Mayor of Denver Vetoes Pit Bull Ban Repeal Legislation, Slowing the Hasty Repeal Effort. Watch Press Conference.

The History of the Pit Bull Ban Repeal Effort Since Mid-January

Mayor Michael Hancock's press conference after he vetoed the pit bull ban repeal legislation.

Denver Mayor Vetoes Repeal
Denver, CO - On February 14, Mayor Michael Hancock vetoed a bill that would have rescinded the city's 30-year old pit bull ban. The rabid repeal effort began in January driven by Denver City Councilman Chris Herndon. Council Bill 20-0071 proposed allowing pit bulls if an owner obtained a "breed-restricted license," showed proof the dog was microchipped, had a current rabies vaccination (as is already required under Denver statute), and limited households to two pit bulls.

The meager ordinance, which requires little more than what all Denver dog owners are already required to do, can be read in full here. Herndon championed his repeal legislation as a "compromise." But a compromise involves at least two sides, in this case, future victims of violent pit bull maulings and the owners of pit bulls. Herndon's legislation offered "zero" protections for future pit bull victims. Mayor Hancock agreed the legislation, in its current form, is not adequate.

"The difficulty in the numbers of the fatal attacks by pit bulls was really one of the things that stuck with me as I kept going back and forth on whether or not I would sign this legislation." - Mayor Hancock press conference

Mayor Hancock is in his 3rd and final term as the mayor of Denver. Herndon's pit bull ban repeal is the first time he has ever vetoed any legislation during his tenure. "I did not take it lightly," Hancock said during the February 14 press conference. "I hope that council takes a re-look at this" and will reconsider their position in regards to this ordinance, he said. There are broader issues that must be dealt with in this city, such as a low licensure rate and dogs running at large, Hancock said.

In a statement released Friday afternoon, Mayor Hancock stated, "Over the past several days, I have heard from thousands of residents passionately expressing their opinions on both sides of this issue." After deep reflection, "I find that I cannot, in good conscience, support this legislation and will exercise my authority as Mayor to veto it." We cannot "diminish the very real, very traumatic experiences of those who have reached out to me to share their stories," he stated.

We cannot diminish the very real, very traumatic experiences of those who have reached out to me to share their stories. While I appreciate the effort that Councilman Herndon has put in to crafting this ordinance and its guardrails, I do not believe this ordinance fully addresses the very real risk to severe injury that can result from attacks from these particular dog breeds, especially should they happen to a child.

At the end of the day, I must ask whether passage of this ordinance would make our homes and neighborhoods safer or pose an increased risk to public safety? I have concluded that it would pose an increased risk. I encourage members of City Council to reconsider their approach to this ordinance, which has been in the municipal code for over three decades. If we were to make this change now, and harm comes to someone as a result, then we have done a disservice to the people of this great city. - Mayor Hancock press conference


How to Thank the Mayor

We strongly urge our readers to thank Mayor Hancock for his brave and honest decision to veto this "rushed" repeal legislation. You can leave a a nice comment on his Facebook page, the post containing his official statement and you can also email mayorsoffice@denvergov.org. If you are a Twitter fan, send him a thank you Tweet or comment on the Tweet containing his official statement. Also, handwritten notes never go out of "vogue." Send your letter snail mail here:

Mayor Michael Hancock
City & County of Denver
1437 Bannock St #350
Denver, CO 80202


How the Repeal Emerged

On January 22, the bill sailed out of the Safety, Housing, Education and Homelessness Committee in a unanimous 7-0 vote (see full video). That same day, the grandmother of Daxton Borchardt, who was brutally killed by two pit bulls in 2013, spoke against the repeal. "If 186 Americans have been killed in the last seven years by pit bulls, what does that say?" Sharon Sucharski asked CBS Denver. She added, "If the ban is working to keep the number of attacks down, why change it?"

The bill was scheduled before the full council on February 3. In the meanwhile, letters opposing and supporting the bill began pouring into the inboxes of city council members. However, when a bill moves this quickly, it's typically a "done deal." The legislation has the required votes to prevail. A "one hour courtesy" public hearing was held on February 10, where a handful of people opposed the repeal legislation, including Paul Vranas (1:25:30) and Reginald Norman (1:31:00).

