Safety Protocols Inside Shelter Facilities Are Slipping
Video shows shorter version of vicious pit bull attack at the Oakland County Animal Shelter.
Pontiac, MI - On December 12, a pit bull being held in a bite quarantine kennel block at the Oakland County Animal Shelter viciously attacked Shelter Supervisor Shelley Grey. An animal control officer shot the dog in the head, killing it. The attack occurred four days before a show-cause hearing was scheduled. Previously, the dog had attacked three family members, causing the quarantine. The owners, however, wanted "Roscoe" back, which forced the legal hearing.
On January 3, the county shelter released a 17-minute video of the attack on Grey, who was hospitalized after the attack and underwent multiple surgeries. Upon our request, a canine aggression expert in California, who works on a consulting basis with animal control departments for safety and disaster response, broke down the surveillance footage into a written transcript for our readers. The video contains no audio, has a low frame-rate and some parts are unclear.
Background of Vicious Pit Bull
On October 16, Roscoe attacked its female owner and her two children; all three were treated at a hospital. The male owner told police the dog had “been aggressive before in the past and has bitten people/family members,” according to a police report. Officers confiscated the dog and it was taken to the Oakland County Animal Shelter and Pet Adoption Center for a 10-day quarantine. On October 17, the pit bull attacked an animal control officer while under quarantine.
Animal control returned to the family's home, informed them of the shelter attack and urged them to relinquish ownership of the dog as it posed a threat to children. The county informed the owners of the dog that the case would go to court if the male or female owner did not surrender the animal. On October 18, the female owner declared she did not want to surrender the pit bull after it attacked three family members, including herself and two children, and an animal control officer.
The female owner claimed "Roscoe" attacked her "because she was talking too loudly" on the phone. The dog then turned on her two children.
A show-cause hearing was scheduled for December 5 at the Troy District Court, but was rescheduled at the owner's request for December 16. The purpose of the hearing was to ask the judge to surrender ownership of the dog to the county because it was "too dangerous to return to the family." Four days before the hearing, the uncollared pit bull -- while loose and agitated in the kennel block -- attacked Grey, who entered the quarantine block carrying only a "rope loop."1
Rising Attacks Inside Shelters
Vicious attacks inside public and private animal shelters rarely reach the media. Whistleblowers and other parties often send reports of these attacks into our nonprofit, but news stories rarely result. In 2019, two people were killed by vicious pit bulls on animal facility properties (a humane society and an animal hospital that was housing the dogs for a bite quarantine). Both facilities were sorely lacking in safety protocols. It's unknown if civil lawsuits arose from either fatality.
Most recently, we received a tip about a vicious attack by a dog housed at the Chequamegon Humane Association in Wisconsin. We verified the January 2 attack through Broadcastify.com and sent the audio file to a local media outlet, who ignored it.2 Dispatch said the victim "had significant injuries to her hand and leg" and staff "have her tied off at this time, but she was bleeding a lot." A staffer who witnessed the attack said "she threw things at [the dog]" but "he wouldn't let go."
That a staffer "threw things" at the attacking dog indicates poor safety training at the facility and likely no safety equipment in the vicinity.
The one publication that consistently publishes attacks on shelter workers, typically by obtaining information through FOIAs, is CityWatch. After MeLissa Webber, Assistant General Manager of Los Angeles Animal Services, resigned in mid January, CityWatch reported that a safety analysis by LAAS's executive management showed a 47% increase in dog bites and attacks in the LAAS shelter system. Civil lawsuits are being filed against the city due to these attacks as well.
Shelter Adds Safety Equipment
During the January 3 press conference, Oakland County shelter manager Bob Gatt showed off new safety equipment. Now hanging in the quarantine block is a clear plastic shield, a snare pole, break sticks -- which are used to pry open a pit bull's jaws -- and heavy gloves covering forearms. The cages on the quarantine block are now "double locked" and workers who enter the block must have "an audible alert device" attached to their clothing in order to summon help immediately.
In addition to new safety equipment, new procedures and training have been implemented at the shelter "to make sure this kind of incident never happens here again," Gatt said during the press conference. Under the new policies, no longer can inmate-workers access dogs in the quarantine block, which houses vicious dogs awaiting destruction orders. Also, enhanced and regular training of shelter staff on safety protocols and equipment, including situational drills, has been added.
Examining Surveillance Footage
A veteran animal control officer, who now gives shelter safety seminars, told us that only 3% of animal control officers have firearms. Under the circumstances of this attack, it is fortunate this department was part of that 3%. However, after this pit bull was shot "at point-blank range, between the eyes," it seemingly rose from the dead, Oakland County spokesman Bill Mullan said. This is yet another example in numerous attack stories where a pit bull survives initial gunfire.
The California-based canine aggression expert breaks down the 17-minute video into time-stamped minutes and seconds to help readers understand what they are seeing and when they are seeing it. Hindsight, particularly through watching surveillance footage, always offers new ways to improve safety protocols. That is the lesson here, as well as to show readers the escalating aggression of this pit bull and how it was handled in a bite quarantine kennel block.
