2019 Dog Bite Fatality: Family Pit Bull-Mix Kills Owner After Attacking Her Two Separate Times in Ventura County

Ventura County Animal Services Returned Dog After Earlier Attacks

ventura county - maria crawford

Maria Crawford, 54, was killed by a family pit bull-mix on June 28, 2019. Prior to this, the dog had attacked her head region two times inflicting serious injuries, including ripping off one of her ears.
After the first two attacks, Ventura County Animal Services returned the dog to the family, despite the dog's escalating owner-directed aggression targeting the owner's face and head region.
During 2019, poor safety policies in three county funded shelters and a private veterinary hospital contributed to the dog mauling deaths of four people; this account details one of those deaths.

Incident Overview
Ventura, CA - On July 2 of last summer, the Ventura County Star reported that a 54-year old woman was likely killed by her own two dogs. On July 10, we filed a Public Information Request with the Ventura County Medical Examiner's Office. By that time, we had already learned the victim's name and obtained photographs of the dogs from Facebook pages of family members. We had only been seeking cause and manner of death, but were approved for the full autopsy.

That was the first in a series of red flags that would follow. We received the autopsy report in September. Maria Crawford died of "dog bite wounds of the head, neck and leg," states the report. She suffered "severe facial bite lacerations with skin avulsion," lacerations through her eyes and nose, and a partially avulsed left ear. A large bite wound on the anterior neck caused "comminuted fracturing of the thyroid cartilage and hyoid bone" and perforated the left internal jugular vein.

Fracturing the hyoid bone is so rare, it accounts for only 0.002% of all fractures in humans. The most common cause of fracturing the hyoid is violent death by strangulation or hanging. Other causes include gunshot injury and car accidents. Crawford's death marks the third case we have on file of a pit bull crushing the thyroid cartilage and hyoid bone while killing a person. In all three cases, the bone was not fractured, but crushed (crushing injury) by the dog's powerful jaws.1

The attack that killed Crawford occurred on June 28, 2019. In the previous six months, the dog had targeted her face in two attacks, both requiring a treating physician and each injury escalating in severity. The first attack occurred on January 19, when the dog tore into her left cheek. The second attack occurred on March 19, when the dog fully severed her right ear. After both facial and head region attacks, Ventura County Animals Services (VCAS) returned the dog to the victim.

The fatal attack occurred in the 10600 block of Sunflower Street. Officers were dispatched to the home about 4:25 pm after a family member returned home and found Crawford dead. Authorities confiscated two dogs from the home, "Havoc," a female pit bull, and "Kai," a neutered pit bull-mix, but designated an "Australian Cattle Dog" in VCAS records. This was the third time "Kai" had been impounded for attacking Crawford, but the breed was never corrected in VCAS records.2

Kai was 81-pounds, twice the weight of a male cattle dog, part "brindle," a non-existent coat color in cattle dogs, and riddled with bully features.

According to family members, "Kai" was the culprit in all three attacks, the last one resulting in Crawford's death. After the second attack, when the dog severed her right ear, VCAS placed a caution sign on the dog's "double barrier kennel" while quarantined. At that time, Canine Adoption and Rescue League (CARL), who adopted the dog to Crawford in 2012, told VCAS they wanted the dog back. CARL claimed they could "retrain the dog" and possibly return it to the family.

Again, this was after two escalating owner-directed attacks targeting the victim's head. Two days after Kai ripped off her ear, Crawford called VCAS and stated "this has all been a terrible mistake" and that she wanted Kai back. The dog was returned to her on March 25. Technically, both Kai and Havoc belonged to one of Crawford's two adult daughters, who apparently resided at the home, along with Crawford's husband. Three months later, the dog brutally killed Crawford.

Note: Shelters are now in the position of having to protect family members from their own vicious dogs. We recently wrote about a shelter attack in Oakland County Michigan. After a family pit bull attacked a mother and her two children, sending all three to the hospital, the mother demanded the dog back. This forced the county to hold the dog in quarantine while the county sought a show-cause hearing. Four days before the hearing, the dog viciously attacked a shelter supervisor.