Finally, the third problem that I have with this bill is its impact on marginalized citizens. I was surprised to hear that a lot of pit bull complaints in Denver have been coming from some of our poorest citizens … What impact is this bill going to have on these citizens of ours? … When we are crafting a law that disproportionately impacts a marginalized group of people, we should be going into these neighborhoods and having these conversations, especially when it is a matter of public safety. Without these answers, I don’t believe we have enough information on this topic to move forward.

In closing, the issue of reintroducing pit bulls to Denver is a complex, multi-dimensional, high-stakes issue. This bill over simplifies the process of this reintroduction without addressing public safety outcomes, without data to support it or engagement with the most marginalized Denverites on a matter of life and death. - Paul Vranas

Interestingly, Tom Moe also spoke (3:24:33), who drafted the original ordinance in 1989. A council member asked him if he heard any different arguments tonight than what came up in this same chamber 30-years ago when city council adopted the ordinance. He answered, "Not really." Though he noted the growing trend of "pit bull designer" breeds (pit bulls on steroids) and the American bully. Mole was also asked if the city could be sued if it reverses its pit bull ban.

That's a strong possibility … The first time it got tested, there were a bunch of organizations, including the American pit bull breeders and also the UKC or AKC, at least one of them was involved. There were about four different organizations, so a lot of evidence was presented on both sides, hours and hours. With some modifications to the ordinance, the judge decided it was constitutional. It was appealed again, all the way up to the state supreme court. The state supreme court found it constitutional. In my testimony, I mentioned all of the characteristics of pit bulls. The supreme court agreed. That it made [pit bulls] more dangerous…

Then it got challenged again when the state of Colorado said it was their purview [after passing a state preemption law], not the localities to decide whether there could be breed-specific legislation. So, once again, Kory Nelson, who is still in the city attorney's office, handled that. And once again, the court upheld the ordinance.

One of the dangers that I see here is that all this law indicates that pit bulls are a dangerous dog. That [pit bulls] have a higher propensity to inflict a severe bites. Not number of bites, but severity of bites. This has been supported in a lot of other places. So, given that, if we pass this ordinance and somebody gets attacked, they could sue the city. And, based on the law, if the city is viewed as reckless, then the recklessness pierces the governmental immunity that protects the city from being sued, and allows somebody who is the victim of [a pit bull attack] to sue the city. And, get taxpayer dollars as a result of that suit. - Tom Moe

A noteworthy legal argument arose after this as well (3:36:00). When Denver banned pit bulls they grandfathered in existing pit bulls under strict requirements, practically none of which exist in the proposed repeal, including: mandatory insurance, muzzling when off property, mandatory spay and neutering1 and secure enclosure requirements. Thus, Herndon's repeal ordinance might place the city in the liability equation for failing to include similar safety restrictions in the repeal.

The fundamental problem of Herndon's proposal is that it offers no protections for victims. Without mandatory insurance, few or no victims of violent pit bull attacks will receive compensation for their medical bills. Without mandatory muzzling when off property, there is little to prevent the bite. Legislative counsel said the city would be immune from any future lawsuits -- don't bank on that. Further, the repeal ordinance opens up a new avenue for pit bull organizations to file a lawsuit.

The legislation states, "WHEREAS, since Denver adopted its ban, there has been a review of controlled studies by the American Veterinary Medical Association ("AVMA") that document that pit bulls are not disproportionately dangerous compared with other dogs." Thus, under this ordinance, Denver would no longer have a legal "rational basis" for regulating pit bulls. A breed-specific pit bull ordinance is only viable if a city can prove that pit bulls pose a unique danger to the public.


The Vote and the Petition

After the courtesy hearing on February 10, city council members passed the bill in a 7-4 vote. On this same day, 5-year old Sterling Vermeer of Oro Grande, California was brutally killed by a family pit bull of 12-years after the dog latched onto his neck. On this same day, 25-year old Devin White died after his own pit bull attacked him and three other family members in Plainfield, Illinois. All four individuals were transported to local hospitals after this family pit bull "rampage attack."

