Owners of the Pit Bulls File Lawsuit to Get Dogs Returned to Them
Jayden Henderson died and her mother was injured while caring for a neighbor's pit bulls.
Judge Rules in Favor of Town
UPDATE 09/10/21: On Friday, Wake County Superior Court Judge Vince Rozier ruled that the Town of Garner can determine the fate of two pit bulls that killed a 7-year old girl in April. "This has gone farther than it should have," Judge Rozier said. "To the parents, I'm sorry you've had to endure this." Just minutes after the judge's ruling, Garner Chief of Police Joe Binns said the dogs will be euthanized Monday. The dogs' owner, Joseph White, declined to speak to WRAL News.
Judge Rozier also stated, "It's not appropriate probably as a judge to call someone selfish, but after 15 years of being a judge, this is the most self-focused case I have ever seen in my life," referring to the owners of the dogs. "And I don't understand it," he said, "because this case is about Jayden Henderson when it comes down to it." Judge Rozier reiterated that there has always been a "common sense solution" to this case, and that "I based my decision on the rule of law."
09/08/21: Upcoming Hearing
On September 10, a hearing will be held in front of Wake County Superior Court Judge Vince Rozier to determine the fate of two pit bulls that killed a 7-year old girl and severely injured her mother back in April. As predicted, the two sides did not come to an agreement during the 60 day period Judge Rozier granted the two parties in July. Joseph and Amanda White want their two dangerous dogs back. The Town of Garner believes the dogs are too dangerous to be returned.
In preparation for Friday's hearing, the Whites launched a PR campaign to "save" Blitzen and Athena, including the creation of an Instagram page, a website and a petition. None are persuasive, given that the dogs brutally killed a child "without warning or provocation," according to Garner Police Chief Joe Binns. The website, however, did provide one document that interested us. On May 10, Joseph submitted a letter to the Town regarding the Dangerous Dog Appeal.
Previously, we had questioned the "22 days of obedience school" training that Blitzen, the 8-year old male dog, had attended. That school was Sit Means Sit Dog Training, which is a franchise that has an operation in Apex, North Carolina. The primary training methodology is shock collar, and they sell their own branded e-collar. Presumably, Blitzen attended the 21-day board and train program, of which, "Dogs with severe aggression and anxiety issues may benefit the most."
Based on photographs from Blitzen's original Instagram page, which has since been removed, and the recent "save them" campaign, we believe Blitzen attended the school (where the owners were not present) during the summer of 2019, when the canine was about 6-years old. From August 2019 forward, whenever Blitzen is seen wearing a PTSD service dog vest in a public environment, he is typically wearing a shock collar, which is an ethical mockery for a trained service animal.
Shock collars disqualify any dog from being a peaceable emotional support animal or functional service animal.
According to the White's own screenshots, Blitzen, at about 6-years old, did not know the Come and Sit commands, had difficulty "approaching people/dogs," had high distractions with little to no public obedience and by day 16 of training with a shock collar, still lacked impulse control. Remember Blue, the "rehabbed" pit bull? Blue also lacked impulse control. As soon as Blue's new owner removed the shock collar, the dog immediately attacked and killed the owner's mother.
Let's continue reading Joseph's letter. Despite the dogs being alleged ESA, service animals, the Whites did not take the dogs to a family gathering in San Diego. The fatal attack occurred during that trip. Moreover, Joseph spent $3,000 for a "sturdy new wooden fence" prior to leaving to San Diego so that so that his "in-laws wouldn't have to leash and walk the dogs." Do these dogs sound like peaceable dogs? No, especially if Blitzen routinely wore a shock collar while in public.
Shock collars can suppress aggression and poor impulse control, but the device cannot remove these traits.
The fact that the Whites are oblivious to the behavioral and ethical issues of shock collars, especially for a service animal, and fail to grasp "lack of impulse control," provides even more ammunition to the police chief's assessment, "Allowing the dogs to be released would create a substantial and unnecessary danger to the public." We add to his statement, "Allowing the dogs to be released to the Whites would create a substantial and unnecessary danger to the public."