The June 28 bite report states, "Owner was killed by dog." Havoc was released back to its owner, Alyssa Crawford, on July 18. VCAS released Havoc -- exonerated in part due to complex overlapping bite injuries and both dogs having similar teeth measurements -- with a signed letter of indemnity freeing the county of any future liability claim. The letter also ordered Havoc to be muzzled when off-property and kept separated or muzzled when in the presence of a minor.

This was an unwitnessed fatal dog attack inside a multi-dog household where both dogs had access to the victim. If no clear evidence exists to exclude a dog, it must be included as a suspect to protect public safety. In this case, "neither dog could be excluded based on the bite marks alone," states the autopsy report. Havoc was excluded because a photograph taken of the dog at the crime scene did not show blood on its coat. Havoc should not have been released.

Havoc was a biter with a "good grip." In a 2013 public post, Alyssa said her female attacked Kai, leaving a "gaping hole" that required staples.3

In addition to the fatal neck injuries inflicted by Kai, one or both dogs attacked her right leg just above the ankle, inflicting seven severe bite wounds. Crawford also suffered multiple puncture wounds on her hands and fingers. A multi-dog attack often involves one dog biting the head or upper body region and the other biting a lower extremity while both dogs jerk and pull in opposite directions. Lacking blood on the coat does not equate to being a non-participant in the attack.4

Attempts to Return Kai

Just two days after her mother's brutal mauling death, Alyssa inquires about the fate of both dogs to VCAS. Three days later, her sister Lauren does too, claiming that she was Kai's original owner. Lauren could not tolerate the idea that her "boo boo" was "wasting away in his kennel waiting to be euthanized." On July 16, Alyssa told VCAS that CARL had "set up a sanctuary" for Kai to go to so the dog could live out "the rest of his days there." The family did not want Kai put down.

By July 26, a private attorney, Lara Shapiro, became involved on behalf of both daughters. VCAS informed the attorney, who was referred to the case by the Animal Legal Defense Fund (ADLF), the county would not voluntarily release the dog due to the extremely severe nature of the attack. If the family failed to surrender the dog to VCAS on July 29, Kai's scheduled euthanasia date, the county would seek a hearing to have Kai declared dangerous and ordered to be euthanized.

On July 27, attorney Marc Colen wrote to VCAS stating he would be "filing opposition to the euthanasia of the cattle dog mix" in your control. Colen was working in tandem with CARL, and at this desperate hour, CARL had to add the "mix" language to even properly identify Kai as the dog. When VCAS informed Colen that this dog had attacked and killed its owner, Colen was stunned and taken aback. CARL had not even told this attorney why Kai was being held for euthanasia.

Ultimately, Crawford's husband agreed to surrender the fatal attacker and signed the papers on July 29. Kai was euthanized that same day.

Summary and Analysis

In 2019 alone, four women, ages 41 to 54 years old, were brutally killed by family dogs that had previously attacked them. Brandy Boschen-O'Dell told people the injury was from a "box-cutter." Nancy Burgess-Dismuke had been attacked by one of her boxers five times before it killed her. Yet, no case is as egregious as Crawford's. All household members knew about the first two severe attacks, VCAS staff knew, as did CARL. The third attack was Crawford's death sentence.

A third attack "to the head" was a foreseeable outcome. The 81-pound dog had escalating owner-directed aggression targeting the owner's face. No one in the victim's home was qualified to handle that dog, but VCAS returned it anyway. It should not have been a choice for Crawford to get the dog back. Animal control agencies need to look at "hard targeted bites" to the head, neck or trunk inflicted by family dogs on children and adults as predictive of future severe attacks.

Shelter policies must also adapt to the "new norm" of families fighting to keep vicious dogs that have already mutilated a household member.