By February 11, the conversation began to change, noting that Mayor Hancock could veto the repeal ordinance. The arguments to veto were solid. Erring on the side of safety is always best. As Vranas stated during the hearing, "There is nothing urgent about this topic requiring it to pass tonight." Also, less than 20% of pets in Denver are licensed. Thus, the vast majority of dog owners in Denver are not in compliance with the current law. Shouldn't the city tackle that problem first?

On February 12, Vranas started an online petition, urging Mayor Hancock not to sign the ordinance into the city’s code. The petition notes the two recent fatal pit bull maulings in California and Illinois. "We believe that a similar deadly attack will happen in Denver as a direct result of the passage of this law," states the petition. Vranas had asked council members to state in writing, to "unconditionally swear to the people of Denver" that Herndon's bill will make Denver a "safer city."

We hereby personally and unconditionally swear to the people of Denver that:

1) Bill 20-071 will create for a safer city than currently exists in Denver related to pit bull attacks.

2) At a minimum, the results from the passage of this bill will meet the safety levels previously attained prior to the passage of this bill, of zero deaths to Denver residents as a result of a pit bull attack.


None of the seven city council members who voted for the proposed repeal signed the document.


On February 13, Vranas and citizens from Denver's Montbello community delivered the petition to Mayor Hancock. “We are very very threatened by the possibility of this ban being lifted. Just yesterday we witnessed two pit bulls in our community of Montbello, just strolling and roaming freely,” said Pam Jiner. She added, "We have hundreds of pit bulls in Montbello." Residents in this Denver community fear that lifting the ban will result in even more irresponsible pit bull owners.

On Valentine's Day, Mayor Hancock vetoed the legislation. During his 15-minute press conference, he explained why he made this decision. He also stated during it, "I am reading letters and information from pediatricians and emergency room physicians, they were very compelling to me." A veto can be overridden by a super majority of city council members. If that effort fails, Councilman Herndon says he will try to place his repeal measure on the city's November ballot.


American Veterinary Medical Association

In October 2016, we released a special report about the back story of the Montreal pit bull ban. The report explained how The Association of Veterinary Doctors of Quebec omitted key parts of medical studies in their report to the government committee, leaving some of these studies "unrecognizable." We also explained the five levels of the American Pit Bull Lobby. Notably, Level 3: Publication, is the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association (JAVMA).

This false passage in the pit bull ban repeal, "WHEREAS, since Denver adopted its ban, there has been a review of controlled studies by the American Veterinary Medical Association ("AVMA") that document that pit bulls are not disproportionately dangerous compared with other dogs," is based upon an outdated, cherry-picked policy paper by the AVMA that is designed to obscure the dangerous breed issue, making it difficult for the public, media and lawmakers to understand.

This is the same paper (Literature Review on the Welfare Implications of The Role of Breed in Dog Bite Risk and Prevention, May 15, 2014) that Herndon cites as "scientific" proof that pit bulls are not disproportionately dangerous compared with other dogs. The AVMA is not a "disinterested" party. For decades they have opposed all breed-specific laws. Animal behaviorist Alexandra Semyonova even wrote a sobering analysis of this document showing just how unscientific it is.

The principle use of this AVMA paper is to frustrate any city's effort to pass or maintain breed-specific legislation, just as Herndon's pit bull ban repeal shows. Semyonova states in her analysis, "Of the 65 cited 'studies,' more than half (34) are based on data from the previous century, when the pit bull type was extremely rare, constituting at most ≤ 1-2% of the entire pet dog population (as opposed to approximately 6% now). The use of such old data is a serious flaw."

Our nonprofit continues to track modern relevant peer-reviewed medical studies since 2011. Only one study from our modern table (Horswell et al., 2011) is included in the misleading AVMA paper. Criteria for inclusion in our trauma study table requires being a multi-year retrospective study of U.S. Level 1 trauma center dog bite patients (≥ 15 patients), published from 2011 to 2019, the inclusion of dog breed information, and the scientific research conducted by medical doctors.

In the AVMA policy paper, 56% of all cited studies in the tables are from foreign countries.2 We do not accept studies from other countries, as the biting breed population is likely different in "Austria" than it is in a U.S. city. 52% of studies cited by the AVMA are from the last century when the pit bull population was at least five times lower than it is today. The AVMA paper is a sham, designed to obfuscate "bites" versus mauling injuries and to undo breed-specific laws in the United States.