Logic of an Adolescent
In the Dangerous Dog Appeal letter, Joseph swears up and down, the way an adolescent would to an adult, that if the Town returned the two pit bulls to him and removed the dangerous animal declaration, the "dogs would not travel outside of our new residence" and the dogs "would never be allowed to interact with people or children again." Anywhere the dogs would have to travel, Joseph claimed, "we would make sure to muzzle them and take exetreme precautions" [sic].
These dogs killed a little girl and nearly killed her mother. Her mother is only alive because Blake Dicello, an experienced off-duty Raleigh police officer who lives next door, intervened. "That day will change me forever," he told Garner council members after the attack. "I did not see two dogs defending their property. That’s not what I saw. I saw two dogs viciously attacking and mauling two unconscious people," Dicello said. "Nobody should ever have to see what I saw," Dicello said.
Joseph can't be "everywhere at once" and he can't foresee unforeseeable events that life will deliver, such as a tree falling on his fence and his dogs escaping. Human beings are imperfect, and they rarely have control over unpredictable events. Only an adolescent would hold such a fantasy belief. Joseph also lacks awareness of criminal liability. In nearly all 50 states, he would face serious criminal charges if either of these dogs seriously injured or killed a person again.
Management Always Fails
Resuming with the falling tree scenario (page 38), animal trainer Angela Schmorrow presented a slide show in 2020 about "Behavior Assessment and Modification: What is Possible and What Isn't?" The first rule of "management" of a dog with aggression is that "management always fails" because "things happen," she states. Trees fall on fences, gates and doors blow open, leash clips fail, collars slip off, owners trip and fall, miscommunication happens, states the presentation.
This also circles back to the Canine Behavior Review with Sue Sternberg and Gia Savocchi, where Sternberg talks about the "paradox." Level 1 dog owners, the lowest level, like the Whites, have no qualifications to manage a dog with human killing aggression. Any experienced trainer or animal behaviorist (Level 3 dog owners) would say "No way on earth" to owning any dog with human killing aggression. A level 6 biter, which is death, cannot be managed or rehabbed.
07/14/21: Franklin County Responds
On July 14, the Franklin County Board of Commissioners foiled the plans of the owners of two pit bulls that killed a 7-year old girl and injured her mother in late April. Joseph and Amanda White, who are currently suing the Town of Garner to have their dangerous dogs returned to them, had hoped to move to Franklin County with their dogs after the litigation. The ordinance passed by the commissioners states that any dog that has killed a person will be confiscated and put down.
"Notwithstanding other sections of this ordinance, any dog that kills or has killed a human being shall, at the owner’s expense, immediately be taken into the custody of Franklin County Animal Services and housed for up to thirty days and shall at the end of this time be humanely destroyed. Nothing herein shall prevent said dog’s owner from voluntarily agreeing to have the dog humanely destroyed."
The ordinance is effective immediately and applies to any dog that has previously killed a person. The Whites will now have to choose a different county -- or state -- to relocate to after the litigation, assuming the Whites succeed in getting their two dangerous pit bulls returned to them. Garner should pass the same type of safety ordinance to prevent any future attempts by owners of fatally attacking dogs from turning the tragic mauling death of a child into a narcissistic spectacle.
07/08/21: Judge Delays Euthanasia
During the July 8 hearing, Wake County Superior Court Judge Vince Rozier granted a preliminary injunction that would prohibit the Town of Garner from putting down a pair of pit bulls that killed a 7-year-old girl and critically injured her mother in late April. Judge Rozier also ruled that Jayden's parents could have limited intervention during the preliminary injunction hearing, given the narrow nature of the hearing, and allowed their attorney to make a victim impact statement on their behalf.
Judge Rozier granted a 60 day delay in the Town euthanizing the dogs, and he hopes that the two parties can reach an agreement during the period. Our nonprofit does not believe there will be an agreement, so we expect to see them all back in court in 60 days. This is only the beginning too. These proceeding could last for months or even years, depending upon appeals, much like the case of Onion and the ongoing case regarding Dexter, currently at 1.5 years along in process.
