2020 Dog Bite Fatality: Family Pit Bull Kills 2-Year Old Child in Portsmouth, Virginia

family pit bull kills portsmouth
Demi Witherspoon, 2-years old, was killed by a family pit bull in Portsmouth, Virginia.

Pit Bull Kills Child
Portsmouth, VA - A young child is dead after being attacked by a family pit bull in Portsmouth. On Monday, police were dispatched to a home in the 5600 block of Darby Close at 1:53 pm, according to Misty Holley with the Portsmouth Police Department. When officers and paramedics arrived, they found the 2-year old suffering life-threatening injuries. The child was transported to a local hospital, where she died. The family surrendered the 1-year old male pit bull to animal control.

One neighbor said the child's family had moved in over the weekend.

In the audio dispatch file from Broadcastify.com, the dispatcher for Portsmouth Police and Fire, states: "We have a pit bull who just bit the complainant's daughter's face completely off. She's not breathing." After Engine 3 arrives at the scene, the fireman reports, "We have a pit bull that's covered in blood here." Listening to this dramatic audio paints a portrait as vivid as any person would need to comprehend the dangers of bringing a pit bull into a home with a young child.

Since 2017, there have been three high-profile fatal pit bull attacks in Virginia. In June 2017, Margaret Colvin, 91-years old, was savagely killed by a pit bull her daughter had acquired from a rescue group earlier that day. In December 2017, Bethany Stephens, 22-years old and a pit bull advocate, was attacked and eaten by her two pit bulls in Goochland County. In September 2019, Morgan Crayton, 31-years old, was brutally killed by her 92-pound male pit bull in Hampton.

Finally, when pit bull aggression "turns on" for the first time, it is often between the ages of 1.5 and 2-years old, when the dog reaches sexual maturity. Owners of these dogs can always say, "The dog's never been aggressive before," because as a puppy or adolescent, the dog had not been. Adoption agencies and humane groups never share this information with the public. Also, many pit bull owners refuse to acknowledge the genetic heritage of this breed: fighting to the death in a pit.

Victim Identified

The obituary for the victim identifies her as Demi Marie Witherspoon. The GoFundMe created for her funeral expenses has reached over $6,000 and states, "Demi just lost her father a year ago. This alone was an experience no daughter or mother should ever have to face." Photographs from her mother's Facebook page indicate her father was Eric Witherspoon, Jr. He died of gun violence in Hampton, Virginia in November 2018, according to a national gun violence memorial website.

The little girl's family now has two family members on national memorial websites prior to each reaching the age of 25. Demi became the 601st American killed by pit bull violence since we began tracking this data at Fatal Pit Bull Attacks - The Archival Record. Demi also became the 238th child killed by pit bull violence since 1980, when the pit bull problem began to emerge, and the 187th child killed by pit bull violence since the CDC stopped tracking breed data in 1998.

portsmouth virginia, pit bull kills

A male family pit bull attacked and killed a 2-year old girl in Portsmouth, Virginia on Monday.

map iconView the DogsBite.org Google Map: Virginia Fatal Pit Bull Maulings.

Related articles:
09/30/19: 2019 Dog Bite Fatality: Woman Dies After Vicious Attack by Her Own Pit Bull in Virginia
02/02/18: 2017 Dog Bite Fatality: 22-Year Old Woman Dies in 'Grisly Mauling' by Her Pit Bulls...
11/17/17: 2017 Dog Bite Fatality: Adopted Out Pit Bull Kills Elderly Woman in Virginia Beach

Baseline reporting requirements:
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.

Video: Citizen Offers Straight Talk About Pit Bulls and the Priority of a Pit Bull Ban, to 'Keep People Safe'

Citizen Responds After Denver Mayor Vetoed Pit Bull Ban Repeal

Youtube artist Robert Crawford thanks the Denver mayor for his desire to keep people safe.

Denver, CO - On February 14, Denver Mayor Michael Hancock vetoed a bill that would have rescinded the city's 30-year old pit bull ban. The hasty repeal effort began in mid-January driven by Denver City Councilman Chris Herndon. On February 24, the attempt to overturn Hancock's veto of the pit bull ban repeal failed in an 8 to 5 vote. In between those dates, Youtube artist Robert Crawford responded. Crawford debunks the ridiculous arguments of pit bull worshipers.

Crawford opens, "Say No to Pit Bulls!" by congratulating Mayor Hancock for his desire to "keep people safe, not to assuage the pit bull owners." Crawford calls out the false and shameful argument of comparing "pit bull rights" to "human rights." That is just a bunch of "idolatry and nonsense," he says. "I find that really insulting." That "saving a pit bull from euthanasia" is somehow similar to saving a minority person from the Ku Klux Klan. "This is absurd," he says.