Denver mayor vetoes Pit Bull Ban Repeal

On February 10, Denver council members passed the pit bull ban repeal in a 7-4 vote.

Montbello residents against pit bull ban repeal

Citizens from Montbello district deliver petition to mayor opposing the pit bull ban repeal.

1A source of deep confusion for us early on was why mandatory spay/neuter was not included in the pit bull ban repeal legislation. It was later explained to us that Denver statute requires all owners who register their dogs to spay/neuter (section 8-55), so the city decided to exclude this language from the repeal. This makes "some" sense until you see that the repeal legislation specifically spells out the requirement for proof of rabies vaccination in order to obtain a breed-restricted license, despite that too already being part of Denver statute. The repeal ordinance states: "(6) Proof that the animal has a current rabies vaccination pursuant to section 8-31." So, we looked into the Denver code. Under section 8-55 spay/neuter is not mandatory. A qualifying dog owner, including a pit bull owner under Herndon's proposal, can obtain an "intact permit" section 8-56. That is simply stunningly irresponsible.
2The 2014 AVMA policy paper has 65 total citations. The tables only list 45 studies. The 56% number is derived from 25 of the 45 studies listed in the tables as being from a foreign country, thus losing significant relevance.

Related articles:
02/06/18: Castle Rock Should Change Its Pit Bull Policy, by Kory Nelson
10/20/16: Back Story of the Montreal Pit Bull Ban, What the Vets Omitted in Their Report
05/05/09: Alexandra Semyonova: Heritability of Behavior in the Abnormally Aggressive Dog
08/25/08: The History of the Denver Pit Bull Ban and the Victims that Prompted New Law

2020 Dog Bite Fatality: Pit Bull Attacks Four Family Members, Killing One, in 'Multi-Victim' Attack in Plainfield, Illinois

plainfield pit bull attack
Devin White, 25, died after his pit bull attacked him and three others in Plainfield.

Man Dies of Injuries
Plainfield, IL - A 25-year old man has died after a male pit bull attacked four people on Saturday. The Cook County Medical Examiner identified the man as Devin White of Plainfield, a resident of the 2000 block of Mystic Drive. White was pronounced dead at 8:30 pm Monday at Loyola Hospital in Maywood. Three other victims of the attack, a 52-year-old woman, 25-year-old woman and 19-year-old man, survived with non-life-threatening injuries, according to Plainfield police.

In an updated news release issued by the Plainfield Police Department Tuesday, Sgt. Kevin McQuaid stated that White "died as a result of the injuries sustained due to the dog bite." In an earlier release, McQuaid stated the attack was "unprovoked" and the dog "attacked for an unknown reason." The pit bull was also owned by the victims. This "multi-victim producing" attack remains under investigation by Plainfield police detectives and Will County Animal Control.

His cousin, Samantha Costilla, expressed disbelief after the attack. "I have been around the dog a few times and it never gave the indication it was vicious," she told WLS Chicago. Costilla, who spoke as if she witnessed the attack, said the situation "was uncontrollable at a certain point" and that White tried to protect the other family members. "He definitely fought. He saved his brother and everyone else involved. But, we cannot believe that this is happening right now," she said.

Case Background

On February 8, four people were transported to hospitals after a family pit bull attacked them. Police were dispatched to a home in the 22900 block of Judith Drive about 9:15 pm for a report of a dog bite. Upon arrival, officers found a male pit bull inside the home acting aggressive. "Officers were able to partially gain control of the dog, but due to its aggressiveness towards the officers and the victims, the dog was immediately euthanized," states a release from Plainfield police.

Police and fire department officials located the four victims in the second story of the home. One victim, a 25-year old male, suffered severe injuries to his arms. He was transported to St. Joseph Hospital in Joliet then transferred to Loyola Hospital in Maywood for additional treatment, states the release. Three other victims, a 52-year old female, 25-year old female and 19-year old male suffered minor injuries. They were treated for their injuries and released, states the release.