There were no documented witnesses other than Crawford to any of the attacks, but family members claimed the last two were provoked and that Kai was only "defending himself." VCAS redacted the provocation sections in the records we obtained. VCAS did tell Crawford after the second attack that "We need to make sure [Crawford] is safe, and we need to make sure the dog will be safe." VCAS could not do so, the family would not do so and the results were disastrous.

Lastly, concerning the invalid breed labeling of Kai in VCAS records. It's either incompetence or deliberate fraud by Ventura County Animal Services. They had quarantined that dog three separate times in a 6-month period, the final time for 30 days. Even family members called the dogs pit bull-mixes. One day prior to the fatal attack, the victim's husband publicly called the pair of dogs "elderly pit bull-mixes." The owner, Alyssa, then made a joke about Havoc biting him.5

ventura county pit bull

Both dogs seen on public Facebook pages of family members: Kai, 2018 and Havoc, 2011.

map iconView the DogsBite.org Google Map: California Fatal Pit Bull Maulings.
12005 fatal pit bull mauling involving two pit bulls (male and female), Kentucky - "Autopsy revealed evidence of puncture wounds of the right internal jugular vein; fractures of the hyoid bone, and thyroid cartilage; cutaneous facial avulsion and traumatic absence of the right ear; and puncture wounds, abrasions, and avulsions of the extremities, buttocks, and chest." (Dog Bite-Related Fatalities: A 15-Year Review of Kentucky Medical Examiner Cases, by Sheilds et al., Am J Forensic Med Pathol, September 2009) and 2017 fatal pit bull mauling, Illinois - Cause of death was in part "crushing injury of the larynx and hyoid bone of the neck due to a dog bite and attack."
2Quarantine dates include, intake 01/23/19 and release 2/01/19; intake 3/20/19 and release 3/25/19; and intake 6/28/19 and euthanized 7/29/19, according to records we obtained from Ventura County Animal Services.
3Havoc attacked Kai about a year after the family adopted Kai. Notably, "grip" is a term most often used in bite work. In a comment on her 2013 post, she writes, "Kai was trying to make her stop by 'herding' her and she bit him on the side. She has a good grip, unfortunately." Then she quickly corrected her use of "grip" with: "Well jk she didn't GRIP him, I mean she has a good snap?" She also wrote a post about "irresponsible dog owners" that year.
4There are many attacks that illustrate how a two-dog attack involves the head or neck and a lower extremity (tug-of-war effect). Even more damning is that the male (such as Kai) is often the more confident aggressor, attacking the head, while the less confident female (such as Havoc) attacks the foot. That said, Kai was perfectly capable of attacking Crawford in multiple locations too, but had previously only targeted her face and head for serious injuries. Given that teeth measurements for both dogs were similar (indistinguishable) and that blood loss on the lower leg injury could have been minor, the assumption should have fallen on the side of public safety. Instead, VCAS, under the management of Jackie Rose, returned a dog, possibly involved in a fatal attack on a family member, to that same family. Ventura County covered their ass with a "letter of indemnity" as well, which speaks volumes about their confidence in this dog. Notably, Rose was hired by Ventura County in April of 2019 -- between the second and third attacks. At that time, Rose was close to being ousted as director of Multnomah County Animal Services, which was immersed in scandal, in part due to the "continued adopting-out of overaggressive or dangerous dogs." Deputy Director Donna Gillesby was the only top management at VCAS involved in both decisions to release Kai back to the family after the second severe attack and to release Havoc back to the family after the fatal mauling.
5On this date, June 27, one day before the deadly attack, Crawford had already been mauled in the face twice, leaving scarring. The dog had amputated her right ear too, presumably leaving quite disfiguring scarring. The only appropriate context for a "dog joke" at this time is what the husband wrote, who implied in his joke that maybe it was time to give away the family's two pit bull-mixes. Alyssa immediately responded: "RUDE. I'm telling [the dogs] you said that, maybe Havoc will bite you in the arse!" Once again, referring to Havoc as the biter in the household.

Related articles:
12/30/19: CA Hits Record High in Fatal Dog Attacks in 2019 -- Are Animal Control Policies Protecting Us?

