Lafayette PD Video: We Are All in Trouble When Trained Police K-9s Attack the Head, Neck Regions of Unarmed Suspects

Police K-9 Attacks also Show Dogs Ignoring "Out" Commands

Richard Bailey police K-9 neck injuries
Richard Bailey Jr. was attacked in the neck by a Lafayette police K-9 on May 9.

Lafayette, IN - In 2014, our nonprofit began collecting police K-9 attacks of innocent bystanders, non-threatening suspects and low-level offenders. We began doing so after reviewing lawsuits filed in the Pacific Northwest and how the "bite and hold" method of training was being tested in the courts. Later that year, Canadian-based Pivot Legal Society released a study that concluded police K-9s were the leading cause of injury by RCMP and municipal forces in British Columbia.

Collecting the volume of K-9 attacks on undeserving people, including attacks on their own handlers, quickly overwhelmed us. No state or federal agency is in charge of tracking police K-9 bite data either. As we collected more cases, it became difficult to ignore the many videos of police being unable to call their K-9s off people -- in one case the officer screamed "Off" 18 times to no avail -- as well as the dogs being used as a proxy for excessive force (see unblurred version).1

"If you can't control your dog, you're a liability. You are no longer an asset to your agency. You are a liability magnet. You are going to get sued. You're going to hurt people and your agency is going to write checks." - K-9 expert, Dr. Charlie Meloh

As we delve into this post, which contains violent and disturbing imagery, it is important to know three things. One, the use of police and military dogs -- the attack dog industry -- exploded after 9-11, which impacted the breeding and training of these dogs. Two, when it comes to police "brutality" in K-9 attacks, it is often a "mentality." Lastly, the "partnership relationship" between an officer and K-9 are rarely seen in videos today. This NPR video provides instructive background.

The best example we could find of an ideal "partnership relationship" between an officer and K-9 occurred in February. Montgomery County Officer D. Richardson and his partner, Axel, responded to a bank robbery. The dynamic partnership and Richardson's control over his K-9 is stunning. After Axel jumped through a broken window (while leashed), Axel waited for Richardson to follow. The two proceeded into a potentially highly confrontational scenario, where no bite event occurs.

The primary goals of a police K-9 are to decrease escalation (as the case of K-9 Axel shows), to assist officers in apprehension and to immobilize suspects who resist arrest by biting and holding one of the suspect's extremities. Remain mindful of these goals while examining the principal video in this post -- the Lafayette, Indiana police K-9 attack of Richard Bailey that was released in July -- along with the other videos that we link to, where these goals have been forgotten.

Workings Dogs & Fatalities

In 2014, a titled protection trained rottweiler (level 2 IPO) attacked a 7-year old boy in the head and neck, killing him. The dog belonged to the child's stepfather, who was the director of Vohne Liche Kennels Executive and Family Protection. Indiana-based Vohne Liche Kennels is a top provider of "social police dogs" to K-9 units across the country.2 Alexandra Semyonova wrote a special report for our post explaining bite work (Schutzhund), the basis of police K-9 training.

In 2015, Semyonova offered more insights into the attack dog industry, including the dark side of commercial sellers of "pre-trained" law enforcement dogs, of which Vohne Liche is one, who she believes are not producing reliable dogs. They participate in a "testosterone-driven culture and a hunt for cash markets," she said. Recently, Vohne Liche was forced to pay $1.35 million to the U.S. Department of Defense for fraudulently submitting claims for labor hours for trainers.3

“We will not tolerate dishonest contractors who seek to enrich themselves at the expense of federal taxpayers.” - United States Attorney Thomas L. Kirsch II.

In 2016, another dog trained in apprehension and bite work, a retired police K-9, attacked two people, killing one in San Luis Obispo County, California. We also dedicated substantial time to that case, documenting the preliminary hearing and final trial, where former officer Alex Geiger was acquitted. "Due to this verdict, a 'retired' police K-9 can now breakout of its property and savagely attack and kill an innocent person without criminal culpability," we wrote after the trial.

Tracking Police K-9 Disasters

We continued tracking individual cases and regional investigations into police K-9 units often rifled with poor training, unstable dogs and excessive force.4 In North Port, Florida, "cowboy" handlers were commanding their dogs to attack unarmed citizens without sufficient evidence to charge a crime. In St. Paul, Minnesota, three high-profile police K-9 attacks were captured on video (2016, 2017 and 2018), including two innocent bystanders and two K-9s ignoring "Out" commands.