The Denver mayor did the right thing. "He's more concerned with people," he says. "Human beings who may or may not get mauled." We want to stop the maulings, and we also want to stop people from having to live in fear when there is a pit bull in the neighborhood. A lot of these pit bulls get loose. "We know the damage they can do -- we see it in the news all of the time." Crawford also addresses the archaic and ridiculous argument, "It's all how they're raised."

"There are plenty of stories of how people raise their pit bulls well." These pit bulls still turn around and maul their children or their owners, sometimes to death. These dogs "always go after their neck and face," he says. "We just can't take that chance -- that's the bottom line." Why take a chance with a pit bull dog when there are so many dog breeds that were not selected for fighting? "Get yourself a collie. Get yourself a golden retriever. Get yourself a Labrador," Crawford says.

Next, Crawford talks basic biology. "All dogs were bred with a certain goal in mind. Certain dogs were bred for herding," he says. We will add that there is no question that specific breeds exhibit breed specific behaviors -- border collies herd, greyhounds race, and retrievers retrieve. These behaviors are exhibited very early in life and do not require specific training. "The pit bull dog was bred to kill other dogs," he says, and to take down bulls. Pit bulls were selectively bred for fighting.

"Often times, they are too strong for their owners and the owner's can't even control them," he says. (There is an endless array of graphic videos showing just that too). Finally, Crawford also addresses the "blame the owner" mantra that does nothing to prevent the onslaught of new violent maulings and deaths. "I'm not talking about blaming anybody," he says. "I'm trying to prevent people, especially children, please prevent these children from being mauled," Crawford says.

A lesson from public health: The blame game does not prevent injuries. As a country, we did not revolutionize car safety in the late 1960s by blaming the driver or the car. One year after the publication of Ralph Nader’s book, “Unsafe at Any Speed,” Congress unanimously enacted the National Traffic and Motor Vehicle Safety Act. The act forced the automobile industry to build safer cars -- which was the proper solution. Our motto for pit bulls? "Unsafe with Any Owner."

keep people safe denver pit bull ban

On February 14, Mayor Michael Hancock vetoed the pit bull ban repeal to keep people safe.

Related articles:
02/24/20: Denver Dog Bite Statistics by Breed and Injury Severity (2017-2019)
02/17/20: Mayor of Denver Vetoes Pit Bull Ban Repeal Legislation, Slowing the Hasty Repeal
01/15/20: Level 1 Trauma Center Studies Characterizing Dog Bite Injuries (2011-2019)

2020 Dog Bite Fatality: Pack of Dogs Kill Woman Living at 'Home Sweet Home' Assisted Living Facility in Florida

home sweet home, assisted living facility, dog attack
Beverly Jean Dove, 60, was killed by dogs while staying at an assisted living facility.

Sheriff's Press Release
Washington County, FL - The Washington County sheriff's office issue a press release Friday afternoon for a fatal dog mauling that occurred on Tuesday, March 3, near Chipley. A female resident of Home Sweet Home, an assisted living facility, was discovered badly injured about 4:00 pm. She was transported to a local hospital where she later died of her injuries. Investigators believe a pack of five dogs living on the property of the group home inflicted the attack.

A person who knows the victim identified her as Jean Dove on a Facebook post earlier today. Her obituary states that she was 60-years old. Also on March 3, the national story of 92-year old Norma Graves went viral. Graves was a resident at the Village Green Alzheimer's Care Home in Tomball, Texas. The facility "rescued" a pit bull and allowed it to roam the halls and rooms unrestrained. Surveillance video shows the pit bull viciously attacking Graves in the face.

The Texas case has resulted in a massive lawsuit that is just getting started. By the time that lawsuit is finished, the facility will be bankrupt and out of business. The "rescued pit bull" living in the Alzheimer's care home had bitten Graves in the past, along with another resident, and the facility allegedly tried to hide this. The Washington County case appears nearly as egregious, involving a pack of dogs living on the property of an assisted living facility. What could go wrong?

"Washington County - A resident of Home Sweet Home, an assisted living facility in Washington County, died after being mauled by a pack of dogs earlier this week.

Washington County Sheriff’s Office responded to a 911 call in reference to a dog attack just after 4 p.m., Tuesday afternoon. Upon arrival, deputies found the victim severely injured on the side yard of an adjoining property.

EMS responded to the scene and transported the victim to a local hospital, where she later succumbed to her injuries.