Full 17-minute surveillance video of vicious dog attack at the Oakland County Animal Shelter.
Surveillance Video Breakdown
- 0:12 Inmate-worker opens the door and pets the dog.
- 0:22 Man closes gate. Latch not properly engaged.
- 0:40 Man re-enters room. Dog notices.
- 0:59 Dog breaks out of kennel and rushes away.
- 1:09 Gives dog a command to go into the kennel; dog refuses.
- 1:21 Lifts dog by armpits and pushes it towards the kennel door.
- 1:23 Attempts to put dog into cage, lifting it, pulling it forward.
- 1:26 Turning point. Dog realizes it is in full control. Notably, there are other dogs in the quarantine block that are wearing collars. This pit bull, apparently the most dangerous dog on the block, was not wearing a collar.
- 1:42 Dog mounts man's leg, clasps leg, snaps at stomach and hip.
- 1:46 Threatening gesture caused the dog to release man, and go back to the position facing the open kennel door.
- 2:19 Dog knows it's in control.
- 2:33 Dog is sitting. Dog is sucking back away from the kennel door. Man is visibly scared of the dog and is petting it, trying to soothe it. Dog remains uncooperative, but this is not the ideal time for it to attack the man.
- 3:01 Dog walks away and goes off screen. Inmate-worker stays by kennel door, holding the gate open.
- 3:13 Dog re-enters frame. Man points at kennel doorway.
- 3:17 Dog does a full elevation, raised-leg urination on the wall, while looking directly at the man in a challenging way. At this moment, this dog has established this corner as HIS territory. And now we are going to see the dog go into active defense, i.e. barking and charging.
- 3:28 Man repeatedly points and commands dog to get in kennel. Man is exasperated. He is not in control.
- 3:44 The dog's head is right by his urine mark. Inmate-worker turns his back and walks towards the exit.
- 3:45 Dog's nose arrives at that urine mark, territory mark, dog looks up, sees man's back is turned and charges.
- 3:46 Inmate-worker has arrived at corner, realizes dog is charging. Turns to face the dog. The dog stops. (The man, by squaring his shoulders and facing the dog directly, that was enough to stop the dog's attack. Because at this point, dog is NOT at a high enough level of aggression to attack this particular man.) Man and dog walk towards exit door.
- 3:54 Inmate-worker exits room and the dog remains in the kennel area.
- 4:02 The dog's head comes around corner, exploring the room.
- 4:09 Camera angle changes. We are now looking at the opposite side of the kennel block; the door in the near left of the frame is the door the inmate-worker just exited.
- 4:22-4:28 Both doors (top and bottom of screen) are briefly opened a bit, and quickly shut.
- 4:42 Top door opens. Man enters with a white loop rope in his hand. As he advances, we see he is wearing protective gear (possibly a bite suit).
- 5:03 Dog rapidly rounds the corner, facing the man entering the room. The man quickly exits.
- 5:04 The door slams shut, just as the dog reaches the door.
- 5:14 A woman (not wearing protective gear) enters with a white rope loop in hand. Man in protective suit partially enters behind her.
- 5:25 Woman opens the door to an empty kennel.
- 5:27 Woman makes eye contact with dog and steps partially behind the open kennel gate for protection. Dog charges around the gate; the man wearing protection suit exits and closes door. Dog jumps up on woman and bites at her hand, which she pulls out of reach, but the dog does jump on her hip. Dog walks away for a few steps.
- 5:33 Woman takes one step away from behind the gate. The dog turns around, jumps on woman, bites her and pulls her away from the kennel, pulls her off balance and takes her to the ground.
- 5:37 Man in protection suit instantly enters the room and wrestles with the dog. Another woman follows with a broom.
- 5:43 You can see the dog's tail between the man's legs.
5:56 You can see that the dog has its forehand lifted off the ground and its hind legs are on the ground, meaning the man in the suit has some sort of grasp on the dog. The tussle continues.
- 6:10 Man, female victim and dog move as a unit closer to the camera. Woman with broom repositions a few times, is ineffective. Victim and man try to wrestle dog into an empty kennel.
- 6:41 Victim goes to the ground.
- 7:18 Another man enters, bends over and shoots the dog in the head.
- 7:52 Dog goes down after being shot at close range.
- 8:17 The three people exit the kennel block, as one man picks up the protective gear top. Man steps in with wad of paper towels and drops them on a spot on the floor.
- 9:00 The dog appears dead, but is still breathing.
- 9:35 The door is shut.
- 12:05 Dog makes its first attempt to get back up.
- 13:05 Dog makes its second attempt to get back up.
- 13:33 Dog makes its third attempt to get back up.
- 15:15 Dog makes its fourth attempt to get back up.
- 15:20 The pit bull, which took a bullet to the head, is fully up and starts walking.
- 16:02 Door opens and man with gun enters. The dog is staring at him.
- 16:02 Second bullet is fired at dog; the dog instantly goes down.
- 16:15 Man stands nearby to see if dog is finally dead.
- 16:20 Man exits room.
- 16:44 Dog continues movement until 16:50. Ends at 17:21.
2Audio has been truncated to remove some dead space portions.