Kristen Potter, 38, was killed by a pair of great danes in Perry County, Pennsylvania.
Woman Killed by Dogs
Perry County, PA - A 38-year woman is dead after being attacked by a pair of great danes she agreed to feed while their owners were away. The attack occurred on March 16 around 5:15 pm in the 700 block of Clouser Hollow Road in Centre Township, near New Bloomfield. Perry County Coroner Robert Ressler said that Kristen Potter died of multiple traumatic injuries sustained in the dog attack. The manner of death was ruled an accident. Both dogs were subsequently euthanized.
The fatal attack occurred about two days after Potter published a distressing post to her Facebook page: "My life should be full and thriving and yet I'm here just surviving." Other posts show that her 11-year old son, Trevor Potter, died in May of 2020 in a tragic accident. The boy's father, Ryan Potter, passed away three months earlier, according to the child's obituary. Both tragedies occurred when the pandemic reached our nation's shores, causing lockdowns, panic and fear.
Her finacee, Jacob Presley Fickett, told the Daily Voice, "She was the Light of my life ... She has done nothing but good to anything she touched. I love her so much I can't even believe that she is gone." Fickett is a combat veteran. "She was able to teach me to love myself and her deeply," he said. She was also looking forward to moving to Florida, where her family would start a new chapter. "She wasn't that unhappy," Fickett said. He added that he is now "lost without her."
During the 2021 Covid year, there was another fatal dog mauling in Perry County. Rhoda Wagner, 60-years old, was killed by three pit bulls she was dog sitting for her roommate. Also, two other women between the ages of 43 and 49 were recently killed a pair or more of their own great danes. In 2022, Mindy Kiepe, 43, was killed by her five great danes in rural Clay County, Iowa. In 2019, Mary Matthews, 49, was killed by her two rescue great danes in Warren County, Ohio.
Prior to these three deaths, our nonprofit has only recorded one other fatal attack inflicted by a great dane since 2005. In 2009, Barbara Chambers, 59, died after being attacked by her prize-winning male great dane named "Lemonade" in Garland, Texas. Information from the 19th Century CDC study (Breeds of dogs involved in fatal human attacks in the United States between 1979 and 1998) shows that great danes were involved in seven fatalities during this 20-year period.
There was a third great dane at the home where Potter was attacked, but authorities say the dog was not involved. To add additional tragedy, Potter had gone to the home to feed the dog with her young son. He ran to get help when two of the three dogs attacked her, according to Ressler. Emergency responders were unable to reach Potter until animal control arrived and tranquilized the dogs. No information about the dogs' history or their owners has been released thus far.
A Penn Live article, behind a paywall, states the great danes are owned by Wendy Sabathne, who lives on the other side of the road from Potter's home. Sabathne was breeding and selling "AKC Registered Great Dane Puppies," according to her Instagram page, 240 weeks ago. In June 2019, a person on the Perry County Talk Facebook group reported there were "2 great danes running loose on Clouser Hollow." Sabathne chimed in saying, "They are harmless ... they just bark."
Dogs May Have Been Fighting
Potter's 10-year old son witnessed the start of the attack. “He screamed and ran down the driveway ... two of the great danes had attacked her from behind,” Potter's father Bill Keefer said. Despite being "attacked from behind," police speculated the dogs may have started fighting while Potter was feeding them and turned on Potter as she tried to intervene. Sabathne stated that her third great dane sustained injuries she believe is the result of the dogs attacking each other.
Keefer also said the same dogs had bitten Potter two or three years ago. It was also not the first time Potter had agreed to feed the dogs. Potter had agreed most recently because Sabathne was at a hospital with her mother, who is in intensive care and may not survive. “I’m heartbroken. I’m in shock. I’m in disbelief and I just want to die. I can’t believe this happened,” Sabathne told Penn Live. State police said the investigation is ongoing; it's unknown if any charges will be filed.
According to the audio log files at Broadcastify.com, Potter was found inside the dog pen. [Dispatcher] "Son found mother in a dog pen facedown with blood all over her ... mother is not breathing, is not conscious, has a lot of blood around the neck area. Also, one of the dogs does have blood on the muzzle" ... [Responder] "We have a dangerous situation here. We're not going to be able to get access into the patient .... we're going to need a  unit on scene," he said.
A GoFundMe has been set up to help her two surviving sons and to help pay funeral costs.