The investigation, still in its early stages, has led investigators to evidence indicating the five dogs responsible for this attack lived on the property of the group home. The dogs have since been removed from the property by the Washington County Animal Control.

“This investigation remains ongoing, and we are working diligently with the Department of Health and all other assisting agencies to ensure the future safety of the residents of this facility, as well as all other assisted living facilities within our county,” said Sheriff Crews." - Washington County Sheriff's Office

Nearby Properties

Home Sweet Home is located at 1613 Monroe Sheffield Road and is licensed as an assisted living facility to Fleda Bown. Our Google map calls to attention the intersecting Larry Brown Road. Within this triangle of bordering properties, multiple Brown relatives reside. Notably, the sheriff stated, "deputies found the victim severely injured on the side yard of an adjoining property" and that there is evidence "indicating the five dogs responsible for this attack lived on the property."

Online data shows that among these properties, 1619 lies between and is also known as Brown's Harbor House, which appears to be related. Thus, this area contains multiple properties, multiple Brown relatives and all of the assisted living residents as well. This is important because Pastor Larry Brown is now claiming the opposite of police findings. He claims the attacking dogs are stray (with unknown owners) or feral and have no association to the Home Sweet Home property.

Sheriff officials have not verified Brown's claim. Investigators will eventually determine the property lines, the ownership of the adjoining property(s) and the ownership of the attacking dogs. Certainly, it is a common excuse after a fatal dog mauling to claim the dogs were "strays" with unknown owners. In the state of Florida a dog "owner" means any person, firm, corporation, or organization possessing, harboring, keeping, or having control or custody of an animal.

Finally, in the U.S., "feral" dogs are domesticated dogs born in the wild (outside of human care) that have never been kept or owned by a human. Feral dogs are rarely, if ever, involved in fatal dog attacks. "Stray" dogs, on the other hand, are domesticated dogs born and kept by humans that are roaming or have been abandoned. Stray dogs have been involved in numerous fatal dog maulings, particularly in the instances of owned dogs that are un-collared and roaming.

assisted living facility

Multiple properties, where multiple relatives live, are near the assisted living facility in question.

Earlier this week in Texas:
03/04/20: Lawsuit claims elderly Alzheimer's patient mauled by dog at nursing facility
03/03/20: 92-year-old Alzheimer's patient mauled by stray dog at Tomball facility, attorney says
03/03/20: 92-year-old woman with Alzheimer’s mauled by rescued dog inside care facility

Baseline reporting requirements:
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.

After Multi-Victim Attacks in Sausalito by Two Pit Bulls, Marin Humane Society Refused to Seize Dogs for Bite Quarantine

Neighbors and witnesses testified at a Sausalito city council meeting held on February 11.

Outraged Neighbors
Sausalito, CA - On January 21, two subcontractors were mauled by a pair of pit bulls on Currey Lane. A third man was chased onto the bed of his truck by the dogs. The attacks occurred on the same day at two separate times, the morning and afternoon. After each attack, the dogs were returned to the owner's home, where they had escaped from previously. Marin Humane Society (MHS), the contracting agency for animal control, refused to seize the dogs for bite quarantine.

On February 11, Sausalito Police Chief John Rohrbacher gave a community update of the "incident on Currey Lane" at a city council meeting. Dennis Webb, the owner of Webb Construction, whose three workers were attacked, provided testimony along with Kay Moore, who was viciously attacked by these same dogs in 2016. "They smashed me down to the cement, bit my arm and they took my dog Poppy by the neck and wouldn’t release her," Moore testified.

The 22-minute video of the meeting shows this testimony and highlights the refusal of Marin Humane Society to seize these dogs, using a home quarantine "option" instead. The home quarantine "option" is not acceptable after multi-victim attacks, which sent two people to the hospital. Using this "option," MHS left these volatile dogs in the control of an irresponsible owner who consistently failed to properly contain them. This is a major dereliction of duty by MHS.

As we write this post, these two pit bulls remain at Daniel Meyer's home on Currey Lane, awaiting a Potentially Dangerous and Vicious Dog hearing set for March 24.1 Notably, Meyer is a public defender for the city of San Francisco. Meyer claimed his at large dogs were only trying to protect his home from intruders and alleged the subcontractors were trying to "break into his home." Meyer also provided photographs of his two vicious dogs dressed up like Santa clowns to KPIX.

Three weeks ago, Meyer was served with a 60-day eviction notice, which is due on or about the date of the vicious dog hearing. Neighbors report the dogs have escaped Meyer's home twice since the initial home quarantine period and they continue to be afraid to get their mail. "We are all petrified, especially the older folks," Webb told KPIX. "Our workers are carrying around pepper spray and people can’t walk down the street without the fear of being attacked," Webb said.