North Port paid out $1.4 million in claims and St. Paul $2.6 million. "A Star Tribune review of six years worth of St. Paul police dog bite reports showed that officers lost control of their K-9s on occasion, dogs regularly apprehended people with no instruction from handlers and that some bystanders were attacked while officers were following common practices." Prior to these settlements, North Port and St. Paul bragged about having "awarding winning" police K-9 units.

In 2018, Joseph Pettaway was killed by a police K-9 after the bites ruptured his femoral artery. Deaths are a rare event in K-9 maulings because police are present to call the dog off, stop bleeding, and call for an ambulance. Deaths are also rare because the dogs are trained to attack the arms and legs -- not the head and neck. In another rare fatality, in 2013, Hayward police shelled out $1.5 million for not warning the victim they had deployed the dog in his backyard.

Police K-9 Facial Attacks Rise

In 2019, we started seeing more facial attacks by police K-9s. In the case of Carlos Balli, he was unarmed, but not a low-level offender. The dog attacked his face for 32 seconds and destroyed it (see body cam video).5 The goal of a K-9's training is to render the subject immobile by targeting the arms and legs. Those can be significant injuries too, but are vastly different than a police K-9 targeting the head and neck region, an act of potentially killing, not an attempt to immobilize.

Then the case of Spencer Erickson, 26, in Lakewood, Colorado emerged. That lawsuit alleges police K-9 Finn bit his neck repeatedly leaving him with deep and potentially fatal cuts near his jugular vein.6 Erickson was not a perfect victim, but he was a low-level offender -- he had crawled into an attic and was consuming alcohol and smoking pot. Erickson also had outstanding warrants for a DUI and mischief cases. The K-9 attack resulted in these bites, which could have been fatal.

Two years earlier, K-9 Finn had attacked an officer during a training exercise, biting him on the face and neck. The dog remained on active duty afterward. If you start to follow these cases, you will find these K-9s are rarely taken off the force even when a previous bite has resulted in a lawsuit.

Evaluating Lafayette Video

Before we show you the 16-minute video released by the Lafayette Police Department in July that shows another insidious "neck attack" by a police K-9 to an unarmed suspect, watch how this K-9 immobilized this man. Watch where the dog is biting him. There is debate in the Prescott Valley case that officers did not follow protocol, but there is no debate about the dog's performance -- it did exactly as it was trained to. The dog appears to perform a clean "Out" too (see full video).

In the Prescott Valley video, police at the scene assess the man's bite injuries. The suspect has an upper left arm bite (3:52), where the dog immobilized him, and bites to his hip through his jeans. That dog's training performed an excellent outcome. What you will see in the Lafayette video is profoundly different and disturbing. We encourage you to watch the full 16-minutes to understand the whole context. Also know that the dog involved, K-9 Boyka, was a Vohne Liche Kennels dog.


The confrontation starts at 6:28. officer Saxton enters at 7:58. K-9 Boyka was released in a "door pop" at 8:24. "Here, here, here!" is heard, alerting the dog to its target. The attack begins at 8:28.


In the video, K-9 Boyka attacks Bailey's neck area for 30 seconds (see left side of screen), while an officer handcuffed him. Bailey's arms and a leg are exposed, but the dog targets his neck. Bailey's doctor described his wounds as a punctured trachea, cut carotid artery, damaged tissue in his neck, injuries to his shoulder and a broken finger. Bailey's injuries resulted in him being in a medically induced coma for six days and hospitalized for 11 days, according to his attorneys.

At 8:52, Saxton snaps a leash onto the dog. Officers say to Bailey, "Stop fighting the dog, stop moving," while the dog is still latched onto his neck. At 9:00, the K-9 breaks off, and at 9:04, the dog redirects onto Saxton. As Saxton leads the dog back to his cruiser, he continues to say, "Stop, stop" to the dog. By 9:38 the dog is inside the cruiser. By 9:49, officers are saying "We need medics now!" Though initially conscious, Bailey will later be placed into a medically induced coma.

On June 11, before the release of this video on July 25, the Tippecanoe County prosecutor requested a special prosecutor to investigate three Lafayette officers -- K-9 handler, Sgt. Josh Saxton, Officers Nicholas Klimek and Victor Sikorski for possible crimes. Indiana State Police confirmed they were investigating the officers for possible excessive force in the arrest of Richard Bailey Jr., during which Saxton's police K-9 mauled Bailey's neck, causing life-threatening injuries.