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: Man Who Uses Wheelchair Killed by Pack of Dogs in Attala County, Mississippi

Attala County dog attack
Harvey Harmon Jr., 76-years old, was killed by a pack of dogs in central Mississippi.

Man Killed by Dogs
Attala County, MS - A man is dead after being mauled to death by a pack of dogs, Attala County Sheriff Tim Nail confirmed today. The attack occurred last Thursday at a home on Highway 14 West, in the Palestine community near Kosciusko. Four dogs were involved in the deadly attack, according to Nail, and were at the scene when deputies arrived. Two dogs belonged to a relative of Harmon, who also lived with him. The other two dogs were strays known to stay in the area.

The owner of the dogs agreed to put the dogs down, reports Breezy News. A veterinarian at the scene euthanized three of the dogs, the fourth dog escaped. No other information has been released. A discussion on the Facebook group, What's Happening in Kosciusko and Attala County Mississippi, says the dogs involved in the attack were pit bulls. We were first alerted to the group late last night. The nearby city of Kosciusko recently repealed their breed-specific ordinance.

Afternoon Updates

At the time of the attack, Harmon was in his front yard, reports the Clarion Ledger. The attack occurred about 10 am on January 30, according to Attala County Coroner Sam Bell. Harmon appeared to be have been dragged from his wheelchair by the four dogs, Bell told the Ledger. Harmon died at the scene of "blunt force trauma due to a pit bull attack." The owner of the dogs, Harmon's nephew, lived with Harmon and, to his knowledge, the attack was unprovoked.

It's hard to imagine, you live for 76-years, and in an instance like that you die from a dog attack that. I am sure was very horrifying. - Sheriff Tim Nail

WLBT spoke to Sheriff Tim Nail. The two stray dogs are now being characterized as mixed-breeds. When deputies arrived at the scene, Harmon was discovered dead on the ground. There had been no previous complaints about the dogs. The two pit bulls, belonging to Harmon's nephew, were euthanized at the scene, along with one of the strays -- the other stray fled and has not been found. Nail said that no charges have been filed, but the case is still under investigation.

The Star-Herald reported new details as well, including that the two pit bulls had been chained prior to the attack. Harmon was found deceased near one chained pit bull; the other had broken free from its chain. The two stray mixed-breeds were present nearby. "[Harmon] just might not have been able to fight them off," Nail said. "According to the owner, they weren't aggressive dogs, but clearly, they were aggressive that day," Nail said. The nephew has not been named.

Breaking Restraint to Attack

Dog attack studies measure different data. We attempt to collect 33 parameters for each fatal dog attack victim, including if the dog was chained "during" the attack. One piece published in 1987 measured if a dog broke restraint to attack. Of pit bull attacks, 14% (20 of 143) involved breaking restraint to initiate the attack, versus only 0.7% (1 of 135) of all other breeds. Thus, pit bulls were 14 times more likely to break restraint to initiate an attack than all other dog breeds combined.

attala county pit bull attack

The attack occurred on Highway 14 West between Sallis and Kosciusko in Attala County.

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

Related articles:
01/14/19: 2019 Dog Bite Fatality: Woman Killed by Pack of Dogs in Grenada County, Mississippi
05/17/18: 2018 Dog Bite Fatality: Elderly Woman Killed by Two Pit Bulls in Gulfport, Mississippi
03/08/18: Mississippi Man Killed by Pack of Pit Bulls; Second Death Inflicted by Same Pit Bulls

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.

DOT Seeks Comments on Pit Bulls and Breed Restrictions in Crowded Airplane Cabin; Drops Emotional Support Animals

Proposed Rulemaking: Traveling by Air with Service Animals

DOT seeks comments pit bulls breed restrictions

On January 22, 2020, the U.S. Department of Transportation issued a proposed rule stating that emotional support animals will no longer be considered a service animal while traveling by air.
The proposal recognizes that "aircraft are highly confined spaces" and that accommodating service animals must be balanced against the health and safety of other passengers and crew.
In a rare opportunity, DOT seeks comments on whether a crowded airplane cabin in flight justifies permitting airlines like Delta to prohibit pit bulls or any other specific breeds or types of dogs.