"The initial investigation indicates the dog, which was owned by the victims, was unprovoked and attacked for an unknown reason."

Plainfield Fire Chief Jon Stratton said a helicopter was initially called to the scene to transport one of the victims, but was cancelled, reports Patch.com. All four victims were taken to area hospitals by ambulance. Plainfield Detective Sgt. Kevin McQuaid said the pit bull was shot at the scene due to its aggression and that officers at the scene were unable to gain control of the dog. The incident remains under investigation by the Plainfield Police Department and Will County Animal Control.

Listen: Audio dispatch logs from Will County Public Safety concerning the Judith Incident.

plainfield pit bull attack

One victim died of injuries he sustained after a family pit bull attacked four people in Plainfield.

map iconView the DogsBite.org Google Map: Illinois Fatal Pit Bull Maulings.

Related articles:
11/30/18: Book Review: 'The Scar Dance' - A Couple's Journey of Rebuilding Their Lives...
08/06/18: 2018 Dog Bite Fatality: Large Pit Bull Kills Woman on Chicago's Far South Side


Baseline reporting requirements:
Law enforcement departments across the United States should release consistent "baseline" information to the media and the public after each fatal dog mauling, including these items.

2020 Dog Bite Fatality: Family Pit Bull Brutally Kills 5-Year Old Boy in Oro Grande, California

Oro Grande pit bull attack
Sterling Vermeer, 5-years old, was killed by a family pit bull in Oro Grande, California.

Family Pit Bull Kills Child
Oro Grande, CA - A 5-year old boy is dead after being attacked by a family pit bull, according to San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department officials. The attack occurred just before 3:00 pm in the 15100 block of Portland Street. An adult was watching the child when the attack occurred. The adult witnessed the attack as it was happening and called 911. News footage shows animal control officers leading a dark brown male pit bull from the home and hoisting it into a truck.

News chopper footage shows detectives from the San Bernardino County Sheriff's Department gathered around a shed in the home's backyard, where the attack occurred. Multiple emergency units responded to the scene, but paramedics were unable to save the boy's life. "Unfortunately, the child did not survive," Sgt. Jeff Allison told NBC Los Angeles. It's unclear which adult relative had been watching the boy. Currently, detectives are at the scene interviewing family members.

Evening Updates

NBC Los Angeles spoke to two family members who said both parents of the boy were at work when the family pit bull "snapped" and fatally attacked the boy. The child lived at the home where the attack occurred, according to a female cousin and an uncle of the boy. Both relatives were babysitting the child at the time. They had left the child alone briefly in a playroom in the backyard when the dog attacked. "I jumped in and tried to help," the cousin said, "but it was too late."

"It was totally the dog's fault. Nobody was arrested. Just the dog was taken in, and I don't know the status of the dog," the cousin said, who spoke on camera, but would not be identified. The family got the pit bull when it was a puppy, the cousin said. She warned the public of their danger. "Don't trust pit bulls," she said. "They can change at any moment." The attacking dog, a male pit bull named "Thor," was reportedly 12 years old. Family members want the dog euthanized.

The same cousin told CBSLA, "All we did was step out for like two seconds just to grab the controller for my cousin to play the game." When the two walked back into the playroom, where the boy was, the pit bull had the child by his neck and "would not let go." She said the dog had never hurt anyone before. "He was a loving dog," she said. "He was not a vicious dog, but how it snapped, we don't understand." The dog's owner surrendered the pit bull to animal control.

The San Bernardino County Sheriff's Department released a statement to the media, "Through the investigation, deputies learned the child was being supervised by an adult relative at the residence. The adult stepped out of the room, leaving the child alone with the pit bull. When he returned, the dog was attacking the child and would not release him. There were no other children present during the attack." The boy died of his injuries before deputies and fire officials arrived.

Additional raw news footage from the scene is also provided by the Victor Valley News Group.

Oro Grande pit bull attack

Animal control officers confiscate a family pit after it killed a 5-year old boy in in Oro Grande.

San Bernardino County Sheriff's detectives outside a shed, where the lethal attack occurred.

map iconView the DogsBite.org Google Map: California Fatal Pit Bull Maulings.

