A Special Tribute to Connecticut In Honor of National Dog Bite Prevention Week 2014
DogsBite.org - In our hunt to track down an original topic for this year's post during National Dog Bite Prevention Week -- which does little to raise awareness of the growing epidemic of horrific dog "maulings" -- we ran across the mauling of a Connecticut postal carrier that we reported on in May 2009. We wondered if any news had been reported since? Also, what had become of the dogs' owner, David Holland, Jr., who we designated at that time as the "poster boy" pit bull owner?
What we discovered in our web searches was painful, predictable and unfortunate. All told, we discovered how broken and faulty most civil and criminal systems are at holding dog owners accountable after one or multiple violent attacks. Rarely can either legal system be considered a "deterrent" to a future damaging attack. This winding story focuses on three people: postal carrier Jeff Glenn, dog owner David Holland, Jr., and Norwich Animal Control Officer Michele Kellough.
The Mauling of a Postal Carrier
On April 30, 2009, Jeff Glenn was viciously attacked by two pit bulls while walking his route on Harland Place in Norwich. He suffered a severed artery in one leg, broken bones, a dislocated shoulder and 22 puncture wounds. Had it not been for carpenter Tage Wright, who was working nearby, Glenn may not have survived. Wright heard his anguished screams and ran to help, wielding his framing hammer. "I thought someone was getting killed," Wright would later say.
"I heard some screaming. I grabbed my framing hammer and went outside," Wright said, pointing to an overturned plastic patio chair. "He was down on the ground scrambling with that chair and trying to fend off two pit bulls. They would have killed him."
Undaunted when the dogs turned their attention to him, Wright said he waved the hammer and yelled, waiting for them to attack.
"They both looked like they were going to make a pass at me," Wright said. "Maybe they know a mad carpenter with a framing hammer when they see one. They have teeth. I have a hammer." - Greg Smith, The Norwich Bulletin
At the time of the attack, the dogs' owner was 19-years old. Due to his blistering performance in a news interview after the attack, Holland became the "poster boy" pit bull owner we termed, "beyond vacuous." It is a video one must see to believe (a remnant is left thanks to Zupf). Police had previously been to Holland's home 28 times for complaints, one being dog-related, and Holland had owned the parents of the pit bulls, which had viciously attacked up to two people.1
Partial Transcript from Video:
Reporter: David Holland owns the dogs and says they got loose through a hole in his back fence and neighbors should have told him they were loose.
Holland: Why shouldn't they come report it to me or call the police like they usually do?
Reporter: So they've called police before?
Holland: (He laughs) Yeah, they call the police on me all the time.
Reporter: He's laughing and joking while looking across the street at a yard smeared with blood. Police say they have been called to the house 28 times for a variety of reasons. The history extends past the two dogs to their parents. Investigators say the dogs' parents were put down after a vicious attack on a Meals-on-Wheels driver.
Reporter: What do you say about the dogs?
Holland: (After long slurp from his drink) They were protecting this house.
Reporter: From a mailman?
Holland: I came outside and he was hitting them in the head with the chair (badda-bing)...
Reporter: Do you feel bad they got the mailman?
Holland: Of course I feel bad, who wouldn't feel bad? It's a grown man. You see the way he was screaming? You would have felt bad (followed by a long slurp).
Reporter: You're kinda smiling.
Holland: I'm smiling because you're pissing me the fuck off.
After the attack, Holland surrendered his two 8-month old pit bulls, Miracle and Fat Boi, to be euthanized. He was issued fines totaling $756. No criminal charges were filed, despite previous attacks by both parent pit bulls he had owned. Animal Control Officer Michele Kellough stated then she recalled the dogs' mother and father as "vicious." The mother was euthanized because of an attack and the father was the suspect in the mauling of a Meals-on-Wheels driver, Kellough said.