Attorneys from New York-based Lexus Project participated in both cases. William Plyler, the attorney for Jayden's parents, may not grasp the "circus" nature and the "twisting of facts" involved in these court cases ("saving" a death row dog after it has severely injured or killed a person). A circus is the norm not the exception. Despite this, we encourage Plyler and the parents of Jayden to keep going and to adjust their calendars out to at least two years in consideration of appeals.
Judge Allows Victim Impact Statement
"The cold hearted nature of our proceeding today"… I recognize there are reasons people come to support and I don't want to seem coldhearted and like we ignored them. A double disgrace [regarding the witnesses that came to speak, but will not be allowed to speak at this particular hearing].
As I previously mentioned, the intervener's request to be a part of this. A motion to intervene will be granted in inclusion of today's hearing.
As Mr. Plyler pointed out, there are victims in the case and although our victim impact statute probably more or less relates to criminal matters, I think it is still appropriate to make sure that is recognized. So if you want to make a statement -- not calling any witnesses -- if you want to make a statement you can.
Attorney for Heather and Dave (1:13)
Plaintiff has not addressed anything about this unclean hands. That gets to the facts. Because they've got blatantly and intentionally false allegations in their Complaint that they were seeking to use at this injunction. My clients have a right to point those out. You said that you would allow us to do that. In our motion and in the record, and in their Complaint, they allege that Heather and Jayden did not have authority to be on the property. You have seen in our motion the text message two days before, where Heather sent the Whites a photograph of Jayden playing with the dogs in their yard, and we have a text message to the Plaintiff back to Heather thanking them for playing with the dogs in the yard. You don't have to rely on the affidavits of Heather and Dave …
"We just want to talk about words" [referring to Plaintiffs], I don't blame them. If I was in their position, I would not want to be talking about the lies they put before this court. They are seeking equitable relief. That is what they are seeking, "equitable relief." The courts have long recognized that a party seeking equitable relief, such as injunctive relief, must come before the court with clean hands. The doctrine of unclean hands exists to protect the integrity of the court, not only to benefit the opposing party.
Now, I understand in other fields --- politics, sports or whatever -- maybe society has gotten to the point where they shrug their shoulders when somebody tells a blatant, bald-faced untruth in a verified Complaint. I submit the courts should be the last refuge of truth. And in this case, they're coming in here asking for equitable relief -- extraordinary relief -- extraordinary. And they're doing it on one basis. They are saying its irreparable harm. There's no other basis. They are not going to succeed. I submit it's highly unlikely they're going to succeed on the merits…
Now, one of the key points that the court has to do when deciding whether to grant extraordinary relief, is to balance the interests of my clients, the Town and the Plaintiffs, in deciding whether to a grant injunctive relief. In balancing the interests…I think it's important that allow me to at least make a victim statement on behalf of the victims in this case. Everybody in this county, in this state, in this country and probably in the world knows that these dogs should be put down. That's not an issue. These dogs should be put down. They killed in an unprovoked attack, a seven year old girl. You've seen that affidavit from the officer Cello, who came to the rescue and rescued Heather from being killed. What he saw in that affidavit, he saw that one dog with Jayden shaking her with only her hands and her knees touching the ground by the neck, unconscious. And he saw Heather being dragged across the yard with her unconscious with another dog. That's what these dogs did. They're coming into court, having made up these fabrications, saying, "Hey we got clean hands, we want to get these dogs back."
07/01/21: Upcoming Court Hearing
On June 29, the owners of two pit bulls that attacked and killed 7-year old Jayden Henderson and critically injured her mother filed a lawsuit against the Town of Garner to stop the euthanasia of the involved dogs, which was set for July 3. Today, Wake County Superior Court Judge Becky Holt placed the euthanasia date on hold until July 8, allowing the dogs' owners, Joseph and Amanda White, to have a preliminary injunction hearing to contest the Town's euthanasia order.
