From left: Dominic, Brian Nevill, Shelly Burnett, the injuries and collapsible dog pen.
Dangerous By Default
On Saturday, April 28, 2007, Anthony Solesky's son and two other boys were attacked by a pit bull that broke free from its pen. Anthony's son, Dominic, suffered life-altering injuries in the attack. "Dangerous By Default"1 is a first hand account by Dominic's father about the attack and what happened afterward. In a raw, powerful, and at times explosive voice, Anthony leads readers through his son's painful ordeal and the community upheaval and healing that followed.
The 77-page e-book (PDF file) is divided into 25 short chapters, including his son's arrival into Critical Care Emergency and swift transition into Pediatrics ICU (PICU). Solesky details the serious injuries his son suffered, how the pit bull owner threatened one of the boys, the action steps Solesky took after the incident and the awful realization that the Baltimore County Health Department managed to turn this Public Health issue into a referendum on dog owner's rights.
The story of what happened to the Solesky family is a classic tale of the absolute social injustice victims of violent dog attacks experience. Furthermore, the account details the stunning lack of leadership, if not demented leadership, demonstrated by the Baltimore County Health Department whose agenda held the rights of dog owners above the rights of existing and future victims of serious dog maulings. DogsBite.org greatly thanks Anthony for this wonderful contribution.
Preface | Page 2
"Common sense alone reveals that some breeds reach the point of diminishing return as 'Domestic Pets.' Many breed experts and advocates tout a belief that training and treatment can usurp this fact. Sadly their math is the formula behind these unfortunate incidents recurring as repeating decimals of fate.
Ultimately a public health and safety issue, our story explores the reality that responsibility does not lie solely in the way we train and treat our pets but equally in the type of pets we introduce into the community setting in the first place."
The Attack | Page 9
"When I answered her call this April evening, I knew in my heart and could feel through the phone that something really bad had happened. I didn't speak. I opened the phone and placed it next to my ear. I could hear Irene breathing. She was nervous but composed. She said, 'Tony, Dominic is alive but he has had a terrible accident. We are at John Hopkins and they are taking him into the operating room right now.'
It is hard to explain, but it is a feeling kind of like déjà vu. I felt as if I knew that that was what she was going to tell me. I believe that it is probably because of adrenaline. A person under stress can experience the 'now' in both parts of their mind that experience memory and real time simultaneously. You are stunned and the ordeal is only just beginning. I said only two words, 'What happened?'
She said, 'He was attacked by a Pit Bull.'
Critical Care Emergency | Page 12
"After another 45 minutes passed and still no Dominic, we began to feel panic and dread again. I always think of the families of coal miners or lost children -- how they endure is beyond my ability to comprehend. The phone used to get updates from the operating room was not working all night. Finally, I walked around the hospital floor and pleaded with the first person I found. He was in housekeeping. I told him, 'Look, I cannot stand the not knowing. Could you please check on the welfare of my son? I can take anything but the not knowing.' He summoned a nurse and I explained my anxiety to her. She said she would investigate.
After an emotional eternity, the nurse appeared and explained the delay to me. She told me that right after they had planned to bring Dom out the first time, they had lost resuscitation of his leg and that they had finally gotten things back under control. Five hours and 19 grueling minutes from when he first went in a mass of doctors, nurses, tubes and one very swollen child appeared through the double doors."
Eye See You (ICU) | Page 13
"He had a bite to the face just missing his left eye that had torn away and left his cheek and the tip of his nose hanging. He had claw marks and puncture wounds, bites to the arms, chest and back. The flesh had been torn away from his upper left thigh and a life threatening injury, a 2-cm tear to his femoral artery. I would later learn from Dom that the dog had clamped onto his left leg, picked him up, and shook him violently and repeatedly like a rag doll while dragging him in circles. He had various other scrapes, road rash, bruises, and contusions as a result.
The doctors said that he had suffered severe blood loss and required multiple transfusions. They had to remove a vein from his right upper thigh and graft it to his damaged artery in his left leg. They had to perform a procedure called a fasciotomy. This was explained as making an incision on both sides of the length of his calf and letting the calf muscle hang out of the skin. They did this so that the swelling from all his injuries would not restrict blood flow to the lower leg and his foot."
Dominic's First Words | Page 16
"Besides many numb spots up and down his leg and foot, there were a couple of areas where the nerve was completely detached and the signal just came to a dead end. The worst part is it is extremely painful to have these electrical impulses sent down intact nerves while damaged nerves present a whole new threshold of pain. Besides the EMG, the nerve regeneration and healing process have the same type of pain and will appear inexplicably. It is extremely hard and maddening to see a child in such pain."
