Attacks by Vicious Dogs Inside Shelters Are Rising; A Closer Look at the Oakland County Animal Shelter Attack

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 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.

oakland county animal shelter

New equipment added to kennel block after attack inside the Oakland County Animal Shelter.

1It is unclear if this is an actual snare.
2Audio has been truncated to remove some dead space portions.

Related articles:
05/15/19: Volunteer at Humane Society of St. Lucie County Dies After Pit Bull Attack
03/27/19: Pit Bulls Attack, Kill Owner While She Visited Her Dogs in Bite Quarantine Facility

2020 Dog Bite Fatality: Woman Killed by Pack of Dogs on Tribal Land at Taos Pueble in New Mexico

pack attack taos pueblo
Police believe Kay Torres died after being attacked by a pack of dogs at Taos Pueblo.

Woman Killed by Dogs
Taos Pueblo, NM - Law enforcement believe a woman was killed by a pack of dogs on tribal land in early January. Taos Pueblo Gov. Edwin Concha confirmed that the New Mexico Office of the Medical Investigator is looking into her death. The obituary for 52-year old Kay Torres states she passed away unexpectedly on January 8. Her sister, Sandra Bible, said Torres had worked for Taos Pueblo Head Start as well as Taos Public Schools over the years, reports Taos News.

According to a Taos County dispatch log, a caller reported seeing Torres' body surrounded by a group of dogs that were attacking her near the intersection of Leaf Arrow Lane and Willow Lane. The caller fended off the dogs with a stick. When the dogs moved away, the caller could see bite marks on Torres' arms and legs. "It appears that Kay Torres was killed by a pack of dogs," Taos Pueblo Tribal Police Officer James Gladeau reported from the scene, according to the log.

The New Mexico Office of the Medical Investigator has not confirmed the cause of death in a reported dog mauling that occurred eight days ago.

The log report did not indicate how many dogs were involved or if the dogs were later captured. According to Bible, loose dogs have been an ongoing issue in the community. "We've been hearing that this was not the first dog attack on tribal land," Bible told Taos News. "They have something out there where you're not supposed to have more than two dogs. But everybody has more than that. There's no control on the reservation." Tribal policy limits households to two dogs.

Kay left behind six children, according to her obituary. One of her children, Nightwalker, posted on Facebook on January 12, "I love you so much! Watch over all us and now you can rest. She might of been struggling with life but she always stayed fighting and made the best of things even if we didn’t have a whole lot." Bible, who lives in Tulsa, told Taos News she and Torres are Taos Pueblo and Muscogee, a tribe based in Okmulgee, Oklahoma. Torres later settled at Taos Pueblo.

Fatal Dog Attacks on Reservations

Our nonprofit has recorded 12 fatal dog attacks on Indian reservations since 2007. The actual number is unknown, as media reports are often limited on tribal lands. Reservations in Arizona and New Mexico have the most fatal dog maulings. Pack attacks involving loose dogs -- loose dogs that have owners -- are the most common scenario. Several years ago, two fatal attacks on adjacent reservations in South Dakota, Rosebud and Pine Ridge, drew significant media attention.

map iconView the Google Map: Fatal Dog Attacks on American Indian Reservations.

Learn about breed-specific laws on Indian reservations in our State-by-State section.

Related articles:
07/23/16: 2016 Dog Bite Fatality: Pack of Pit Bulls Kill Boy on Navajo Nation Reservation
03/17/15: 2015 Dog Bite Fatality: Woman Killed by Dogs on Rosebud Indian Reservation
11/22/14: 2014 Dog Bite Fatality: Pack of Dogs Kills Child on Pine Ridge Indian Reservation

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.

2020 Dog Bite Fatality: Family Pit Bull Kills 4-Month Old Baby Girl in Dayton, Ohio

family dog kills infant dayton ohio
A 4-month old infant was killed by a family pit bull in Dayton, Ohio on January 9.

Mother Asleep on Couch
UPDATE 01/15/20: The Dayton Daily News obtained the search warrant. On January 9, just before midnight, the baby's father arrived home and found his baby, 4-month old McKenzie Terwell, dead on the floor. The infant had been mauled by a family pit bull. The mother of the child, Mary Shoup, was sleeping on a couch, possibly after taking prescription medication. Terwell died from blood loss due to extensive soft tissue trauma, according to the county coroner.

When police officers arrived at the Vermont Avenue home, the baby's father, 21-year old Parker Terwell, was on the front porch with the baby's body, reports the Daily News. "Mr. Terwell said he just arrived home, and his girlfriend and mother of the child, Mary Shoup, was asleep on the living room sofa," states an affidavit written by Dayton Police Detective Karina Sulek in the search warrant request. "Mr. Terwell informed officers that Ms. Shoup is on prescription medication."

Medications prescribed to Shoup were seen next to the sofa, the affidavit states, including Alprazolam, Bupropion and Sertraline. No criminal charges -- pending or otherwise -- have been announced thus far. The search warrant, however, lists endangering children as a possible charge. One pit bull was seized from the home after the deadly attack. According to neighbors, this was a multi-pit bull household; the couple kept two or three pit bulls in the home's fenced yard.