Summary of Proposal
DogsBite.org - On January 22, the Department of Transportation (DOT) issued a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) about traveling by air with service animals. The proposal is a stunning reversal from previous DOT positions -- airlines, the public and public safety prevailed! In one fatal swoop, DOT altered the definition of a service animal to align with the Americans with Disabilities Act and no longer considers an emotional support animal (ESA) a service animal.

Our nonprofit began writing about this issue in July of 2017 after a passenger was repeatedly attacked in the face by a "support" dog onboard a Delta flight. That dog was a psychiatric service animal (PSA), which at that time was treated the same way as ESAs by airlines, requiring a letter from a licensed mental health professional stating the passenger has a mental health-related disability. Under the new proposal, PSAs will be treated like all other service animals.

"Define a service animal as a dog that is individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of a person with a disability;

No longer consider an emotional support animal to be a service animal;

Consider a psychiatric service animal to be a service animal and require the same training and treatment of psychiatric service animals as other service animals;

Allow airlines to require forms developed by DOT attesting to a service animal’s good behavior, certifying the service animal’s good health, and if taking a long flight attesting that the service animal has the ability to either not relieve itself, or can relieve itself in a sanitary manner" - U.S. Department of Transportation, January 22, 2020 (DOT-OST-2018-0068)

All of this came about after thousands of people began purchasing fake ESA letters sold by for-profit companies claiming to need an ESA due to having a mental "disorder" or "condition" listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM). In 2018, an airlines trade organization boldly stated, "DOT's conflation of medical 'disorders' and 'conditions' identified in the DSM with the legal concept of 'disability' has created confusion and facilitates fraud."1

In a nutshell, DOT's unwitting language in Section 382.117(e)(1) is in part why fake ESA certification letters gained widespread traction. The proposed rule eliminates ESAs in the aircraft cabin because they are not individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of an individual with a disability. This is the same reason why the Department of Justice (DOJ) does not recognize support animals as service animals under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

Standardized Forms and More

After the Delta attack, airlines began requiring multiple forms for passengers with service and support animals in an effort to reduce "Fakers," one being a Veterinary Health Form attesting to the dog's vaccinations. Prior to this, owners of uncaged service and support animals in a cramped, crowded aircraft cabin did not have to provide proof of rabies vaccination. Due to this lack of proof, some passengers bitten by these dogs likely had to undergo post-exposure rabies treatment.

Under the proposed rule, DOT wisely standardized these forms into one set written by DOT. Previously, each airline had a unique set of forms. For instance, if a Delta flight connected to a United flight, the disabled passenger would need to be armed with both sets. DOT will require three forms: a health form, an attestation that the service animal is trained to behave in a public setting, and an attestation the animal will not relieve itself on flights longer than 8 hours.

The last question on DOT's behavioral attestation form states: "I understand that I am committing fraud by knowingly making false statements to secure disability accommodations provided under regulations of the U.S. Department of Transportation." Under the proposed rule, a Faker will now be subject to a federal crime, which is the proper jurisdiction for this crime. The following warning is also included on the behavior form for disabled passengers flying with a service animal:

"Warning: It is a Federal crime to make materially false, fictitious, or fraudulent statements, entries or representations knowingly and willfully on this form to secure disability accommodations provided under regulations of the United States Department of Transportation (18 U.S.C.§ 1001)." - U.S. Department of Transportation

Also, DOT finally ditched the absurd policy that an airline must accommodate a disabled person traveling with up to three service animals -- literally a pack of dogs, which could entail three pit bulls or rottweilers, allegedly being managed by a person with a disability onboard an aircraft. DOT now limits this to two service animals and requires both to fit on their handler's lap and/or within their handler's foot space on the aircraft, whereby eliminating the two-large-dogs scenario.