08/18/22: 2022 Dog Bite Fatality: Woman, 43, Killed by Her Pack of Great Danes in Clay County
08/05/21: 2021 Dog Bite Fatality: Woman Killed by Pit Bulls She was Dog Sitting in Perry County
11/07/19: 2019 Dog Bite Fatality: Woman, 49, Dies After Being Mauled by Her Two Great Danes
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.
I cannot think of how miserable a death being killed by Great Danes. A fairly average weight of these dogs is 140 pounds. I wonder if these dogs had a history of aggression. How old were they? Why don’t people board their dogs instead of asking someone to feed them?
I’ve seen a number of dogs turned loose by pet sitters and hit by cars.
We just updated the last paragraph — we located the dog owner/breeder.
I find myself reacting defensively about Kristen’s last post – I’m afraid people will use it to blame her somehow, imply that she didn’t really want to live. It seems I don’t look upon these killings with cool rationality. Meanwhile the victim will never be able to explain what she meant. In the comments of the Daily Voice article, her eldest son says her post was about her sister.
In another article, multiple people recounted times those great danes behaved menacingly towards them.
Punishing the owner won’t save the next victim (though I’d like to see it happen anyway). It would be nice if we could change the culture so people would stop harbouring dangerous animals. I suspect the owner enjoyed the security she felt keeping these killers for her own personal protection. She still has one great dane left, so she can go on feeling safe as she sleeps at night.
There is a growing scandal in this thread too. https://www.facebook.com/groups/1609473095986033/posts/3271300979803228
Colleen, might that growing scandal be indifference and lack of accountability by both the police and animal control services of Perry County?
Rebecca, I’m thinking Kristen posted that when she was exhausted from dealing for 2 years w an intractable neighbor whose farm animals were creating problems. She helped out, giving it her all apparently, while the neighbor treated her as a farmhand.
Her sister was experiencing severe medical problems. And then Kristen, sounding to me like everyone’s great neighbor, agreed to help yet another neighbor, Sabathne, feeding her jumbo dogs. This after several years of the pandemic. I believe she was simply weary. I agree w you that it would be an error to think Kristen wanted her life to be over.
I have to wonder whether part of the problem w the first neighbor might have included pitbulls on that farm. She sounds like someone who wanted to keep from naming the specifics to keep from offending that neighbor in a local area online forum.
It appears that the intractable neighbor is likely the owner/breeder of the great danes.
Taking on the never-ending project of unfenced roaming farm animals for her community, Kristen was finished off by the great danes, this time inside the house. Poor soul!
In my area loose farm animals are not acceptable. Years ago I was driving down an unlit country road at midnight and saw two horses in the ditch next to the road. I immediately called 911, stayed with the horses, advised emergency personnel where the horses had gone to, and where I thought they lived. Hitting a 1000 pound animal with a car destroys the car, the animal, and quite possibly the occupants. I was raised knowing farm animals could never be on the road. Maybe the
first responders there need a crash course about how to handle loose farm animals.
*”Keefer also said the same dogs had bitten Potter two or three years ago.”*
So, the owner knew that the dogs not only had bitten, they’d bitten the same woman, a few years back.
100% charge the owner. She knew the dogs were 140lb biters, she knew they had no respect for the dogsitter and she asked Potter to dogsit anyway.
Just because this lovely woman’s friendships meant more to her than her own life, does not give the dog owner license to put her at risk.
If your dog can’t be safely dogsat or kennel-boarded in an emergency you are an irresponsible owner. No two ways about it. Part of dog ownership is preparing for such contingencies.
Yes — that is information from the Penn Live article that is behind a paywall, but eligible to be published in full outside of that state. It is quite critical information that I did not see in other local news reports.
Colleen, were the two attacking dogs definitely Great Danes?
There is no reason to disbelieve the attackers were not Great danes. Also, there were five Great dane puppies at the scene. It wasn’t just a “third Great dane” that was not involved.
“The Perry County Animal Rescue says the owner has surrendered this Great Dane and five puppies after two other Great Danes on her property mauled and killed neighbor, Kristen Potter, who was helping to feed them. Kristen may have tried to separate them last evening when they were “going at each other.” The Rescue Director says: “Please be sure people know this was very unfortunate and no one was to blame. Our heart goes out to both families.” It is certainly a tragic story.” — Susan Shapiro – WGAL News 8
Colleen, yes I read the news report. The reason I asked is because the one pic I saw of the dog that was turned in looked like a pit mix to me, and smaller than a Great Dane. So was just looking for clarification. Either way, a person is now deceased, Very sad.