky, Montana and Washington. This year's 3-month period can only be described as "frenzied" as the bills moved in and out of committees and chambers, at times rapidly, each one on a different (or unknown) voting schedule, simultaneously in multiple states.
Just tracking the bills at times was difficult; each state has a different website structure and logic, some are modern and others are not.
More importantly, each state also has its own nuanced legislative system, legislative rules and traditions. This is where lobbyists and insiders come in handy, people who know how that state system works. Our cause does not have either type of entity nor do we have any formal legislative organization. The upshot is that the two primary pushers of these state bills, Utah-based fighting dog advocates Best Friends and dog breeder interests, have both and still lost all five states!

Notification of Public Hearings

One of the toughest lessons learned in early 2015 concerns public hearing information. There often isn't much public access to it. Even when there are state laws, such as in Washington where 5 days notice is required for a public hearing, the rules can be suspended by a majority vote at any time. Of all five states, Washington had the best email notification system for tracking bills and public hearing announcements, but even that system failed when it was needed the most.

For weeks, several Washington state advocates were "on call" to attend the public hearing on House Bill 1018, the same state preemption bill that was introduced by Rep. Sherry Appleton in 2014. DogsBite was familiar with their email notification system due to our participation on last year's bill. Despite every other House Judiciary Committee notification reaching our inbox, the hearing notice for HB 1018, allegedly sent in early February, never arrived. (View inbox)1
If there is no adequate announcement of public hearings, how can the public participate? They cannot and that we learned is by design.
Therefore, no victims' advocates appeared at the February 11 hearing.2 Supporters of HB 1018 were somehow notified and did attend. Only by manually checking the legislative website -- by habit on February 12 -- did DogsBite learn the hearing had already occurred. Fortunately, it was videotaped, so we were able to quickly send the link out to advocates who watched it then wrote to committee members with corrections to inaccurate statements made by supporters of the bill.

The kicker, however, turned out to be Rep. Appleton herself. The ethereal oral testimony given by Rep. Appleton is riddled with "personal" and anecdotal statements (Fast forward to 1:37 to watch). was so alarmed by it that we transcribed her testimony in full to share with others then fired off an email to the committee chair pointing out that Rep. Appleton's only citation given during her testimony, a 1920 United States Supreme Court decision, was 100% inaccurate.
Subject Line: HB 1018 - Cited Supreme Court ruling 100% false
Dear House Judiciary Chair Rep. Laurie Jinkins,
pit bullI watched the public hearing for HB 1018 that would terminate the right of local governments from regulating dangerous dog breeds in the state of Washington. I also transcribed Rep. Appleton's oral testimony, which is filled with "personal" and anecdotal statements and lacks even the most modest citations.
pit bullHowever, she did cite one case by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1920, Nicchia v. New York, and alleged that the decision found that it was "unconstitutional to have breed-specific ordinances" (her exact words). I will briefly explain why Rep. Appleton’s reasoning is like saying Brown v. Board of Education supports separate schools for black and white students.
pit bullPart of the primary basis of the Nicchia v. New York decision relies upon the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Sentell v. New Orleans & Carrollton R. Co. - 166 U.S. 698 (1897), which determined that the "property in dogs is of an imperfect or qualified nature" and that government officials could shoot and kill loose dogs that pose a danger to the community.
pit bullThe combination of citing Nicchia and Sentell by appellate courts pertaining to upholding well-written breed-specific ordinances was done as recently as 2007 (American Canine Foundation v. Sun, Dist. Court, ND California 2007). These two SCOTUS decisions are used to support breed-specific laws, which is in direct opposition to Rep. Appleton’s analysis. - Colleen Lynn,, Feb. 14, 2015
Read:'s email to committee chair, Rep. Laurie Jinkins
Read: Rep. Appleton's testimony, transcribed and annotated by

Arizona, Kentucky and Montana

Grassroots participation in Arizona was unnecessary as Senate President Andy Biggs kept Senate Bill 1292 buried in the Rules Committee. The main lobbyist for Best Friends, Ledy VanKavage, issued an alert to their Legislative Action Center on February 12: "AZ: Tell Senate President Biggs to stop obstructing SB 1292. Demand action now!" Senator Biggs was not moved. The state preemption bill received a ceremonial first reading on the eve of sine die, session adjournment.