"It’s the same 2 percent of dog owners that we see time and time again with problems. It’s sad. - Animal Control Officer Michele Kellough
The Civil Lawsuit (Painful)
On January 15, 2010, the plaintiff, Jeffrey Glenn, filed a thirteen-count complaint against David Holland, Jr., Gerri Scott, Jayleianna Holland, Michele Kellough, the city of Norwich, Yi Len Wang and Xui Li Zheng (the last two were the property owners). Findlaw.com has part of the decision online, specifically the motion to strike, by the Superior Court of Connecticut, which regards three counts pertaining to Kellough and the city of Norwich in Jeffery Glenn v. David Holland, Jr., et al.
The Court granted the defendants' motion to strike all three counts (7, 8 and 9) and are described below in the decision. Simply put, Glenn's legal team failed to "pierce" governmental immunity.
(In count seven) of his revised complaint, the plaintiff alleges that Michele Kellough, an animal control officer for Norwich, caused the plaintiff injuries by her recklessness. The plaintiff alleges that Kellough acted recklessly under General Statutes § 52-557n(b)(7) because she had notice that the two pit bull dogs that allegedly attacked the plaintiff were born, and, although she knew that the parents of the pit bull dogs had been quarantined and she did not require the dogs born to the parents to be registered, vaccinated, monitored or evaluated by a veterinarian. The plaintiff further alleges that Kellough ignored an "obvious and apparent risk by not investigating the puppies born to parents known to be a threat to public health and safety." The plaintiff alleges that as a result, the plaintiff was "viciously attacked and severely injured by the two pit bull dogs born to ferocious parents."
(In count eight), entitled "Endangerment of an Identifiable Victim," the plaintiff alleges most of the same facts as count seven. He does not, however, incorporate paragraphs eleven through fifteen of count seven, in which the plaintiff alleges that Kellough acted recklessly. Instead, count eight adds that the plaintiff's injuries were caused by the conduct of Kellough in that: (a) "The plaintiff was an identifiable victim in that as a Postal Carrier employed by the United States Postal Service, he was required to come within a close proximity, on a daily basis, of the house in which the violent and ferocious dogs were being kept"; (b) "It was, or should have been, readily apparent to the defendant that the dogs posed a serious threat of imminent harm to the health and safety of the above mentioned identifiable victim"; and (c) "It was, or should have been, readily apparent to the defendant that failure to take reasonable precautions to remove or contain the dogs would subject the identifiable victim to the imminent harm detailed above."
(In count nine), which is directed against the city of Norwich, the plaintiff alleges the same conduct as count seven, except that it does not allege that Kellough acted in violation of § 52-557n(b)(7). Instead, count nine adds that the city of Norwich employed Kellough as an animal control officer, that the plaintiff's injuries were caused by Kellough while she was acting in the performance of her duties and within the scope of her employment, and that Kellough is personally liable to the plaintiff. Consequently, the plaintiff alleges, Norwich is "liable to payment on behalf of" Kellough pursuant to General Statutes § 7-465. - Superior Court of Connecticut
Many victims write to DogsBite.org and ask, "Why don't more people sue animal control agencies (aka the government)?" If one reads this decision, this becomes evident. Essentially, it is called "sovereign immunity" or "governmental immunity." We saw this raised as a defense in Washington state by Pierce County in the Sue Gorman case. Gorman's legal team succeeded to "pierce" governmental immunity. The appellate court ruled that Pierce County did have a duty to act.2
On November 30, 2012, the Superior Court issued another decision, specifically the motion for summary judgment, in Glenn v. Holland, Jr., after the plaintiff issued a revised complaint on November 29, 2010, pertaining to the three counts struck by the Court and an objection to the defendant's motion for summary judgment filed April 2, 2012. Included in the objection was a copy of a 2007 South Carolina Attorney General Opinion stating that pit bulls are inherently violent.3
Twenty-four days later, the highest court in Maryland would issue the seminal decision declaring pit bulls "inherently dangerous," which would have had much greater influence. Timing was not on Glenn's side, nor was the law. As expected, the Court granted summary judgment to Michele Kellough and the city of Norwich on all three counts, freeing them of liability. (The discussion in this decision explains more about how the plaintiff failed to "pierce" governmental immunity.)