Pit bull injuries Sausalito dog attack

Some of the injuries inflicted by two loose pit bulls on Currey Lane on January 21, 2020.

February 11 Meeting

Police Chief John Rohrbacher opens the video and provides an overview of the "Currey Lane incident." Both subcontractors had to be taken to the hospital for emergency care. Sausalito police and MHS responded to the scene, along with paramedics and firefighters. MHS submitted "petitions" (similar to a police report) to the district attorney's office, and Rohrbacher estimated a Potentially Dangerous and Vicious Dog hearing would be scheduled in the next two weeks.

Attorneys working for the Consumer Protection Unit of the Marin County District Attorney's Office will be the hearing officers, Rohrbacher said.

"I know people are very concerned," he said, but our department does not have kennels, which is why we contract with the humane society. "I do understand that people are upset," he reiterated. "It's not that we disagree, but there is a process for this to go forward. The owner knows that if those dogs get out and they are impounded by the humane society, he's not going to get them back until the hearing is over. He has a vested interest in making sure those dogs are secure."

Why is the public's safety in the hands of an irresponsible dog owner whose pit bulls have gotten loose multiple times, attacked four people and one dog already, who alleges the subcontractors were trying to break into his home, and who dresses up his vicious dogs like Santa clowns to gain public sympathy? Rohrbacher delivered a powerful statement, but it is undeniable the system is broken for dog bite victims and all angles point to the dereliction of duty by Marin Humane Society.

During Webb's testimony (7:55), he stated that four years ago he was bitten badly by a dog and so were about a dozen other people in Sausalito. "They were documented, they are confirmed and there are case numbers," Webb testified. The serial biting dog "Sparky" belongs to Cheryl Popp, who is a board member for Marin Humane Society.2 Webb said that after every biting incident, "nothing happened." Nobody is enforcing dog bites here in Sausalito, Webb told city council.

"Recently, two of my men got mauled," he said, at "two different times of the day." In the morning, Sean or his assistant drove him to the hospital. In the afternoon, Jose Alvarez was taken away by ambulance. There are rules, regulations and ordinances that say that if two dog bites happen [and they are puncture bites], the dogs must be immediately removed. "These are ordinances from the animal control department. They are not even following their own ordinances," Webb stated.

"Numerous emails, numerous phone calls -- nothing. To the humane society, to the police department. They don't know how to handle it."

"The gentleman who owns these dogs is a public defender in San Francisco. His name is Daniel Meyer. He is 35-years old," Webb continued. "He's had six dog bites. Two of them two weeks ago, one of them three years ago, and a couple of them scattered in between." These dogs have been seen loose on multiple streets. We’ve asked animal control, "Can you check the property for a breach?" They will not check. We've asked the police department to check for a breach too.

Watch: On January 30, Webb films Jose on site as he recounts the vicious dog attack.

Moore's testimony (11:40) is also powerful. She and her pug named "Poppy" were walking up Currey Lane. One of Meyer's friends, who had the dogs out, started screaming at her, 'Pick up your dog,' Moore said, "showing that he knew these dogs were dangerous." Before I could even pick up my dog, "These dogs were on top of me," she said. "They slammed me down to the cement. They bit my arm. They took my dog Poppy by the neck. They wouldn't release her."

Moore, who is older and petite, was extremely traumatized by the attack. "Honestly, to this day, I still suffer from PTSD," Moore said. "This was a horrible incident. Dan Meyer had the opportunity to do something about this and he has not done anything. It's just a matter of time before these dogs take out a child and kill the child." No information was provided about what did or did not happen to Meyer and his two pit bulls after the 2016 attack. We hope that Moore sued him.

Lastly, we will touch on the testimony of Bob Stafford. Seizing a biting dog is not the same as "taking property." Dogs are only a property of "a qualified nature." Thus dogs are "subject to the police power of the State, and might be destroyed or otherwise dealt with, as in the judgment of the legislature is necessary for the protection of its citizens." This legal issue has been settled law for over one hundred years (Sentell v. New Orleans & Carrollton R. Co. - 166 U.S. 698, 1897).