On June 30, and while he was under investigation, Officer Joshua Saxton was promoted to Sergeant and K-9 Boyka was retired under the auspices that a "supervisor" cannot also be a K-9 handler. Saxton was given sole ownership of this dog -- removing any future liability to the city.

On August 15, the members of the board of the Greater Lafayette ACLU penned an editorial and stated in part: "The body cam video shows that the officers permitted the dog to maul Mr. Bailey in the neck. It is not usual police or K-9 training to point a dog at anything but the extremities." They added that a "murder" while in police custody -- referring to George Floyd -- "very nearly did" happen here. As of September 18, the investigation by the special prosecutor remains pending.


In July, Lafayette Police Chief Patrick Flannelly denied a request from the Journal & Courier to inspect the bite records for Boyka during its nearly six years of service with the department. That is a very strong indicator this K-9 has a history of inappropriate bites, as we would expect a "neck biter" to have. Police will eventually be forced to hand over these records to Bailey's attorneys.


Working Dog Trainer Feed Back

We sent the video to a working dog trainer, who provided insight into eastern block K-9s. "Non NATO/UN countries sell these dogs the cheapest," she said. "There are no human rights in these countries, which could influence the training style to skew towards a high level of aggression/lethal bite targeting of head and neck." She also believes that a belligerent drunk on a moped "does not authorize a straight up door pop," when the dog flies out of the vehicle without a handler.

"CRAZY DOMINANT POSSESSIVE eastern block dog with no respect of his handler ... dog redirected on the cop. And that dog had access to arms and legs and targeted the neck. They crank the dogs way too high in training while not practicing any control whatsoever ... and this is how it all goes sideways.

That dog could have just as easily targeted the other officer. It is NOT OK to loose a dog like that unless it is truly life and death. A belligerent drunk man on a moped does not authorize a straight up door pop because you cannot influence the dog at all in such a scenario, dog just comes out teeth first and brains last. This dog clearly had very bad training, and I’d be willing to bet it’s like we discussed, cops get the dog and do "too hot" scenario training all the time, no control, choke off, no outs, no frustration tolerance, which is why the dog ate up the cop on the choke off. Macho boys playing with macho toys without having any idea what they are awakening.

I am seeing a connection between Schutzhund going down the tubes (internationally) and all these psycho, out of control malinois in police forces. Vohne Liche Kennels does not account for thin nerves, or dogs with extreme levels of dominance, or those “relationship” dogs that are held in balance by play and genuine affection in addition to respecting the strong dog ... knowing what hill you wish to die on, and what you don’t. These assholes will buy point and shoot dogs from people that don’t speak a word of English.

So that’s one fatality and one very close call from Vohne Liche Kennels. That we know of anyway! What are the odds? The last police dog importer that racked up that many serious mismatches (California K-9 Academy) went out of business after multiple lawsuits. I’m pretty sure Howie, the owner, did a LOT of scenario training as well. He did these big flashy demos before selling crap dogs to Brittney Spears for $50,000 a piece. Or a police dog for $20,000.

Vohne Liche is doing a huge business with some pretty huge disasters without any reflection on their overall reputation. How do they do it?"

[This trainer also pointed us to videos showing solid K-9 take downs and clean Outs. These dogs are assisting officers in apprehension and immobilizing suspects.]


In comments, we would like your feedback on the Lafayette Police Department K-9 neck attack involving Sgt. Josh Saxton, police K-9 Boyka and Richard Bailey Jr. The confrontation starts at 6:28. The attack begins at 8:28 and lasts until 9:00. Was this dog properly deployed on Bailey? Was this excessive force? Should the officer have been promoted two months after the attack?


Summary

Our nonprofit began investigating the issue of police K-9 attacks on undeserving people six years ago. These dogs are increasingly being used as a proxy for violence and being deployed on unarmed and low-level offenders, subjecting them to life-long debilitating injuries. The head and neck attacks are increasing as well, subjecting these suspects to potential death. That is not supposed to be the intent of police K-9s; the intent is to immobilize "dangerous" offenders.

The attacks in this report portray white, Black and Latino suspects -- some were never classified as a "defendant" since they were never charged with a crime after the mauling. The Lafayette police K-9 "neck attack" fell squarely within worldwide protests due to the disproportionate police violence inflicted on Black men. Even the ACLU emphasized in this case, referring to police, "Such conduct does not contribute to social peace; in fact, it only allows distrust of police to fester."

Failure to employ correct K-9 techniques and a lack of training in de-escalation techniques is already placing entire K-9 departments at risk.