Related articles:
09/24/19: 2019 Dog Bite Fatality: 13-Month Old Boy Killed by Family Pit Bull in Granite Bay
07/02/19: 2019 Dog Bite Fatality: Pit Bull-Mastiff Mix Kills 2-Year Old Boy in Newman, California


Baseline reporting requirements:
Law enforcement departments across the United States should release consistent "baseline" information to the media and the public after each fatal dog mauling, including these items.

2019 Dog Bite Fatality: Family Pit Bull-Mix Kills Owner After Attacking Her Two Separate Times in Ventura County

Ventura County Animal Services Returned Dog After Earlier Attacks

ventura county - maria crawford

Maria Crawford, 54, was killed by a family pit bull-mix on June 28, 2019. Prior to this, the dog had attacked her head region two times inflicting serious injuries, including ripping off one of her ears.
After the first two attacks, Ventura County Animal Services returned the dog to the family, despite the dog's escalating owner-directed aggression targeting the owner's face and head region.
During 2019, poor safety policies in three county funded shelters and a private veterinary hospital contributed to the dog mauling deaths of four people; this account details one of those deaths.

Incident Overview
Ventura, CA - On July 2 of last summer, the Ventura County Star reported that a 54-year old woman was likely killed by her own two dogs. On July 10, we filed a Public Information Request with the Ventura County Medical Examiner's Office. By that time, we had already learned the victim's name and obtained photographs of the dogs from Facebook pages of family members. We had only been seeking cause and manner of death, but were approved for the full autopsy.

That was the first in a series of red flags that would follow. We received the autopsy report in September. Maria Crawford died of "dog bite wounds of the head, neck and leg," states the report. She suffered "severe facial bite lacerations with skin avulsion," lacerations through her eyes and nose, and a partially avulsed left ear. A large bite wound on the anterior neck caused "comminuted fracturing of the thyroid cartilage and hyoid bone" and perforated the left internal jugular vein.

Fracturing the hyoid bone is so rare, it accounts for only 0.002% of all fractures in humans. The most common cause of fracturing the hyoid is violent death by strangulation or hanging. Other causes include gunshot injury and car accidents. Crawford's death marks the third case we have on file of a pit bull crushing the thyroid cartilage and hyoid bone while killing a person. In all three cases, the bone was not fractured, but crushed (crushing injury) by the dog's powerful jaws.1

The attack that killed Crawford occurred on June 28, 2019. In the previous six months, the dog had targeted her face in two attacks, both requiring a treating physician and each injury escalating in severity. The first attack occurred on January 19, when the dog tore into her left cheek. The second attack occurred on March 19, when the dog fully severed her right ear. After both facial and head region attacks, Ventura County Animals Services (VCAS) returned the dog to the victim.

The fatal attack occurred in the 10600 block of Sunflower Street. Officers were dispatched to the home about 4:25 pm after a family member returned home and found Crawford dead. Authorities confiscated two dogs from the home, "Havoc," a female pit bull, and "Kai," a neutered pit bull-mix, but designated an "Australian Cattle Dog" in VCAS records. This was the third time "Kai" had been impounded for attacking Crawford, but the breed was never corrected in VCAS records.2

Kai was 81-pounds, twice the weight of a male cattle dog, part "brindle," a non-existent coat color in cattle dogs, and riddled with bully features.

According to family members, "Kai" was the culprit in all three attacks, the last one resulting in Crawford's death. After the second attack, when the dog severed her right ear, VCAS placed a caution sign on the dog's "double barrier kennel" while quarantined. At that time, Canine Adoption and Rescue League (CARL), who adopted the dog to Crawford in 2012, told VCAS they wanted the dog back. CARL claimed they could "retrain the dog" and possibly return it to the family.

Again, this was after two escalating owner-directed attacks targeting the victim's head. Two days after Kai ripped off her ear, Crawford called VCAS and stated "this has all been a terrible mistake" and that she wanted Kai back. The dog was returned to her on March 25. Technically, both Kai and Havoc belonged to one of Crawford's two adult daughters, who apparently resided at the home, along with Crawford's husband. Three months later, the dog brutally killed Crawford.