This hearing is set for July 8. The attorneys for the parents of Jayden, Heather Trevaskis and Dave Henderson, filed a "motion to intervene" in the case between the Whites and the Town. This recent update in the case also supplied affidavits filed by Heather and Dave. Both parents state in the affidavits, "After the attack on April 27, 2021, I learned that the dogs had a history of aggressive, dangerous, and hostile behavior. We were not aware of this history before the attack."
This is new information. The Whites of course, fiercely deny this and state in their Complaint: "Prior to this incident neither Blitzen or Athena had ever exhibited any aggressive, dangerous, or hostile behavior, nor had either of them attacked or threatened or assaulted any persons or dogs."
Athena was adopted out by the Wake County Animal Center in 2019. Since the multi-victim attack that killed Jayden in late April, both dogs have been in the custody of the Wake County Animal Center, a grim irony. The Whites have since moved to Franklin County. Fighting the euthanasia order is only part of their battle. The Whites also face Franklin County officials who are "not going to be cooperating" with having these dogs designated as "dangerous" living in their jurisdiction.
Both parents also stated, "These dogs are killers. The untrue things that the Whites have asserted about us when communicating with the Town and in the lawsuit filed on Tuesday has been very difficult to understand. The possibility that the dogs could be released/freed and returned to the Whites, through litigation or a decision from the Town, is deeply upsetting." Both parents strongly feel that they are the true "victims in this case," whose daughter was killed by these dogs.
I feel strongly that Dave and I (Heather and I), as the parents of our daughter who was killed by these dogs, are victims in this case.
As the victims immediately affected by the dog attack, Dave and I (Heather and I) feel a moral obligation to people everywhere to oppose the release of these dogs to the Whites or to anyone else. We believe very strongly that regardless of the precautions the Whites might take to prevent the dogs from ever being exposed to any other person again, there is no guarantee that the dogs might not escape. - Heather & Dave
Alleged Service Animals
In their lawsuit against the Town, the Whites allege, "Athena is an emotional service animal to Plaintiff Joseph White, who is a United States marine Core combat veteran and sustained PTSD as a result of military service" (sic). First, the lawsuit misstates an ESA, it is an "emotional support animal." The word "service" is not present in ESA. Second, despite one of the largest Marine Corps bases being located in North Carolina (Camp Lejeune), the lawsuit misspells "Corps."
The lawsuit alleges, "Blitzen is a service animal for Plaintiff Amanda White" and "Blitzen received PTSD training and attended 22 days of obedience school" -- a 3-week time period that evokes a "charlatan" dog trainer. Both Whites "went on a trip to San Diego" without their alleged PTSD dogs when the dogs killed Jayden and injured her mother. Persons with disabilities who have trained service dogs are virtually tied to their dogs; the dogs always travel with them wherever they go.
05/17/21: Pit Bull Owners Identified
In a disturbing, but not unsurprising update, the owners of the two pit bulls that killed 7-year old Jayden and critically injured her mother on April 27 are trying to get their dogs returned to them. On Monday, Joseph and Amanda White submitted an application for a permit to the Garner Police Department to declare the dogs dangerous and to allow the dogs to be returned to them. In the application the Whites stated, "This is out of nature for either dog to have hurt a human being."
One person commented on social media, "So you're telling me that they haven't put that dog down for killing a human being...a child at that. What kind of society are we living in?" Another person said, "Anybody who wants to get dogs like that back are truly sick!!! Seriously, mentally ill."
Notably, prior to the multi-victim attack, the Whites previously displayed these dogs on social media wearing fake "Emotional Support Animal" and "Service Dog" vests. Each dog also had its own Instagram page for its fan-base. Neither dog, however, had many fans. Athena, the fight bust dog, was following 109 people, but only 102 people followed back. Blitzen was following 128 and had a whopping 160 follow back -- this is after deliberate promotional efforts by the Whites.
In addition to Heather Trevaskis losing her precious daughter, she also continues to recover from severe bite injuries. "I have numbness and lack of function in some of my right hand and some of my left hand," she told WRAL News. Her longterm prognosis is uncertain. The news that the Whites are seeking to have their dogs returned to them, once again turned her world upside down. "I couldn’t live with myself if something else happened to somebody else," Trevaskis said.