As we were writing this post, a Salt Lake City K-9 officer was charged with second-degree felony aggravated assault after he deployed his K-9 on a Black man who was on his knees with his hands in the air. Watching the body cam video should make you weep. This dog is being used as a proxy for violence. The whole K-9 unit was suspended afterward.7 This is the extreme polar opposite of how Officer Richardson and his partner Axel responded to a dangerous bank robbery.

If excessive force cases involving police K-9s continue to escalate, taxpayers will grow angrier at funding the resulting lawsuits. With some of these dogs now targeting the head and neck regions, these lawsuits are one step away from wrongful death lawsuits as well. The training techniques and instability of some of these police K-9s, along with "baseless deployment" decisions and excessive force -- described as "barbaric" and "animalistic" by attorneys -- must be reined in.

Police K-9 neck attack - Spencer

Spencer Erickson, 26, was attacked in the neck by Lakewood Police Department K-9 Finn.

Police K-9 face attack - Carlos Balli

Carlos Balli, 29, seeks $2 million dollars after Arizona DPS K-9 Storm ripped off half his face.

1The man in the San Diego police K-9 video, 26-year old David Aceves, was never charged with a crime and was given a settlement for $385,000 by the city. The "large degloving injury" inflicted by the police K-9 cost the man the full use of his right leg for the rest of his life, according to his attorneys. It is unknown what became of the K-9.
2In 2013, Alpha Dogs aired on Nat Geo Wild, featuring the owner and staff of Vohne Liche Kennels (VLK). The series only ran for one year. In May 2019 (and possibly while VLKs was negotiating with the DOJ after fraudulently over-billing them), VLK urged its supporters to write to National Geographic asking for another season.
3After the August 14 announcement by the Department of Justice, Performance Kennels Inc., who imports dogs from Solvakia, called out Vohne Liche. "If Vohne Liche is bold enough to try to screw the DOD do you think they would hesitate to screw a law enforcement agency?" It is "high time companies like this were called out by others in the industry. Shame on them." One person who commented on a similar post, stated, "The dogs from VLK are shit."
4The man on the bicycle, Richard Schumacher, suffered a "degloving of the right axilla" injury due to the K-9 mauling in Punta Gorda, Florida (See full body cam video). Schumacher later sued the city and obtained $70,000. Punta Gorda then retired the attacker, K-9 Spirit, to its handler, officer Lee Coel, who had improperly used the dog in the first place. Fortunately, the city replaced K-9 Spirit with two Labrador retrievers for the purposes of drug detection and tracking. Officer Coel later mistakenly shot and killed a woman during a community safety workshop -- his gun was not supposed to be loaded. Coel was fired afterward and later pleaded guilty to second-degree manslaughter after killing retired librarian Mary Knowlton during the "Shoot Don’t Shoot" demonstration.
5Carlos Balli, 29, was driving a stolen car when he was spotted by an Arizona DPS officer. During the police pursuit, Balli got out of the vehicle and fled on foot through a residential neighborhood then hid behind bushes. His hands were in the air just before DPS Detective Brad Martin released, K-9 Storm on Balli. The dog attacked Balli in the face and arm for 32 seconds. Balli is screaming as the officer tells him to "get on his face" after the K-9 had ripped half of it off. An ambulance does not arrive until 13 minutes later. Two years earlier, K-9 Storm chewed off a portion of an unarmed man's leg, but was not retired afterward. Balli is suing the state for $2 million dollars.
6Erickson v. City of Lakewood, Colorado et al., (District of Colorado, 1:2019cv02613). "While the Individual Defendants [police] downplayed the severity of Mr. Erickson’s injuries in their reports and covered his lacerations and bite wounds in photographs taken on scene, photographs taken at the hospital illustrate the severity, lethality, and shocking unreasonableness of the police conduct that created Mr. Erickson’s injuries … If these wounds had been mere millimeters deeper, Mr. Erickson would be dead," states the complaint.
7The recent felony charge against Salt Lake K-9 Officer Nickolas Pearce marks the first time we have seen this after an active duty police K-9 mauling. Prosecutors said Jeffrey Ryans "wasn't resisting arrest" at the time. "He certainly wasn't posing an imminent threat of violence or harm to anyone and he certainly wasn't concealed." If massive civil lawsuits don't force some of these K-9 departments to change, maybe criminal charges will.

Related articles:
Police Dogs Should Be Trained as Officers, Not Equipment
Police K-9 Dog Bite Studies and Regional Investigations - DogsBite.org

2020 Dog Bite Fatality: Woman Killed, Two Daughters Injured by Family Pit Bulls in McCurtain County, Oklahoma

Karen Wilkerson died after pit bull mauling
A woman died Friday after being attacked by two pit bulls in McCurtain County, Oklahoma.