WDTN reported additional information, including that the multiple prescriptions for the infant's mother were found to have side effects, such as drowsiness and insomnia, as well as cognitive dysfunction (brain fog), a diminished ability to think, remember or reason. The baby's father also told police officers he got rid of a bong before they arrived. It is unknown if either of the infant's parents will face charges. So far, no funeral information for McKenzie has been announced.

01/13/20: Family Dog Kills Infant
Dayton, OH - On January 9, just before midnight, Dayton police officers were dispatched to a home in the 100 block of Vermont Avenue for reports of an infant not breathing. Officers found the baby girl had died after being attacked by the family dog, according to Lt. Jason Hall. The infant died of blood loss due to extensive soft tissue trauma, according to Montgomery County Coroner Dr. Kent Harshbarger. The baby girl was later identified as 4-month old McKenzie Terwell.

The case remains under investigation by the Special Victim's Unit. Police did not release the dog breed information. The animal was taken into custody and is being held in quarantine while the investigation is being conducted. Terwell's death marks the fifth fatal dog attack in Montgomery County since 2012. Four of the five deaths occurred while under the leadership of former Dog Warden Mark Kumpf, the most notorious being the savage death of Klonda Richey in 2014.

Evening Updates

In a 6:13 pm update, WDTN confirmed the dog is a pit bull. "The dog, who Dayton Police tell us is a pit bull, has since been quarantined and the incident is under investigation by the police department’s Special Victims Unit," reports WDTN. It remains unclear if the baby was visiting the home. In 2017, the very first time infant Barrett Hagans stayed overnight at his father's home in Pike Township, Ohio, one of his father's pit bulls killed the baby while he slept in his bassinet.

On Tuesday, text of the 911 call was released. The baby's father told the dispatcher, "I just got home, I don't know I just saw my baby on the floor and I don't know what to do." He told the dispatcher the baby's mother supposed to be with her, and now the baby is not breathing. "She's cold. She's gone," he said. The father said he tried to do CPR on the baby, but achieved no results. "I'm sorry," the caller said. "I don't know what happened. I don't know what happened."

Infants Killed by Dogs

In October, we released new data on pit bull fatality trends over a 14-year period, 2005 through 2018. Trends include: 66% of fatal dog maulings are perpetrated by pit bulls; 49% of infant deaths due to dog maulings are inflicted by pit bulls; and 73% of adult deaths due to dog maulings are inflicted by pit bulls. Half of all infants (< 1 year old) killed by dogs are killed by pit bulls, primarily family pit bulls. This infant was alone at the time too. Criminal charges should be mandatory.

dog kills infant dayton

Home on Vermont Avenue where a family pit bull killed an infant on January 9 in Dayton.

dog kills infant dayton

Neighbor Darleen Bohannon said the family kept two or three pit bulls in their fenced yard.

map iconView the Google Map: Ohio Fatal Pit Bull Maulings.

Related articles:
09/29/17: 2017 Dog Bite Fatality: Family Pit Bull Fatally Mauls Infant in Knox County, Ohio

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.

2020 Dog Bite Fatality: Woman Charged with Murder After Violent Pit Bull Attack in Rockcastle County, Kentucky

Rockcastle county pit bull kills, Donald Abner
Donald Abner, 55, died after being mauled by a pit bull in Rockcastle County, Kentucky.

Probable Cause Hearing
UPDATE 01/22/20: Testimony from the probable cause hearing revealed details about the cause of death, but parts are still pending. Melissa Wolke is charged with murder in connection to the death of Donald Abner, 55, in an attack that also involved Wolke's pit bull. Officers shot and killed the dog at the scene. The initial cause of death is asphyxiation. The coroner also determined that Abner had a broken bone in his neck, an injury that is not consistent with a dog mauling.

If the coroner determines that dog bites were a contributing cause of Abner's death, his death will be included as a dog bite fatality.

Kentucky State Police Detective Ryan Loudermilk testified that a neighbor reported hearing sounds of a party throughout the night. When the neighbor went to check on the sounds, he reportedly saw Wolke on top of Abner, assaulting him and saying, "Good boy, get him," to the dog, a pit bull named "Denali." At that point, the neighbor took a video of the attack with his cell phone. Later, he told investigators he deleted the video evidence because "it made him sick to watch."

When police searched Wolke's home, a singlewide mobile home, it appeared neat with no signs of disorder or a struggle. No drugs were found at the scene, just a mostly empty bottle of Jagermeister. Seven hours after Wolke was booked into jail, she was still too intoxicated to be interviewed. When Loudermilk was able to interview Wolke, she began crying, telling him repeatedly, "Oh my God, I went redneck on him." Wolke said she could not recall any fighting.