"When the humane society comes and talks to you, you'd think they were Constitutional scholars. They pull out an iPad that shows the 4th Amendment on it. As you may know, the 4th Amendment prohibits arbitrary search and seizure of your home, which is your castle. The problem is, in that 4th Amendment, which I'd be happy to read to you at your leisure, even though it is very short, is that it has two key provisions. Probable Cause and [supported by oath or affirmation] -- anyway, they are both met in this situation. Somehow the humane society, which I think is the issue here, has in my opinion a faulty interpretation of the 4th Amendment where they are paralyzed. And unless you have the ability to take a video of a dog while he is attacking you, instead of defending yourself, they do not think there is any evidence. So, to me the issue is broader than our situation, it is the policy the humane society has." - Resident Bob Stafford

If a "warrant or other legal documentation" is needed "to enter" a home to seize a dog after multiple biting incidents for bite quarantine, then Marin Humane Society should have obtained this warrant and executed it. After the second attack on January 21, these dogs should have been confiscated for a 10-day bite quarantine and held by MHS until the outcome of the vicious dog hearing without exception. Instead, residents are expected to be "sitting ducks" for these dogs.

For legal clarification, we reached out to California dog bite attorney Kenneth Phillips, whose legal practice is dedicated to only dog bite cases. "Humane officers in California have law enforcement powers for issues pertaining to animals," Phillips wrote to us. "They have the power to enforce these laws and to investigate situations of animal neglect or cruelty, including issuing citations, collecting evidence, confiscating animals and property, making arrests and appearing in court."3

Kay Moore - pit bull attack sausalito

Kay Moore suffered multiple puncture injuries and bruising in the 2016 attack. One of Meyer's pit bulls also grabbed Poppy by the neck, ripping through her harness, and would not let go.


In California, humane enforcement officers have law enforcement powers for issues pertaining to animals, including confiscating animals and property, making arrests and appearing in court. As Police Chief Rohrbacher states in the video, home quarantine is an "option" not a mandate. After the second attack on January 21, these dogs should have been confiscated for a 10-day bite quarantine and held by MHS until the outcome of the vicious dog hearing without exception.

California is also a strict-liability state. We hope that Webb's workers file lawsuits against Daniel Meyer. As Webb indicated during the meeting, "close to half a million dollars" in damages have been inflicted by "Sparky," a dog belonging to a board member of Marin Humane Society, which has bitten numerous people in the past. Clearly, MHS has failed to carry out their animal control contract with the city of Sausalito. The only question that remains is if MHS can be sued for this?

"Sparky" is a serial biter. Meyer's two pit bulls are too. Webb stated that Meyer's dogs were responsible for about six different bites, yet only now are they facing a Potentially Dangerous and Vicious Dog hearing. It is unknown if Popp's dog ever faced a similar hearing, the same dog she is holding in her Marin Humane Society board member photo. The conflict of interest regarding "Sparky" and MHS being the contracting animal control agency could not be more evident.

Finally, the Potentially Dangerous and Vicious Dog hearing scheduled for March 24 should be interesting. If Meyer's dogs are declared "potentially dangerous" or "vicious" all Meyer has to do is move to a different county, say San Francisco County, and any court ordered provisions, such as mandatory muzzling when off property, will be muted. Meyer's dogs will no doubt eventually wind up in that city's vicious dog hearing process as well, and the legal process will start all over again.

Pit Bulls belonging to Daniel Meyer, marin humane society

Attorney Daniel Meyer's two pit bulls involved in the January 21 multi-attacks on Currey Lane.

Dennis Webb and police chief, marin humane society

Police Chief John Rohrbacher and Dennis Webb spoke at the February city council meeting.

1Back in February, Cindy Machado of Marin Humane Society said the multi-victim attack "seems to meet the definition of a potentially dangerous animal case." No, by definition, as well as including the 2016 attack, this meets the definition of a vicious dog case. 6.04.181 Potentially dangerous and vicious dogs.
2Cheryl Popp was appointed to the board of Marin Humane Society in 2019.
3From April 26 to May 1, 2020 Marin Humane Society is hosting, "Animal Law Enforcement Training Academy (Advanced)" for the Animal Law Enforcement Training Academies by the California Animal Welfare Association. This is an "intensive forty-hour study of investigation procedures as they relate to California anti-cruelty and anti-neglect laws and includes such topics such as search warrants, evidence collection and preservation, crime scene photography, advanced report-writing, court case preparations, and crime scene scenario investigations." Marin Humane Society is a "go to" organization regarding California state law for humane officers. Yet, in this case they claimed they had no confiscation powers, thus the only option was to home quarantine after multi-victim attacks.

Related articles:
05/28/19: Conflict of Interest: San Francisco Animal Control and Virginia Donohue
12/06/18: San Francisco Animal Control: Vicious and Dangerous Dogs Unleashed