Woman Killed by Pit Bulls
McCurtain County, OK - On Friday evening, we learned on social media that a woman in her 70s was killed by a family pit bull near Broken Bow. Today, the McCurtain Gazette confirmed her death -- this newspaper does not have a website or a Facebook page. The unnamed victim suffered "extremely severe" facial lacerations, a "partially amputated left leg" and numerous bites. Her two daughters were bitten and injured while trying to help their mother, according to the Gazette.

The deadly attack occurred outside of Idabel on Friday afternoon after a woman dropped her mother off at her sister's home, reports the Gazette. After she dropped her off and was driving away, she saw in her rearview mirror that her mother was on the ground being attacked by two pit bulls. She turned around and ran to give her mother aid, as her sister ran from her home to help as well. All three injured women were transported to McCurtain Memorial Hospital in Idabel.

The 70-year old victim was being transferred to a regional hospital when "her vital signs crashed," reports the Gazette. The ambulance returned to McCurtain Memorial Hospital, where she died. The deceased woman's husband put both dogs down, officers said. Last December, just miles away, Cledith Davenport, 79, was killed by a pack of dogs in Broken Bow. He was discovered lying halfway in a ditch on his property with the "dogs chewing on him." No criminal charges were filed.


A family member confirmed the woman who died is 76-year old Karen Wilkerson of Broken Bow. Her age does not match the Gazette's age and some family members are asking that the Gazette article be taken down, "It’s not so much the article, it’s what people are posting saying about the article," Summer said. Less than 24 hours after Wilkerson died, the family suffered another death. The daughter (presumably) that owns the pit bulls is Karrie, her female pit bull is named "Squirt."

Mccurtain county woman killed by pit bulls

Family pit bulls killed a woman and injured her two daughters in McCurtain County, Oklahoma.

Mccurtain county pit bull attack

A female pit bull named "Squirt" seen on the Facebook page of one of the victim's daughters.

map iconView the DogsBite.org Google State Map: Oklahoma Fatal Pit Bull Attacks.

Related articles:
12/18/19: 2019 Dog Bite Fatality: Man Killed by Pack of Dogs in Broken Bow, Oklahoma
12/18/19: 2019 Dog Bite Fatality: Multiple Dogs Killed Teenage Boy Walking Home from School

Statewide attacks:
Vicious Dog Attacks in Oklahoma by Butch Bridges, a log of Oklahoma vicious dog attacks.


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: Recently Adopted Pit Bull-Mix Kills Woman, Severely Injures Owner in Margate, Florida

Pit bull kills woman in Margate, Florida
Location where a pit bull-mix killed a woman and injured her son in Margate, Florida.

Stray Pit Bulls as Pets
UPDATE 09/06/20: On August 28, Carolyn Varanese was killed by Smokey, a dog her son Joseph had adopted several weeks earlier. Joseph was badly injured in the attack while trying to save her. Miami-Dade Animal Services picked up Smokey as an injured stray on June 16. The dog was covered in bite marks and tested positive for heartworm and Ehrlichia. The dog had a 52-day shelter stay and was advertised as "dog selective" with "free" heartworm treatment if adopted.

On August 7, Mastiff of Florida Rescue pulled the dog and placed it with the Varanese family shortly thereafter. The dog, formerly named Axon at Miami-Dade Animal Services, had not yet cleared heartworm, which compromises blood flow to major organs and decreases blood-oxygen levels. By late July, Smokey's appearance had greatly improved, but temperament displayed at that time was still impacted by the illness. Only a healthy dog shows its true temperament.

As demonstrated by Mastiff of Florida Rescue, very little time was spent by the rescue evaluating or "rehabilitating" this dog outside of the shelter environment. Smokey, a large muscular dog, was also placed into a home with an 84-year old woman who used a wheelchair and was on dialysis. This is the subject of the recent Sun-Sentinel article. Rescues wanting to "save" pit bulls like Smokey, who are picked up as strays with little-to-no history and placing them into new homes.

Smokey is a harrowing example of rescues wanting to see a mistreated pit bull succeed. Instead, once it became healthy, it acted out its genetics.

The Sentinel piece also highlights how some rescues go through a "'painstaking process for each adoption," while others do not. Some rescues keep dogs like Smokey -- abandoned, abused and being treated for illnesses -- for a reasonable amount of time, rather than giving it to the first willing family. Smokey might have been fully clear of heartworms after being with the Varanese family for several weeks. That is also when this dog violently attacked for reasons that are unknown.