Neighbors Petition Council
After WRAL published that Joseph and Amanda White are seeking to have their two pit bulls returned to them, residents in their neighborhood mobilized and spoke at a town council meeting to oppose this. Patrice Johnson, a Vandora Pines HOA board member, spoke on behalf of the Vandora Pines community. "It will cause undue stress (for the children in the neighborhood) to have these dogs brought back to the neighborhood, which is the current request of the owners."
We are asking that you reject this permit request, given the nature of the incident and the fact that we have lost one of our children. - Patrice Johnson
Blake Dicello, a longtime Raleigh police officer also spoke. Dicello lives across the street from the home where the dogs resided on Roan Drive. Dicello intervened during the attack and likely saved Heather Trevaskis' life. “That day will change me forever," he said. "I did not see two dogs defending their property. That’s not what I saw. I saw two dogs viciously attacking and mauling two unconscious people," Dicello said. The little girl and her mother were completely incapacitated.
"Those dogs were not defending their property. They were viciously attacking and mauling two defenseless people," Dicello said. "Nobody should ever have to see what I saw," he said. "I stand unequivocally with this community. I've been told several times that if it wasn't for me arriving on scene when I did, the first one to come through the gate, that Heather would not be here…In fifteen years, I have never seen anything like what I saw on that afternoon," Dicello said.
Town Attorney Terri Jones explained that the decision to grant the permit ultimately comes down the town's animal control officer, who is currently seen on the town's website hugging a pit bull. So that should make Garner citizens confident that he will be "unbiased" and put the duty of his job, which is protecting public safety, before his pit bull advocacy? "Ultimately," Jones restated, "the decision on the permit will rest with the Garner police department and the Garner police chief."
The Garner News reports there is now a "For Sale By Owner" sign outside of the owner's home.
On May 18, residents of Vandora Pines Community in Garner spoke against these dogs being returned to the neighborhood. This is a powerful hearing and we urge you to watch it.
04/28/21: Victims Part of WRAL Family
The child has been identified as 7-year old Jayden Henderson. Jayden and her mother were members of the Capitol Broadcasting Company. Her mother, Heather Trevaskis, who remains hospitalized, has been the master control operator for eight years at WRAL-TV, reports the Raleigh-based news outlet. Jayden would often visit her mother during her work breaks. At WRAL, she was known for playing hide-and-seek among the desks in the newsroom during those visits.
Jayden died of the injuries she sustained while being attacked by two pit bulls. Trevaskis suffered multiple bites and severe hand injuries. The pair had been caring for the pit bulls while their owner was out of town. The attack happened in the owner's backyard. Garner police said they have never had complaints about the dogs in the past. Neighbors told WRAL-TV the same thing. Jayden was a first grader at Vandora Springs Elementary. She leaves behind a younger sister.
The Pit Bulls
Late Wednesday afternoon we were able to confirm the two pit bulls on Instagram -- each dog has its own Instagram account.1 The family adopted Athena in December 2019, according to posts, and she appears to be a fight bust dog. Athena is seen wearing an "Emotional Support Animal" vest, and Blitzen, a neutered male, is seen wearing a "Service Dog" vest. Most of the posts have hashtags like: #pitbullsofinstagram, #dontbullymybreed, #servicedog, #furchild, and #pittienation.
One photo showed Athena still in her shelter kennel, characterized by blue, cream and sage green cement wall striping, an "exact match" to the Wake County Animal Center (WCAC), which had a "Pit Bull Adoption Special" in October 2019. WCAC 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. Our list does not include dogs placed by "fosters" or "rehomings."
Furthermore, the agency that adopted this dog out is now holding it in bite quarantine. Ironic, isn't it? WRAL-TV interviewed Dr. Jennifer Federico, the Wake County Animal Services Director. Federico falsely claimed that 70% of fatal dog attack victims are children. The actual percentage is less than 50%.2 To obfuscate dogs that inflict "human killing aggression" and dogs that inflict "garden-variety dog bites," Federico also stated that all dogs "have teeth" and "they can all bite."