Note: Shelters are now in the position of having to protect family members from their own vicious dogs. We recently wrote about a shelter attack in Oakland County Michigan. After a family pit bull attacked a mother and her two children, sending all three to the hospital, the mother demanded the dog back. This forced the county to hold the dog in quarantine while the county sought a show-cause hearing. Four days before the hearing, the dog viciously attacked a shelter supervisor.


The June 28 bite report states, "Owner was killed by dog." Havoc was released back to its owner, Alyssa Crawford, on July 18. VCAS released Havoc -- exonerated in part due to complex overlapping bite injuries and both dogs having similar teeth measurements -- with a signed letter of indemnity freeing the county of any future liability claim. The letter also ordered Havoc to be muzzled when off-property and kept separated or muzzled when in the presence of a minor.

This was an unwitnessed fatal dog attack inside a multi-dog household where both dogs had access to the victim. If no clear evidence exists to exclude a dog, it must be included as a suspect to protect public safety. In this case, "neither dog could be excluded based on the bite marks alone," states the autopsy report. Havoc was excluded because a photograph taken of the dog at the crime scene did not show blood on its coat. Havoc should not have been released.

Havoc was a biter with a "good grip." In a 2013 public post, Alyssa said her female attacked Kai, leaving a "gaping hole" that required staples.3

In addition to the fatal neck injuries inflicted by Kai, one or both dogs attacked her right leg just above the ankle, inflicting seven severe bite wounds. Crawford also suffered multiple puncture wounds on her hands and fingers. A multi-dog attack often involves one dog biting the head or upper body region and the other biting a lower extremity while both dogs jerk and pull in opposite directions. Lacking blood on the coat does not equate to being a non-participant in the attack.4

Attempts to Return Kai

Just two days after her mother's brutal mauling death, Alyssa inquires about the fate of both dogs to VCAS. Three days later, her sister Lauren does too, claiming that she was Kai's original owner. Lauren could not tolerate the idea that her "boo boo" was "wasting away in his kennel waiting to be euthanized." On July 16, Alyssa told VCAS that CARL had "set up a sanctuary" for Kai to go to so the dog could live out "the rest of his days there." The family did not want Kai put down.

By July 26, a private attorney, Lara Shapiro, became involved on behalf of both daughters. VCAS informed the attorney, who was referred to the case by the Animal Legal Defense Fund (ADLF), the county would not voluntarily release the dog due to the extremely severe nature of the attack. If the family failed to surrender the dog to VCAS on July 29, Kai's scheduled euthanasia date, the county would seek a hearing to have Kai declared dangerous and ordered to be euthanized.

On July 27, attorney Marc Colen wrote to VCAS stating he would be "filing opposition to the euthanasia of the cattle dog mix" in your control. Colen was working in tandem with CARL, and at this desperate hour, CARL had to add the "mix" language to even properly identify Kai as the dog. When VCAS informed Colen that this dog had attacked and killed its owner, Colen was stunned and taken aback. CARL had not even told this attorney why Kai was being held for euthanasia.

Ultimately, Crawford's husband agreed to surrender the fatal attacker and signed the papers on July 29. Kai was euthanized that same day.


Summary and Analysis

In 2019 alone, four women, ages 41 to 54 years old, were brutally killed by family dogs that had previously attacked them. Brandy Boschen-O'Dell told people the injury was from a "box-cutter." Nancy Burgess-Dismuke had been attacked by one of her boxers five times before it killed her. Yet, no case is as egregious as Crawford's. All household members knew about the first two severe attacks, VCAS staff knew, as did CARL. The third attack was Crawford's death sentence.

A third attack "to the head" was a foreseeable outcome. The 81-pound dog had escalating owner-directed aggression targeting the owner's face. No one in the victim's home was qualified to handle that dog, but VCAS returned it anyway. It should not have been a choice for Crawford to get the dog back. Animal control agencies need to look at "hard targeted bites" to the head, neck or trunk inflicted by family dogs on children and adults as predictive of future severe attacks.

Shelter policies must also adapt to the "new norm" of families fighting to keep vicious dogs that have already mutilated a household member.