A week before Carolyn was killed, another adopted pit bull in Broward County suddenly attacked three family members, requiring two pediatric trauma alerts (brothers, 11 and 12), one airlift and an ambulance for their mother. The father in the household, Carlos Aviles, is a dog trainer and the owner of Green to Alpha K9, which specializes in dogs with behavior issues and new pet owners. That pit bull, Kane, also had an unknown background when Aviles agreed to foster and train it.

So while there is an argument among rescuers -- incensed that Smokey was "set up to fail" by the rescue -- the same cannot be said for Kane, who went to the home of a professional dog trainer. With or without an unknown history, pit bulls have long been identified as a breed that will attack disproportionately to minor or no stimuli, including suddenly attacking their owners and family members. Single pit bulls are also consistently involved in attacks that result in multiple victims.

Listen to parts of the audio dispatch log files of the Coral Springs multi-victim attack (Kane).

For these reasons, we recommend against adopting pit bulls from shelters and rescues; the risks are too high. Some shelters and humane groups also remove breed labels -- specifically to adopt out more pit bulls -- use deceptive advertisements, fail to disclose bite histories and even drug dogs to mask aggression from adopters. We'd like to hear more from responsible shelters and rescues that measure a "successful adoption" as a "safe adoption" for the dog and the community.


08/31/20: Dog Came from Shelter
According to an unidentified spokesperson from Miami-Dade Animal Services (MDAS), the dog that killed Carolyn Varanese and badly injured her son came from that shelter. "Smokey" was picked up by MDAS as an injured stray on June 16, reports the Sun Sentinel. The dog had a 52-day shelter stay, where Smokey "did not display any aggression toward humans." On August 7, Mastiff Rescue of Florida pulled the dog and placed it with the Varanese family shortly thereafter.1

Late Monday, we submitted a detailed public information request to MDAS for the dog's shelter, behavior and medical records during its 52-day stay. Despite this dog eventually being placed outside of Miami-Dade County, we do not believe "Smokey" even remotely qualified as a "pit bull" under Miami-Dade County's pit bull ban, which requires the dog to be 70% pit bull or more. Our hypothesis is that MDAS identified the dog as an "American bulldog-mix" or a "mastiff-mix."2

Miami-Dade Animal Services now joins a growing number of taxpayer-funded shelters, in whole or part, since 2014 that have adopted out or transferred a dog to a rescue that killed a person shortly thereafter. Our list does not include dogs placed by "fosters" or "rehomings." It's still a damning track record, and Florida shelters top the list. Back in 2015 and 2016, the media had outrage over these attacks. Now, it's just "routine" that dangerous breeds adopted from county shelters kill.

Animal ID Found on Facebook

On Wednesday, the Animal ID of "Smokey" was sent in. The dog's previous name was "Axon." The dog arrived in bad shape with multiple bites wounds, an ocular condition, heartworms and more. Mastiff Rescue of Florida pulled Axon on August 7. "Happy new beginnings" and "never to be failed again," said one rescue. "He was 5 years old with no aggression!" said another. "He was a sweet dog per the volunteers at MDAS. The rescue took their links down for him. Why?"

"My rescue MASTIFF RESCUE OF FLORIDA, INC did not fight for me. What they did is delete all my posts as if I never existed." - Rescue Me Miami

"Why would a rescue place a dog like this in a home with an 84-year old woman?" Rescue Me Miami Shelter Dogs asked. That is the same question the readers of DogsBite.org would like to know. Of course the delirious "death row" dog rescuers now want to "save" Axon after the dog killed a woman and mauled her son. "I never meant to hurt anyone. Something happened in that home to make me do what I did," goes the ridiculous claim. There is no hope for Axon now.

Dog Owner Speaks to Media

Just before the Animal ID was sent in, we saw that Local 10 published a follow up. Joe Varanese, the victim's son, is quite shaken, saying, "It happened on my watch. It was something I brought into the house." Racked with grief and guilt, Varanese can't even enter back into his own home. Varanese had Smokey for three weeks (ample time to "decompress") before the fatal attack. He told Local 10 he was helping his mother from the bathroom when the dog "just went berserk."

"I flipped the dog over, slammed him on the ground -- that didn’t help, he came back stronger," Varanese said. "I hit him with the leg of the wheelchair -- it didn’t even faze him." During the struggle, his socks lost traction in a pool of blood. He fell down on the floor, but got up and "that’s when I started beating that dog to no avail," he said. There were no signs of aggression during the first three weeks, Varanese said, and stated it would now be hard to trust another pit bull breed.