Pit Bulls and Breed Restrictions

In August 2019, DOT issued their final enforcement priorities regarding service animals. The department's non legally binding guidance came after multiple airlines started tightening policies on service and support animals in early 2018, including Delta banning pit bull-type dogs as service and support animals in July. DOT stated at that time, "The Enforcement Office continues to take the view that restrictions on specific dog breeds are inconsistent with the current regulation."

In September 2019, we published a significant follow up to DOT's guidance. We explained that due to how the current rule is written (Part 382), Delta likely has a legal basis for banning pit bulls; they would not have issued the ban otherwise. We also explained that DOT admitted in the guidance, there are still undefined areas in Part 382. Specifically, how airlines may (or may not) assess whether or not a service animal poses a "direct threat to the health or safety of others."

After Delta enacted their pit bull ban, they stated that "untrained, pit bull-type dogs posing as both service and support animals are a potential safety risk," and that "we must err on the side of safety." That was Delta's legal understanding of the Air Carriers Access Act (ACAA) at that time. Their viewpoint may have been emboldened due to Part 382 failing to define how airlines may (or may not) assess if a service animal presents a "direct threat to the health or safety of others."

"Absent an approach that clearly demonstrates an animal can behave properly, airlines should be able to impose breed restrictions to ensure passenger safety." - Delta Air Lines, May 23, 2018 (DOT-OST-2018-0068-1157)

DOT "guidance" cannot significantly alter Part 382. That must be done through a new rulemaking, which is what DOT proposed on January 22. But that is merely a "summary" of the NPRM. The full document is 94 pages. In it, DOT specifically seeks comments about whether a crowded aircraft cabin in flight justifies permitting airlines to prohibit specific dog breeds, as well as how airlines can assess if an individual service dog presents a "direct threat to the health or safety of others."

Learn why breed matters in service dogs and why pit bull service dogs are a bad idea. Primarily, pit bull "breed advocates," not advocates for the disabled, promote pit bulls as service dogs.

DOT Seeks Comments on Pit Bulls and Breed Restrictions, Pertaining to Service Animals in Crowded Airplane Cabin

In the proposed rule, DOT recognized for the first time that a "balance" must be struck between passengers and potentially hazardous service dogs. "Any requirement for the accommodation of passengers traveling with service animals onboard aircraft necessarily must be balanced against the health, safety, and mental and physical well-being of the other passengers and crew and must not interfere with the safe and efficient operation of the aircraft," states the Department.

"The cabins of most aircraft are highly confined spaces, with many passengers seated in close quarters and very limited opportunities to separate passengers from nearby disturbances. Animals on aircraft may pose a risk to the safety, health, and well-being of passengers and crew and may disturb the safe and efficient operation of the aircraft. Any requirement for the accommodation of passengers traveling with service animals onboard aircraft necessarily must be balanced against the health, safety, and mental and physical well-being of the other passengers and crew and must not interfere with the safe and efficient operation of the aircraft." - U.S. Department of Transportation, January 22, 2020 (DOT-OST-2018-0068)

Striking a balance in competing public interests -- the rights of passengers with service animals and the rights of passengers forced to sit next to a potentially hazardous dog -- has never before been uttered by DOT. Also, for the first time, DOT recognized that air travel, "which involves transporting a large number of people in a very confined space thousands of feet above the ground, is unique in comparison to airports, libraries" and other sites covered by the ADA.

DOT is now seeking comments on "whether, notwithstanding the DOJ rules under the ADA, the unique environment of a crowded airplane cabin in flight justifies permitting airlines to prohibit pit bulls and any other particular breeds or types of dogs from traveling on their flights." The below paragraph is specifically what DOT seeks comments for. The last sentence is fanciful, as no assessment test, not even state-of-the-art SAFER, can detect unpredictable aggression.