Wolke said she had been staying at the home for about three months, and that Abner was staying with her. She claimed Abner didn’t have a job or a car, and she wasn’t sure how long he planned to stay with Wolke, reports WYKT. The two had been good friends for 20 years. Wolke said she had a history of blacking out on alcohol. She claimed she warned Abner that she could black out. She also claimed "Denali" was a former fighting dog. How she acquired the dog is unknown.

01/12/20: More Details Released
The owner of the pit bull, 38-year old Melissa Wolke, was charged with murder in connection to the death of Donald Abner. On Friday morning, at about 3:40 am, deputies received a 911 call. When they arrived at the singlewide mobile home on US 25 near Pug Lane they encountered an aggressive pit bull. An arrest citation states that Wolke sicced her pit bull on Abner. It was the 911 caller who witnessed Wolke attacking Abner and giving her dog commands to attack the man.

"The way I look at it is that she used her animal, a pit bull, as a weapon to help her in this altercation." - Kentucky State Police Trooper Scottie Pennington

Arriving deputies also witnessed Wolke sitting on the man and punching him in the face, while the dog attacked him. According to the arrest citation, Wolke appeared to have blood on her hands and feet, and a large clump of hair in her hands that was consistent with the victim's hair, reports LEX 18. During an interview Friday, Wolke told Kentucky State Police that she was going "redneck" on the man and that she was the owner of the attacking pit bull, named "Denali."

There are conflicting reports about who lived at the home near Pug Lane. Wolke and her dog were "there at the time," reports LEX 18. On Saturday, the man's body was sent to the state medical examiner's office in Frankfort. Police said the man suffered dog bites to his face and head. Police are awaiting the cause of death from the autopsy report. "They’ll be able to tell if it was a gun shot, a dog bite, or heart attack," said Trooper Scottie Pennington of the Kentucky State Police.

01/10/20: Pit Bull Kills Man
Berea, KY - A man is dead after being attacked by a dog in northern Rockcastle County, near Pug Lane, according to authorities. Rockcastle County Coroner Marvin Owens was called to the home on U.S. 25 early Friday morning after a reported fatal dog mauling. Arriving state troopers found an aggressive pit bull near a truck at the home. They shot and killed the animal. News footage shows a veterinarian at the scene bagging the dead pit bull in a black, plastic garbage bag.

Kentucky State Police said the dog was not a stray and apparently belonged to a woman who was visiting the home. That woman, the owner of the dog, has been hospitalized due to the trauma of the experience, reports LEX 18. Neighbors told WKYT the people who lived at the home had only recently moved in. Jerry Merritt said he's heard gunfire at night in the past few weeks, apparently coming from the residents, "I don’t know what they’re shooting at or for the fun of it or what."

Friday Evening Updates

Late Friday, police charged Melissa Wolke, 38, for murder in connection to the death 55-year old Donald Abner. When state troopers arrived at the home on Pug Lane, Wolke was on top of Abner, punching him. She was also commanding her pit bull to attack him. Wolke had to be Tased to get her off the victim. She also refused to call off her dog. The pit bull had to be shot and killed as a result. An autopsy is scheduled for Saturday to determine the cause and manner of death.

A Google Search returns many arrest photographs of Wolke. In 2013, she ran a Twitter page too. Its unknown if the case is categorized as domestic violence. One of the most horrific Kentucky domestic violence cases involving a pit bull occurred in 2015, when Marilyn Stanley was partially scalped by a pit bull Zachary Allen Gross "directed" to attack her. Despite routine scalping injuries inflicted by pit bulls, investigators determined that Gross cut off her scalp with a sharp knife.

Kentucky Fatal Dog Attacks

In 2019, canines in Kentucky killed four people. All four victims were male. In February, 1-year old Ashton McGee was killed was killed by a family pit bull-mix in Guthrie. In May, 2-year old Isaiah Geiling was killed by a family pit bull in Louisville. In October, 3-year old Steven Thornton was also killed by dogs, rottweiler-mixes, in Louisville after he climbed through a bedroom window while the rest of his family slept. In June, 46-year old Brian Butler was killed by three pit bulls in Gilbertsville.

Kentucky is a moderate population state with an estimated 4.5 million residents. Despite dogs killing nine people in California in 2019, a state with an estimated population of 39.6 million, the rate of fatal dog attacks in Kentucky last year (per 100,000 population) was over four times higher than California. Traditionally, states with the highest populations -- California, Texas and Florida -- also have the highest number of fatal dog maulings each year, excluding the state of New York.

Rockcastle county Melissa Wolke murder

Rockcastle County - Melissa Wolke is charged with murder after violent pit bull mauling.

Rockcastle county pit bull kills

Veterinarian seen bagging the dead pit bull after a vicious mauling in Rockcastle County, Ky.

map iconView the Google State Map: Kentucky Fatal Pit Bull Attacks.

Related articles:
09/25/19: 2019 Dog Bite Fatality: Man Killed by Three Pit Bulls in Western Kentucky
01/26/19: 2018 Dog Bite Fatality: Winchester Mother Dies After Violent Pit Bull Mauling

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.