Smokey Axon kills woman in Margate

"Smokey," AKA "Axon" (ID A2145086) seen in multiple Facebook posts prior to the fatal attack.


08/29/20: Dog Kills Elderly Woman
Margate, FL - An elderly woman is dead and her son was left severely injured after a violent dog attack Friday night, according to the Margate Police Department. Officers were dispatched about 9:40 pm to 6185 Southwest 1st Street. When responders arrived, they found 84-year-old Carolyn Varanese dead at the scene. Her son, 57-year-old Joseph Varanese, was transported to Northwest Medical Center with severe dog bite injuries. Both victims were the owner of the dog.

Local 10 News spoke to a family friend, who described the dog attack as vicious and brutal. The dog, a male pit bull-mix, had just started staying at the home on Southwest 1st Street a few days earlier, according to the friend. News footage from Local 10 and CBS Miami captured images of the tan pit bull as Broward County Animal Control officers removed the dog from the home. On Saturday, Joseph was released from the hospital and is now staying with this same family friend.

"The dog messed him up pretty good. His eye is all messed up. His nose," the unidentified family friend told Local 10, who is seen wearing a red Harley Davidson tee-shirt. "His whole arm is all messed up. Cause he was trying to save his mom, and the dog just kept going for her jugular," the man said. Margate police continue to investigate this multi-victim dog attack. It is unclear what, if anything, caused the deadly attack, and it is unclear how long the two had owned the dog.

A Saturday update identified the friend as "Jimmy," who said the dog was usually friendly with the wheelchair-bound woman, even sleeping in bed with her, reports Local 10. "The dog grabbed her ankles and [Joseph] started beating the dog with the wheelchair," he said. In March, a woman using a wheelchair was killed by a pit bull her roommate had taken in a week earlier. Authorities blamed the attack on the victim by "speculating" that she rolled over the dog or fell on the canine.

Jimmy told WSNV that after the dog grabbed her ankles, "she dropped to the floor, and he went for her throat." Jimmy added that Carolyn was "there for five days with the dog and had no problem," as if that is a measure of success for a pit bull in a household with an 84-year old woman using a wheelchair. Jimmy did not say where the dog came from. Carolyn's son, who is likely the only owner of the dog, is now being cast as doing "everything he could to protect her."

New Environments

In the 33 parameters that we track for each fatal dog mauling victim, there are three that relate to time and changing environmental factors: 1.) The dog or victim was new to the household in a 0-2 month period -- these fatal attacks often occur with 14 days; 2.) A babysitter was watching a child or the dog was being "watched" by a person other than its owner when it fatally attacked; and 3.) The victim was visiting or living temporarily with the dog's owner when the dog fatally attacked.

Over the 15-year period of 2005 to 2019, 19% (101 of 522) of fatal dog maulings fall under the first scenario, the dog or victim was new to the household in a 0-2 month period. This scenario includes all infant fatalities, 0-2 months old. Pit bulls carried out 56% (57) of these attacks. When only looking at adults 21 and older, pit bulls carried out 76% (19 of 25) of these attacks. The other dog breeds involved in these adult deaths are primarily rottweilers, bullmastiffs and mastiff-mixes.

By late Saturday afternoon, Jimmy said that Joseph had recently taken in the dog from an unidentified rescue group; police have not yet confirmed.

We question how long the two had owned the dog because many of the adult victims in the "new to a household in a 0-2 month period" scenario are often new owners of the dog through a recent adoption (Anthony Riggs, Susan Sweeney, Robin Conway, Margaret Colvin). We have no cases on record, except the death of Bethany Stephens that involved long-term ownership of the dog, a 0-2 month shift in the environment and the end result being an owner-directed fatal attack.

Victim was "Very Sick"

As more updates and clarifications came to light by late Saturday afternoon, we also learned that the 84-year old victim was "very sick," according to Rahem Menendez, who lives next door. "It’s very surprising that she died this way. She was very sick," he said. The Sun-Sentinel also talked to Menendez, along with neighbor Fabian Gonzalez, who lives across the street. Gonzalez stated that Carolyn was "kind of sick" and often had an ambulance take her to medical appointments.