"However, the Department understands the concerns raised about pit bulls and certain other breeds or types of dogs that have a reputation of attacking people and inflicting severe and sometimes fatal injuries. The Department also understands that there may be concerns that certain dogs may be dangerous because of their muscular bodies, large and powerful jaws and neck muscles, and ferocity when provoked to attack.2

The Department seeks comment on whether these concerns are valid. In particular, the Department seeks comment on whether, notwithstanding the DOJ rules under the ADA, the unique environment of a crowded airplane cabin in flight justifies permitting airlines to prohibit pit bulls and any other particular breeds or types of dogs from traveling on their flights under the ACAA even when those dogs have been individually trained to perform as service animals to assist a passenger with a disability. The Department will consider this question in light of the full rulemaking record when finalizing this rule. The Department also seeks comment on whether its proposal to allow airlines to conduct an individualized assessment of a service animal’s behavior to determine whether the service animal poses a direct threat to the health or safety of others is an adequate measure to ensure that aggressive animals are not transported on aircraft, rather than banning an entire breed or type of service animal." - U.S. Department of Transportation, January 22, 2020 (DOT-OST-2018-0068)

How to Provide Comment to DOT

We encourage all commenters to read pages 23 to 28 prior to writing your comment to DOT. The actual pit bull section is pages 25-28, but DOT leads into the pit bull section by acknowledging the need to exclude "capuchin monkeys" as service animals "because they may present a safety risk to other passengers" and may exhibit "unpredictable aggressive behavior." This is critical language that leads into DOT seeking comments about pit bull service dogs in the aircraft cabin.

  • Comments are due by April 6, 2020
  • If you have a long response, submit it as a PDF, there is no length limitation on submitted PDFs.
  • In your PDF add the following:
    • Docket Number: DOT-OST-2018-0068
    • Traveling by Air with Service Animals Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM)
    • Title your comment in reference to pit bulls or breed restrictions
  • Submit to this website by clicking the blue "Comment Now!" button
  • Submission category "Public Comment(s)"

If Lacking Enough Comments

DOT will likely explicitly add language to the final rule, Part 382, prohibiting any airline from banning pit bulls as service dogs in the cabin. This will no longer be non legally binding "guidance" readers, it will be federal law. This is a unique opportunity for professionals and members of the public to comment on this critical federal-level issue. Also, DOT noted that during the previous comment period (May-Jul 2018) only 22 percent of commenters supported pit bull restrictions.3