Neighborhood Militia | Page 17
"I figured the dog owner was waiting to hear I was home and then would come to express his concern for the entire matter and Dominic's condition. Not only was this not the case, but Baron told me that the dog owner had threatened his son, Scotty. Instantly I was back in the same hyper-aware mode as the day of the incident. It came over me in a wave. It was like when you are embarrassed except it had nothing to do with embarrassment. It was just pure adrenaline. The story he told me, along with the few bits and pieces Irene had told me, and the conspicuous absence of contact from the dog owner began to sicken and stun me with each sentence Baron spoke."
Taking Action | Page 19
"I followed his advice and in short order I was able to speak directly to my Councilman Vince Gardina. I could hear concern in his voice and I knew I was on the correct track. The next morning I returned the phone call to the Towson Times reporter and he interviewed me by phone. I was also wondering why the dog owner had not been charged with a crime. Based on the concern of my Councilman, and the fact that the Towson times had called, I started to believe that it might be best to get the word out about this incident. It may simply be that the general public and the neighbors outside of our community were not aware of the incident. I had hoped that by telling my story, it would garner the support and some type of action from the community."
Breed Apart | Page 30
"When asked by the reporter if I thought this type of attack could be specific to certain breeds, I said, 'It is obvious by this incident that some dogs cross the line of suitability as 'Domestic Pets.' This would be confirmed weeks later when I was told directly by doctors I spoke with. Months later, on WJZ Channel 13, they played an interview with the head of surgery at the time for Johns Hopkins. He made a statement to the effect that, without exception in his six years as head of surgery, all of the dog attacks they treated involving extreme injury and trauma, could be attributed to Pit Bull-type dogs. In my interview, I stated words to the effect that a lion is in the cat family but I don't want it in my neighborhood."
Breed Apart | Page 30
"Clearly some dogs are innocuous, almost no matter the situation. Some are borderline and others are extreme. I do not support that animals should be afforded judgment on an individual basis. That is a fundamental right reserved to a human society. To elevate an animal to that stature is anthropomorphic and shows a very specific, shockingly common and unabashed social disconnect.
Further, the all-to-often use of animals as surrogates for human children is dangerous to real children should we, unassuming, passively overlook this behavior as eccentric and harmless. This is where I see the biggest failing. These behaviors skew the implementation of common-sense controls that should be endorsed by animal advocates who have the highly motivated people, will, time and money to do the most good. By not supporting laws that would relegate these breeds to specific settings, they impede creating more continuity among their owners."
Dominic's Account | Page 35
"He said the dog bit him in the face and its mouth slid off. He said he got to his knees and the dog bit him in the thigh and began to drag him around the alley. He said he tried to choke the dog and it let go of his leg and bit him on the arm. Dominic said, 'Then I couldn't fight and at some point the dog let go.' He said he laid there and the dog kept coming up and pouncing on him and nudging him and then he saw a man come up. He said the man was screaming, 'Oh my God, Oh my God!' and grabbed the dog out of the alley.
I asked, 'Did he say anything to you?' and Dominic said, 'No.' 'Come on Dominic, not even, 'Are you all right'? 'No' he said. Not even, 'I will be back?' I asked. 'No!' Dominic said. 'Come on Dominic,' I said, not even 'I am getting help?' 'No Dad. I already told you he was just screaming.' I then said, 'What did you do after he grabbed the dog?' Dominic said, 'I tried to get up and run home but I kept falling down. So then I tried to walk home but I kept falling so then I started to crawl home but some lady just kept yelling, 'Lay down, lay down. You're hurt!'
Basic Instincts | Page 41
"The 'all breeds of dogs can bite' acknowledgment of the Baltimore County Task Force was the only objective fact in their report. Then shamefully, they put a spin on their acknowledgment that implied all dog bites are the same. Attempting the equivalent of comparing a non-venomous and venomous snake bite as the same, this reach is demeaning of these tragic incidents.
Their amateurish attempt to argue the specific to the general, is prolific among advocates along with a myriad of inept platitudes such as 'blame the deed not the breed'. Their conclusions where not objectively based but biased. They intentionally failed to gather or solicit a comprehensive input group. Their irresponsibility revealed by submitting only a vague two-page report to Councilman Gardina. One can draw only two possible conclusions; complete incompetence or conspicuous absence of objective input they knew would hurt their agenda."