Shelter Dog Inflicted Deaths
- 2021 - Wake County Animal Center (NC) - Jayden Henderson, 7-years old
- 2020 - Miami-Dade Animal Services (FL) - Carolyn Varanese, 84-years old
- 2019 - Humane Society of St. Lucie County (FL) - Christine Liquori, 52-years old
- 2018 - Pinellas County Animal Services (FL) - Infant Khloe Williams
- 2018 - The Animal Foundation (NV) - Susan Sweeney, 58-years old
- 2018 - Logan County Pound (WV) - Robin Conway, 64-years old
- 2018 - Henderson Animal Shelter (NV) - Bradley Cline, 62-years old
- 2017 - El Paso Animal Services (TX) - Jacob Brooks, 4-years old
- 2017 - New York City Animal Care Centers (NY) - Margaret Colvin, 91-years old
- 2017 - Kent County Animal Shelter (MI) - Infant Susannah Murray
- 2016 - San Diego Humane Society (CA) - Infant Sebastian Caban
- 2015 - Jackson-Madison County Pound (TN) - Anthony Riggs, 57-years old
- 2015 - Asheville Humane Society (NC) - Joshua Strother, 6-years old
- 2015 - Rochester Animal Services (NY) - Anthony Wind, 26-years old
- 2014 - Branford Animal Shelter (CT) - Rita Pepe, 93-years old
04/27/21: Pit Bulls Kill Child
Garner, NC - Garner police issued a statement late Tuesday confirming that a 7-year old girl died from injuries she sustained by her neighbor's two pit bulls. Her mother remains hospitalized in stable condition. Police believe the mother and daughter were caring for a neighbor's two pit bulls while the owner was out of town. The multi-victim attack occurred after 6:00 pm in the dogs' backyard in the 100 block of Roan Drive. Wake County Animal Control seized both dogs.
The seven year old female injured in the dog attack earlier this evening has died as a result of her injuries. Her mother remains hospitalized and in stable condition.
Reports indicate the pair are neighbors who were helping care for the dogs, 2 pit bulls, while the owners were out of town. The incident occurred in the dogs' back yard, and the cause of the attack is not known. "This is a horrible tragedy for all involved. Our thoughts and prayers go out to both families and all those who responded,” said Lt. McIver, CID Commander.
We will update this case as more information becomes available.
Garner Police are investigating a dog attack on Roan Dr. Two individuals sustained serious injuries and were transported to Wake Med for treatment. Both dogs were seized by Wake County Animal Control and transported to the Wake County Animal Shelter. There is no threat to the public. This incident is under investigation. - Garner Police Department
This deadly attack occurred as we are preparing 2020 dog bite fatality statistics, specifically, while we analyze household and time factors. "In 2020, 15% (7) of dog bite fatalities involved a babysitter or relative watching a child or the dog being 'watched' by a person other than its owner when the dog fatally attacked. When breed was known (6 of 7), pit bulls accounted for 100% of these deaths." This attack also marks another multi-victim and multi-dog attack involving pit bulls.
Back in March, in a very different scenario, a 3-year old boy was killed and his mother seriously injured after two roaming pit bulls belonging to a neighbor breached their fence-line and attacked them. Those dogs routinely ran loose. No criminal charges were filed after this egregious crime because the state of New Jersey does not have a felony dog attack statute. No charges are likely in this case either; the pair likely knew the neighbor's dogs and were on the dogs' property.
Nearly every year, one or two deaths are added to our "dog sitting" pit bulls archives. We cannot stress how dangerous this endeavor is. Pit bulls are already responsible for 67% of all fatalities since 2005. Yet, they always weigh in more heavily than 67% in the temporary time factors (babysitting, dog sitting, 0-2 months new to the home, and temporarily visiting the dog owner's home). Caring for not just one, but a pair of pit bulls while the owner is away, is a high-risk activity.
2The "rate" of children killed by dogs (per 100,000) is higher than of adults, but "rate" is a different number than a percentage of total fatal dog mauling victims.
03/17/21: 2021 Dog Bite Fatality: Boy Killed, Mother Severely Injured in Violent Pit Bull Attack
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.