There were no documented witnesses other than Crawford to any of the attacks, but family members claimed the last two were provoked and that Kai was only "defending himself." VCAS redacted the provocation sections in the records we obtained. VCAS did tell Crawford after the second attack that "We need to make sure [Crawford] is safe, and we need to make sure the dog will be safe." VCAS could not do so, the family would not do so and the results were disastrous.

Lastly, concerning the invalid breed labeling of Kai in VCAS records. It's either incompetence or deliberate fraud by Ventura County Animal Services. They had quarantined that dog three separate times in a 6-month period, the final time for 30 days. Even family members called the dogs pit bull-mixes. One day prior to the fatal attack, the victim's husband publicly called the pair of dogs "elderly pit bull-mixes." The owner, Alyssa, then made a joke about Havoc biting him.5

ventura county pit bull

Both dogs seen on public Facebook pages of family members: Kai, 2018 and Havoc, 2011.

map iconView the DogsBite.org Google Map: California Fatal Pit Bull Maulings.
12005 fatal pit bull mauling involving two pit bulls (male and female), Kentucky - "Autopsy revealed evidence of puncture wounds of the right internal jugular vein; fractures of the hyoid bone, and thyroid cartilage; cutaneous facial avulsion and traumatic absence of the right ear; and puncture wounds, abrasions, and avulsions of the extremities, buttocks, and chest." (Dog Bite-Related Fatalities: A 15-Year Review of Kentucky Medical Examiner Cases, by Sheilds et al., Am J Forensic Med Pathol, September 2009) and 2017 fatal pit bull mauling, Illinois - Cause of death was in part "crushing injury of the larynx and hyoid bone of the neck due to a dog bite and attack."
2Quarantine dates include, intake 01/23/19 and release 2/01/19; intake 3/20/19 and release 3/25/19; and intake 6/28/19 and euthanized 7/29/19, according to records we obtained from Ventura County Animal Services.
3Havoc attacked Kai about a year after the family adopted Kai. Notably, "grip" is a term most often used in bite work. In a comment on her 2013 post, she writes, "Kai was trying to make her stop by 'herding' her and she bit him on the side. She has a good grip, unfortunately." Then she quickly corrected her use of "grip" with: "Well jk she didn't GRIP him, I mean she has a good snap?" She also wrote a post about "irresponsible dog owners" that year.
4There are many attacks that illustrate how a two-dog attack involves the head or neck and a lower extremity (tug-of-war effect). Even more damning is that the male (such as Kai) is often the more confident aggressor, attacking the head, while the less confident female (such as Havoc) attacks the foot. That said, Kai was perfectly capable of attacking Crawford in multiple locations too, but had previously only targeted her face and head for serious injuries. Given that teeth measurements for both dogs were similar (indistinguishable) and that blood loss on the lower leg injury could have been minor, the assumption should have fallen on the side of public safety. Instead, VCAS, under the management of Jackie Rose, returned a dog, possibly involved in a fatal attack on a family member, to that same family. Ventura County covered their ass with a "letter of indemnity" as well, which speaks volumes about their confidence in this dog. Notably, Rose was hired by Ventura County in April of 2019 -- between the second and third attacks. At that time, Rose was close to being ousted as director of Multnomah County Animal Services, which was immersed in scandal, in part due to the "continued adopting-out of overaggressive or dangerous dogs." Deputy Director Donna Gillesby was the only top management at VCAS involved in both decisions to release Kai back to the family after the second severe attack and to release Havoc back to the family after the fatal mauling.
5On this date, June 27, one day before the deadly attack, Crawford had already been mauled in the face twice, leaving scarring. The dog had amputated her right ear too, presumably leaving quite disfiguring scarring. The only appropriate context for a "dog joke" at this time is what the husband wrote, who implied in his joke that maybe it was time to give away the family's two pit bull-mixes. Alyssa immediately responded: "RUDE. I'm telling [the dogs] you said that, maybe Havoc will bite you in the arse!" Once again, referring to Havoc as the biter in the household.

Related articles:
12/30/19: CA Hits Record High in Fatal Dog Attacks in 2019 -- Are Animal Control Policies Protecting Us?


Baseline reporting requirements:
Law enforcement departments across the United States should release consistent "baseline" information to the media and the public after each fatal dog mauling, including these items.