That any rescue would place this type of dog -- a massive pit bull-type dog -- in a household with an 84-year woman in her condition is not only reckless, it should fall under a criminal statute for depraved indifference, reckless homicide, negligent homicide or endangering an elderly person. The same criminal charge should apply to her son Joseph. As noted in our comment section, this dog looks like a "rhino" or more aptly stated by using "shelter terminology," a "house hippo."

Pit bull kills woman in Margate

A male pit bull-mix killed an elderly woman and severely injured a man in Margate, Florida.

Pit bull kills woman in Margate

A male pit bull-mix seen being taken from a home after a multi-victim dog attack in Margate.

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

Related articles:

1"Mastiff Rescue of Florida Inc" promises, "We make certain the mastiffs are fully vetted prior to going into homes." The dog is not even a mastiff, it is an American Bully flavor -- heavy on the "bully" (thickness). 
2In 2011, Miami-Dade County changed the percentage of pit bull required to meet the definition of the ban from 50% to 70%, raising the evidentiary standard to “clear and convincing” evidence. This attack did not occur in Miami-Dade County, it occurred in Broward County. So the strict standard of pit bull classification by Miami-Dade is moot.

04/14/20: 2020 Dog Bite Fatality: Woman Dies After Pit Bull Attack in Fort Worth, Texas
11/15/18: 2018 Dog Bite Fatality: Adopted Dog Kills Baby While in Foster Care in Clearwater


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: Man Killed by His Stepson's Two Pit Bulls Near Belleville, Illinois

pit bulls kill man Belleville, Stephen Pemberton
Stephen Pemberton, 61, was killed by his stepson's two pit bulls near Belleville, Illinois.

Man Killed by Pit Bulls
Belleville, IL - A 61-year old man is dead after being attacked by his stepson's two pit bulls. Stephen F. Pemberton Sr. was killed Wednesday afternoon after the two pit bulls got out of the laundry room where they were being kept and attacked him, according to the St. Clair County Sheriff’s Department. It is unknown if the dogs escaped the room or if the victim opened the door. The two pit bulls belonged to his stepson, 45-year old Kelly Knaup, who was away at the time.

At 1:40 pm, sheriff's deputies were dispatched to 309 Campus Drive, part of an unincorporated area near Belleville. They arrived to find Knaup, who told deputies his stepfather was dead inside the home after his dogs had attacked him. Knaup’s wife and a health care worker1 were also in the home during the attack, but in a separate room. They called Knaup and told him to return home; they could hear the attack happening, but could not leave the room they were in, police said.

"The investigation is continuing, but no one is in custody at this time, and charges are not expected to be filed," Capt. Bruce Fleshren said in a statement. “While precautions were taken to keep these dogs away from others in the home, obviously that did not work, and there was a very high price paid to keep these dogs." St. Clair County Animal Control took both adults dogs, a male and female, into custody. The dogs will be euthanized, reports the Belleview News-Democrat.

Illinois Fatal Dog Attacks

Pemberton's death marks the fifth fatal dog attack in Illinois this year. 80% of these attacks (4) involved pit bulls, 80% involved victims, ages 25 and older, and family dogs carried out 80% of these attacks. In the most recent death, Knaup knew his dogs were hazardous, which is why he typically kept them in the "laundry room" whenever he left the house. In every other "laundry room attack" we have seen, the pit bulls escaped and attacked; the victim never opened the door.

What is unclear is why Knaup did not have dog crates, which would have reliably secured the dogs and would not be dependent upon a person accidentally opening the laundry room door during his absence. The two below pit bulls are shown on Knaup's Facebook page in 2018 photographs, a third pit bull is seen in 2016 and "Mama Hawk" and her puppies are seen in a video from as recently as four months ago. Per usual, their bellies are fat and filled with worms.

pit bulls kill man Belleville, Illinois

Two pit bulls seen in 2018 Facebook images -- "Black" wearing a green collar on the right.

pit bulls kill man Belleville, Illinois

"Mama Hawk" seen with her puppy litter just a few months ago; she routinely had litters. Both Mama Hawk (pink collar) and "Black" (green collar) appear to be Knaup's primary pit bulls.

map iconView the DogsBite.org Google Map: Illinois Fatal Pit Bull Maulings.
1Some background into why the victim may have needed a home health worker.

Related articles:
07/06/20: 2020 Dog Bite Fatality: Pit Bull Kills Toddler During July 4th Party in Joliet, Illinois
06/05/20: 2020 Dog Bite Fatality: 70-Year Old Woman Killed by Dogs in Country Club Hills, Illinois
02/11/20: 2020 Dog Bite Fatality: Pit Bull Attacks Four Family Members, Killing One, in Plainfield


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.