Another missed public hearing occurred in Kentucky despite having a committed advocate standing by. By manually checking the Legislative Calendar on February 15 (we checked it daily) we learned the hearing for Senate Bill 124 had been scheduled for February 17 in the Senate Agriculture Committee. The 17th was truly the one day the advocate could not attend. We also signed up for the bill tracking system on the Kentucky website, no notifications were ever sent.3

Fortunately, SB 124 did not see much action after passing out of the Agriculture Committee on February 24 and being assigned to the Rules Committee the next day. It also died in Rules, the committee chairman never sent it to the Senate floor for a vote. Even an announcement by the AKC did not help move the bill. Montana Senate Bill 239 did make it out of committee and lost by only 3 votes on the Senate floor, 23 to 26 on Feb 21. The bill was then "indefinitely postponed."
A close call indeed, but the bill still would have had to pass the House. VanKavage decried on her Facebook page, "failed in the senate by 3 votes. Aghhhhhh. Guess we will have to try again in another 2 years."
Doubleheader in Georgia

Georgia House Bill 124 was the last to come to our attention in late February. At that time the bill was sitting in the House Governmental Affairs Committee slowly dying; the committee chair was unwilling to give the bill a public hearing. We all breathed a sigh of relief; there were already three active bills in other states. Then Senate Bill 184 was introduced by a more powerful legislator. The Senate version accomplished the same preemption goal as HB 124, just stated in a different way.

The other side was scrambling. They knew HB 124 was dead and the March 13 crossover date was looming. Many states have a crossover deadline when a bill must pass one chamber or be declared dead. SB 184 was referred to the Senate Agriculture and Consumer Affairs Committee, where three of the bill's sponsors held a seat. The bill quickly reported out favorably. On March 11, just two days later, the bill was on the Senate floor and passed in a sweeping 42 to 11 vote.

On March 13, the Senate version of the state preemption bill landed right back into the House Governmental Affairs Committee whose chairman had not shown interest in the House version. Would the chairman call a hearing before sine die? Unlike in Washington state, the typical hearing announcement in Georgia is about 24 hours notice. We reached out to Rep. Keisha Waites and alerted her to the bill, she had previously helped Angela Rutledge after the death of her son.

On March 27, just days before adjournment, the chairman called for a hearing on SB 184 on March 30. Rep. Waites attended, but it was a closed hearing. We then learned that the chairman never allowed her to speak. This news was unbearable! We also learned that a municipal association group put forth an amendment during the meeting, lessening the blow of the bill, but the other side balked. The state preemption bill was then tabled, three days before sine die.

In both Washington and Georgia, bills from the 2015 legislative session carry over into 2016. We anticipate an extensive battle in Georgia and so do their legislators. On March 31, Rep. Waites submitted House Resolution 906 with four sponsors, "urging the State of Georgia to consider the devastation caused by pit bull attacks when crafting legislation regulating dogs so as not to impose on local governments that choose to regulate those dogs for the safety of the community."
House Resolution 906
pit bullWHEREAS, allowing local control over issues deemed relevant to political subdivisions of this state is critical to individual liberty and a well-functioning democracy; and
pit bullWHEREAS, cities that adopt breed-specific regulatory schemes for the control of dogs do so because of public safety concerns; and
pit bullWHEREAS, the dangerous attack style and the general tenacity once an attack has begun make the pit bull an especially dangerous dog during a confrontation; and
pit bullWHEREAS, pit bulls statistically cause more damage and more fatalities than other dog breeds not as a result of inherent aggression or temperament, but because of their unique fighting capabilities and tendencies; and
pit bullWHEREAS, localities that regulate pit bulls do so because classification systems which label dogs as dangerous after a first attack do not take into consideration the severity of a first attack by a pit bull, which can cause severe injury, disfigurement, or death; and
pit bullWHEREAS, it is reasonable for local governments to consider and impose restrictions on classes of dogs that statistically cause more harm to humans, especially children, when they attack; and
pit bullWHEREAS, because pit bulls kill more people than all dog breeds combined, the state should not interfere with the right of local governments to proactively protect their citizens ... [Read in full]
House Resolution 906 Sponsors

House Resolution 906 GeorgiaHouse Resolution 906 GeorgiaHouse Resolution 906 GeorgiaHouse Resolution 906 GeorgiaHouse Resolution 906 Georgia
Please send each of these courageous Georgia Representatives a thank you email today!