Every Dog Has Its Day (Dangerous Dog Hearing) | Page 49-50
"I was sitting in a hearing room while my son was still confined to the hospital after 17 days. Here was a guy who rather than humbly throw himself on the mercy of the community, take responsibility for his actions, and as a gesture of contrition, show compassion for the victims of the incident, he has decided to attempt to get his dog back and spend his potential fine money on a lawyer. Worse still, he is willing to have us relive this entire trauma in a hearing to do it. Here I must say if you are attempting to build a team to make a case for Child Endangerment charges, the dog owner by far was our 'Most Valuable Player.'
Every Dog Has Its Day (Dangerous Dog Hearing) | Page 51
"My wife Irene would testify that she was in the house preparing hamburgers for a cookout and hearing a frantic knock at the front door. It was Kyle and at first she thought he was looking for Dominic but he kept saying, 'No! Dominic has been attacked in the alley by a dog.'
Irene went down the alley in bare feet, unarmed, unprepared, and totally expecting to find a child that needed consoling with an apologetic dog owner offering to pay for a doctor's visit. Instead when she looked down the alley, she saw Dominic flopping around on the ground and a women screaming into a phone.
She became frantic and started to run to Dominic and could see he was covered with blood and that there were various pools of blood in the alley. Irene would testify that it looked like a shark attack and that Eric gave her a towel and assisted her in keeping calm and stopping the blood from leaking out. Irene also testified that Dominic was asking if he was going to die and at that point, she really didn't know the answer to his question. Finally the EMS personnel arrived and she stated that she accompanied Dominic in the ambulance to Johns Hopkins."
Dominic Comes Home | Page 55
"In the days that followed, we would be greeted by nurses and physical therapists who came to the house for wound care and physical rehabilitation. Irene and I put Dominic in our bed because it had a queen-size mattress so the nurses and therapists had more working room. These were tough visits for about two weeks. The changing of the dressing every eight hours was a slow, painful, and when Dominic cried, an enraging process. There was always the pain of physical therapy topped off with the sudden and inexplicable nerve regeneration that was ever present. It would leave him writhing, screaming and crying in pain. All this over someone's right to have such a pet and the atypical lack and regard for the responsibility that goes along with that right. "
Dog (And Pony) Show | page 61
"At the breed-specific hearing workshop, those assembled against the proposed legislation were more compelling with organizational skills, their sheer numbers, and their agenda than anything in context of a solution that potential legislation proposed. Sadly, and in a demeaning way, rather then this being a Public Health issue, it was allowed to and turned out to be, a referendum on dog owner's rights.
The wrong tone set by the Health Department led the entire matter down the path of dysfunctional infinity from the beginning. As a result, with no representation from the emergency responders, the medical community, the insurance, and legal industry to balance the testimony, the focus pandered to a well-organized obstructionist posture."
Pet Project | Page 77
"The greatest irony is that so many animal advocates seem current and open minded about individual human rights and life choices. Still it was they who started up the slippery slope that drew constant anthropomorphic parallels.
I could only assume they lacked meaningful relationships with humans as the impetus for elevating their pets to such human proportions. I could not understand how they could appear logically reasonable enough to conclude humans can be born with certain predispositions that cannot be trained or behaved away, then take a complete 180 in logic as proponents that concluded, animal instincts and behaviors can be usurped by their grand mastery as pet owners."
12/20/09: Son of Rosie Humphreys Starts Campaign to Ban Pit Bulls in Flora
12/09/09: 2009 Fatality: 70-Year Old Dies After Violent Maiming by Pit Bulls
04/10/09: Animal Control: "This is Not Just a Bite. This is a Mauling."
04/02/09: Editorial: Pit Bull Owners "Too Vacuous" to Consider Consequences
02/26/09: What's There "Not to Get" About Regulating Pit Bulls?
That was powerful and very, very sad.
He is so right about the anthropomorphization of animals and the harm it has done to our society. I am miles from being an animal activist and I'm in no way associated with rescue and what is ironic is the fact that even I feel the need to constantly revert my arguments for BSL to the damage pit bulls do to other dogs, because there are just so damn few people who seem to care about the damage they do to people.
Mr. Solesky, thank you for having the bravery and care to write this.
You are a voice for the many voiceless victims that have had their lives destroyed by fighting dogs bred, raised, "rescued," and sold for profit by selfish people who have no regard for life.
I wanted to say this about animal advocates.
I have been involved with horses and dogs for many years, and I have also been involved in dog rescue and humane advocacy for some time.
Real, true animal advocates believe that a human life is of paramount importance, and they also care about the death and suffering that pit bulls are causing to other pets and animals.
The people that "advocate" for pit bulls do NOT represent the humane community at large. They represent fringe fanatics, the mentally ill who call themselves animal advocates, the casual zealot, but mostly they are people involved in the for-profit world of dog breeding and dog fighting.