(Count 7) In the present case, the plaintiff has not provided any affidavits or admissible evidence to suggest that Kellough had any awareness that the plaintiff would have been endangered by her failure to act. Even if Kellough was aware of the dangerous propensities of the parent dogs, there is no evidence to demonstrate that Kellough was aware of the dangerous propensities of the pit bull puppies...
(Count 8) In the present case, as the defendants note, the plaintiff has pointed to no authority by which Kellough could require that the pit bull puppies be registered, vaccinated, monitored, or evaluated by a veterinarian ... Additionally, in Kellough's deposition, she stated that she was not aware of any regulation requiring her to follow up with violent dogs' puppies... - Superior Court of Connecticut
It was not Kellough's duty to act nor was it mandated by any regulation, despite her knowledge that Holland was a repeat vicious dog owner, having owned the attacking parents, and that 8-months later, their offspring would violently attack. The problem lies in the lack of any regulation for instances of "lineage" attacks and the failure to create laws that address exactly what Kellough stated: "It’s the same 2 percent of dog owners that we see time and time again with problems."
Successfully piercing governmental immunity can be very difficult. What is not difficult is for city or county officials to address repeat vicious dog owners to prevent new attacks. According to Kellough, we see this issue "time and time again." Do they do anything about this well known problem? No. This is another theme Glenn's legal team tried to express. How can one have ample evidence of the 2 percent and still fail to take action? Holland was not criminally charged either.
The "Vicious Dog Loop"
In Connecticut and most other states, there are no criminal consequences for being a repeat owner of vicious dogs. We have discussed the "vicious dog loop" before (See: East Texas Woman Severely Mauled by Pit Bull at 'Dog Friendly' Private RV Park). A dog violently attacks; authorities deem it dangerous and the dog is put down. The owner gets a new dog and it viciously attacks; authorities deem it dangerous and the dog is put down. The vicious dog loop can play endlessly.
Severe injuries can be racked up by multiple victims without many consequences, as long as each injury is inflicted by a "different" dog.
What should be true in all U.S. states is that every attack resulting in serious injury should be legally attached to its owner for at least 10-years and "cumulative" dog bite penalty laws should be established. Currently, the same dog has to viciously attack a person two times before criminal charges can be pursued against its owner. Owners of vicious dogs are put on notice of this. Thus, they often put the attacker down and start the vicious dog loop once again with a clean slate.
The Progression of a Criminal (Predictable)
Prior to entering into "big league" criminality, police had been called out to Holland's home 28 times. Holland had also owned four pit bulls by the age of 19 that attacked up to three people, at least one resulting in life-threatening injuries. Though we have little information about the attacks by the parent dogs, both were put down and termed "vicious," so the dogs presumably inflicted serious injuries. Was there any doubt after viewing the 2009 video where Holland was headed?
In November 2013, 24-year old David D. Holland, Jr., was arrested after violating a protective order and reportedly threatening victims with a stolen handgun. Holland was charged with criminal use of a firearm, criminal possession of a firearm, theft of a firearm, criminal violation of a protective order, possession of marijuana with intent to sell, two counts of risk of injury to a minor, threatening and first-degree reckless endangerment. Holland was held on a $100,000 bond.
Holland was arrested again on February 28, 2014 after fleeing a motor vehicle stop. He was initially stopped for motor vehicle violations according to police. While speaking with police, Holland sped away. Holland was charged with multiple narcotics violations, criminal possession of a firearm, carrying a pistol without a permit, carrying a weapon in a motor vehicle, interfering with police, traveling too fast and additional violations. Holland was held on a $250,000 bond.
According to the Connecticut Department of Corrections website, Holland is currently an inmate at the MacDougall-Walker Correctional Institution, which is a level 4/5, high/maximum security level multi-mission facility for adult males. He was admitted on February 28, 2014, the same day he was charged. At last check (May 17, 2014), his status remained "unsentenced" at the website. Just 24-years old, Holland is now loaded up with felony charges, most occurring in a 3-month stint.4
At the very least, Glenn and Connecticut residents will not have to worry about Holland owning a new set of vicious pit bulls any time soon.