Summary and Call to Action

We cannot fix poor tracking systems or how public hearings are scheduled, typically with no hard or fast rules. But we can anticipate both realities in the future. There were times this year when many of us felt jolted by the lack of a democratic process that we had expected to be present in a state legislative system. That was the hardest lesson to learn of all, we were simply too naïve. Despite this, all five state preemption bills failed and we know that advocate engagement helped!
Thank you so much for all of your hard work advocates! But, 2015 is not over -- a similar preemption bill was just introduced in North Carolina.
Immediate at-risk states, as of second quarter 2015, include North Carolina. On April 14, state preemption bill HB 751 was filed that prohibits local governments from enacting breed-specific ordinances.4 At-risk states in 2016, expected to again face these state preemption bills, include: Arizona, Georgia, Kentucky and Washington. In Georgia and Washington, both state preemption bills introduced in 2015 automatically carry over into 2016 (known as "carry-over" legislation).

View new release: First Quarter Report: Municipalities and Grassroots Prevail Against State Preemption Bills Barring Local Pit Bull Ordinances

Advocates please also read the related post, 2015 First Quarter Report and a Primer on State Preemption Laws, for a deeper understanding of these laws; the post also contains visual charts.

1To add to the mystery and confusion, when we complained to Legislative Support afterward (and sent screenshots), they told us the email alert went out on 02/04/14. At the time that we read that email, we presumed they had meant this year, 02/04/15. Only by revisiting the email while writing this post did we catch this conflict. You can see on our screenshot 2014 alerts as well, including 02/04/14. That alert did have information about last year's bill (HB 2117). Even Legislative Support told us conflicting information! At the end of the day, there remains no explanation as to why we never received the alleged February 4, 2015 notification.
pit bull"We have checked past bulletins and the committee hearing for HB 1018 was listed in the House Judiciary Hearing e-mail for 2/11/2014. This bulletin was sent out on 2/4/2014 and lists all the bills being heard in the Judiciary committee for the week of 2/8 through 2/15. The listing was also included in the Combined Meeting Schedule emailed out at the same time." - Legislative Support

2Alex Soldano, who represented the city of Pasco did appear. Pasco has a breed-specific ordinance that declares pit bulls "potentially dangerous." Soldano put forth key amendments, "so that hopefully we can come to a friendly agreement and this piece of legislation can move forward," Soldano said. Key amendments included allowing current jurisdictions with pit bull ordinances to keep them, so long as they allow for due process, along with exempting pit bulls from local ordinances if the dog passes the AKC Canine Good Citizen test (bad idea, but compromise is required in a bicameral system).
3We later learned that along with the confusing sign up process, once inside the Bill Watch system, there was yet "another" email configuration required if you wanted email notifications sent. We never received any emails because we had not known about this second tier (until after sine die). Despite these struggles, the Bill Watch system it turns out had no notification for the Feb. 17 public hearing anyway. That could only be learned by manually checking the daily Legislative Calendar in a different area of the website. Lessons learned!
4After locating HB 751, we performed more searches on the legislature's website and found that HB 271, a separate state preemption bill, was also filed in North Carolina in mid March. The preemption clause is buried within HB 271, which overhauls the state's dangerous dog law. HB 271 modifies section: 67-4.5. Local ordinances (see existing wording). Underlined type shows the bill's "added" preemption language.
pit bull"Nothing in this Article shall be construed to prevent a city or county from adopting or enforcing its own program, law, or regulation for control of dangerous dogs, provided that no such program, law, or regulation shall be specific as to the breed, phenotype, or appearance of the dogs subject to it."

Related articles:
02/11/15: 2014 U.S. Dog Bite Fatalities - Dog Bite Statistics -
01/07/15: 2014 Fatal Dog Attack Breed Identification Photographs -
11/24/14: Aurora Voters Favor Keeping Pit Bull Ban by Wide Margin in General Election...
07/02/14: Dr. David A. Billmire, MD: "There is no need for Pit Bulls" - Cincinnati Children's
06/01/14: Cities with Successful Pit Bull Laws; Data Shows Breed-Specific Laws Work
05/27/14: Missouri - Proposed Statewide Bill Prohibiting Breed-Specific Ordinances...
03/19/14: 30-Year Anniversary of Historic Pit Bull Attack Victim and The Village of Tijeras... 
09/13/13: Dramatic Decline in Pit Bulls Attacks Since Pawtucket Adopted Pit Bull Ban...
08/16/12: Vote in Miami-Dade County to Repeal Pit Bull Ban Fails by Wide Margin

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