People that truly know dogs know that fighting breeds are NOT pets.
It is the dilettantes, the twisted, the inexperienced, the naive, but most of all the GREEDY that "advocate" for pit bulls.
"turned out to be, a referendum on dog owner's rights"
Mr. Solesky, I don't know how much you know about the dog breeding world, but the people that represent this opinion are the AKC, UKC, dog fighters, and other populations of for-profit dog breeders.
These organizations spend literally millions of dollars every year lobbying for "dog owner's rights."
What they mean by that is, they oppose regulation!
They want to do whatever they want with no rules, because that is the most profitable way for them to do business.
The people at that meeting you attended were mostly dog breeders, and more than likely mostly AKC.
AKC directly organizes these lobbying events opposing regulation of pit bulls.
This is the kind of tactic they use to oppose any kind of regulation pertaining to dogs.
According to the AKC, dogs are "property" and a dog owner should be able to do whatever they want with their "property" with no regulations.
One of the primary reasons that breeders oppose regulation is because, thanks to lack of regulations, breeders can operate under the radar of average society and make large amounts of money, and get away with not reporting income and with avoiding taxes. They can also abuse animals for profit more easily without regulation.
The authorities in your town or county probably had no idea that the "dog owner's rights" zealots are dishonest citizens with unlicensed businesses who do not pay taxes as they should be.
And yes, some are middle class dog fighters who appear to be upstanding citizens, but hide a dark secret.
Dishonest people like this certainly do not care about public health!
But the breeder lobbies bully and intimidate government authorities with lies and just manipulation.
Until the authorities find out the ulterior motives of these breeding lobbies, they will be pushed into doing nothing.
If you would like some insight into what these dog breeder lobbies are like and how they operate, and how they are connected to groups like the AKC
see this for one among many
This NAIA group is directly cited by dog fighters and dog fighter breeders as representing their financial interests.
(AKC breeders also breed and sell pit bulls. They call them Staffordshire Terriers.)
NAIA is a "dog owner rights" lobbying group.
These are the kinds of people who were opposing you.
Your local authorities have NO IDEA the "dog owner rights" crowd are involved with insidious groups like NAIA, because these people pretend to be "dog lovers" and do not admit that their interest is profiteering!
The deception and subterfuge is huge, and the average government official does not have a clue about how the dog breeder lobby works.
I think this should be required reading for any politician or council member faced with enacting or revising dog laws. In particular the information regarding how skewed, illogical, and emotional pit apologists and animal rights activists are when it comes to issues of public safety should be a wake up call to people inundated with their incessant howling about "racism" and "breed bias", charged words more indicative of their misanthropism than anything meaningful or realistic.
It is time to take public policy back into sane hands. it is time for Health Departments to remember their original purposes and mandates, to secure public health of human beings, not to pander to special interest groups, dog fighters, dog breeders and drug dealers.
This story just breaks my heart. What an excellent writer he is. I am just so sorry that he has this story to tell.
Thanks for sharing this riveting story. How man times does this happen in our country before we collectively say, "Enough is enough"?
As a parent, I regularly talk to my kids about the seriousness of a pit bull attack. Avoid these dogs is the message I convey.
Thank you and prayers for you and your family. A powerful message that needs to be in the halls of our state capitols.
The sociopaths responsible for creating this breed culled millions of of safer dogs via th fighting pit in their sick doggie ethnic cleansing program.
This breed should never have benn created.
Baltimore has a ton of amateur Pit Bull street fighters now, that are tied to gang crime.
Anonymous (3/09/2010 8:26 PM), I totally agree with you.
It it not right to dismiss the feelings of animals b/c then you make it seem OK to torture and kill them. They have rights and feelings too. However, in the case of dangerous animals, we must think of the safety of the general public over the dog owner's wants and the animal's right to live.
All healthy pursuits are met with equal responsibility taking. Just as with automobiles education is half the equation you still need to have a way of assuming responsibility for the risk. People who think this way, don't have such pets. Those willing to rescue or own them rarely think. We need to demand that the need to place a animal never compromises saftey. I belive 99% of the time it does with people willing to own this breed. And so goes the vicious circle.
Thank you for taking the time to write such a piece…It clearly dissects the problem that the laws are not designed for Pit Bulls.
The best part was "I wouldn't let him insult my son by calling this a bite"
That is the whole crux of the argument as Level 5 and 6 maulings are the hallmark of the Pit Bull. The childish Pit Bull community argument is that we need to worry about all bites, while they pump out maulers that won't bite and release.
It would be like the alcohol lobby telling state legislatures that low speed fender benders involving sober drivers need to be treated the same a DUI manslaughter cases.