What happens when Holland gets out of jail and wants a pair of new dogs? Are there any doubts as to what kinds of dogs he would choose? He will have a criminal record running up and down his back spine, but not one of those offenses will include violent injuries inflicted by his dogs on innocent people. Clearly, because the civil and criminal systems are so often broken and faulty for dog attack victims, some cities simply ban these dogs. This option is not available in Connecticut.
The Pit Bull Problem Will Worsen (Unfortunate)
In June 2013, Connecticut legislators passed a statewide anti-BSL law.5 In November, one month after the legislation went into affect, the Norwich Bulletin wrote an editorial defending their position that the matter should be left to local communities and not a "sweeping statewide mandate." The editorial followed the horrific Wilton attack -- a family pit bull tore off one of its owner's arms and ripped off her other hand. The victim was found half dead hiding under her car by passersby.
In addition to the loss of a limb and another hand, Murray had bite wounds all over her body, Wakeman said. She was brought by ambulance to Norwalk Hospital, where she was listed in stable condition.
"She lost all of her left arm and a portion of her right arm," he said.
Monday's mauling recalls the 2009 chimpanzee attack on Charla Nash, of Stamford. In that incident she was blinded and horribly mutilated; she later received a face transplant.
But the big difference between that case and Monday's dog attack is that chimpanzees, cute as they may be when they're infants, grow up to be wild animals -- muscular, temperamental and unpredictable ones at that.
Dogs, conversely, have been domesticated for tens of thousands of years, making Monday's attack all the more terrifying. - John Burgeson and Wes Duplantier, Ctpost.com
The legislation sailed through the House passing unanimously. It passed the Senate by a 30-4 margin. This is unfortunate for Connecticut residents, but not unsurprising given the deep hooks animal organizations have in the state. In April 2014, the same legislative body muted Charla Nash's ability to sue the state after a "pet" chimpanzee ripped off her face and hands. This too was a governmental immunity issue, but it never had its day in court -- the victim was denied this.
National Dog Bite Prevention Week does not address the dismal reality of many animal control departments and city or county officials that could take preventative actions, but do not -- not even when involving the "time and time again" miserable 2 percent, the repeat owners of vicious dogs. Nor does the week-long event address the civil or criminal systems that regularly fail to hold the owner's of vicious dogs responsible, thus failing to act as any type of prevention mechanism.
So, this year for National Dog Bite Prevention Week, instead of "standing like a tree" and being devoured by attacking pit bulls as the dog advocates advise, demand that dangerous dog owners be regulated to actually prevent mauling attacks. Demand an end to the "vicious dog loop" once and for all. Encourage lawmakers to establish "cumulative" dog bite penalty laws that stick with owners for a minimum of 10-years, which would significantly impact the re-offending 2 percent.
2We anticipate the Gorman case will be appealed to the highest court in Washington, The Supreme Court, so Gorman still may have to pass one more test.
3We believe we located this 2007 opinion, which is a "non-binding," advisory and unpublished opinion and was likely unhelpful to Glenn's case. McNeely or Matthews would have been better choices. Though the critical issue here was the basic problem of suing government officials for a failure to protect a citizen -- proving both a legal duty to do so AND to "pierce" governmental immunity.
4Prior to November 2013, Holland, had been convicted of multiple misdemeanors (2010 to April 2013).
5Connecticut does have home rule. We did not have enough time to investigate this prior to publishing this post.
08/16/13: Washington State Court of Appeals Upholds Jury Verdict in Vicious Dog Mauling Case
05/23/13: National Dog Bite Prevention Week (May 19-25, 2013)
05/22/12: National Dog Bite Prevention Week (May 20-26, 2012)
09/18/11: After $2.2 Million Award, Dog Bite Victim Sue Gorman Says System is Still Flawed
05/15/11: National Dog Bite Prevention Week (May 15-21, 2011)
05/23/09: Norwich Post Office Awards Veteran For Intervening in Pit Bull Attack
05/03/09: Mailman Suffers Severed Artery, Fractured Arm in Pit Bull Attack