Ideas & Themes for Comments

  • Your feedback and experience as a medical health professional.
  • Your feedback and experience as a service dog trainer or handler.
  • Your feedback and experience as a victim of a violent dog attack.
  • Your feedback as an advocate for victims' of violent dog attacks.
  • Your feedback as a person with aviation safety experience.
  • Your feedback as a person seeking safety in an aircraft cabin.
  • Flight Safety: Does a crowded airplane cabin in flight justify permitting airlines like Delta to prohibit pit bulls-type dogs as service dogs in the cabin?
  • Flight Safety: Airplane travel is subject to intense and sudden turbulence, the sound of roaring engines and high intensity takeoffs and landings. Only "bomb proof" service dog breeds should be allowed in a crowded aircraft cabin.
  • Flight Safety: Pit bulls bite and hold and often "repeatedly" attack. This is a well-identified, breed-specific bite risk that results in severe injury. Every effort should be taken to minimize this in an aircraft cabin that is isolated from help.
  • Flight Safety: If DOT forbids airlines from prohibiting a specific breed or type in cabin travel and a sudden attack occurs at 35,000 feet -- or worse, during takeoff -- the safety of the entire aircraft and everyone onboard would be at risk.
  • Flight Safety: There is no mechanism for passengers or crewmembers while in an aircraft cabin in flight to defend oneself if a pit bull-type dog suddenly attacks. No weapons of any sort are allowed onboard commercial flights.
  • Flight Safety: Delta Air Lines and United Airlines already ban "strong-jawed" breeds, primarily fighting breeds, from cargo transport for health and safety purposes. Why would these breeds be allowed uncaged in a crowded airplane cabin?
  • Flight Safety: The cabin of an airplane is not only crowded, it forces face-to-face encounters and eye contact that dogs interpret as signs of aggression. For this reason, airlines should be able to prohibit fighting breeds in the cabin.
  • Injury Statistics: What are the regional statistics of pit bulls inflicting severe injuries and national statistics of pit bulls inflicting fatal injuries compared to other dog breeds? See also, national bite statistics by breed (37.5% pit bulls).
  • Service Work: Why do most accredited service dog organizations use four specific dog breeds for service work -- Labradors, goldens, Labrador-golden crosses, standard poodles -- and discourage the use of guarding and fighting breeds?
  • Assessment: Currently, there is no reliable behavior test that detects unpredictable aggression. Yet DOT presumes an airline, which would have to provide highly trained testers for this purpose, can easily "conduct an individualized assessment of a service animal's behavior" while the dog is in the lobby (airline ticket counter line).
  • Pivoting: Despite the new DOT forms and dropping ESAs, some Fakers will pivot from an ESA to a PSA (45-47). For this reason, as the case of the Fake PSA that viciously attacked a man in the face resulting in a lawsuit showed, airlines should be able to restrict breed-types in the cabin (fighting breeds).
  • Breed-Specific Laws: Over 900 jurisdictions in the U.S. impose restrictions on specific breeds, chiefly pit bulls; 42 countries impose pit bull restrictions at a national-level; and all three U.S. military divisions ban pit bulls in privatized housing.
  • Unpredictability: Since 1988, appellate courts have upheld pit bull laws due to the breed's "unpredictable" aggression, including: "possesses inherent characteristics of aggression, strength, viciousness and unpredictability not found in any other breeds of dog" ... "pit bull dogs are unique in their 'savageness and unpredictability.'"

Summary and Call to Action

DOT's proposed rulemaking is a win for airlines, the public and public safety. It is also a win for persons with a disability flying with a service animal. The elimination of ESAs flying for free in the cabin is long overdue. Standardized forms provided by DOT to passengers with a service animal will reduce burden on these passengers and enhance public safety. Also, behavioral attestation forms created by airlines had no penalty. Now Fakers will face a federal crime for this act of fraud.4

For the first time ever, DOT recognized that a balance must be struck in the competing public interests between passengers with service animals and passengers forced to sit beside a potentially hazardous dog. Further, DOT recognized that the unique environment of a cramped airplane cabin allows them to increase restrictions on service dogs, verging from the DOJ's strict position on breed restrictions, which allows "service pit bulls" to evade municipal pit bull laws.

We implore all of our readers to submit a comment to DOT, which seeks feedback about "service pit bulls" flying in a crowded airplane cabin and whether airlines can prohibit specific breeds. Remember, it is primarily pit bull "breed advocates," not advocates for the disabled who promote pit bulls as service dogs. Many accredited service dog organizations only use specific dog breeds and discourage, even prohibit, the use of protection, guarding and fighting breeds in service work.

Delta bans pit bull type dogs

Some of the dog breeds most often categorized as pit bull-type dogs affected by Delta's ban.

1Comments of Airlines for America, Regional Airline Association, and International Air Transport Association, Submitted July 10, 2018 (DOT-OST-2018-0068-4288), Dated July 9, 2018 | Docket No. DOT-OST-2018-0068; and Cassandra. L. Boness, Jeffrey.N. Younggren & I. Bruce Frumkin, The Certification of Emotional Support Animals: Differences Between Clinical and Forensic Mental Health Practitioners, Prof. Psychology: Research and Practice, 2017, Vol. 48, No. 3, 216–223. (DOT-OST-2018-0068-0686) | Docket No. DOT-OST-2018-0068.
2While we do not know the motive of DOT's language choice in this case, "when provoked to attack," we do know that scientific medical studies consistently state that pit bulls frequently attack without provocation, "Pit bull terriers inflicted more complex wounds, were often unprovoked, and went off property to attack." (Kahn et al., 2019); "Most alarming is the observation that when attacks come from unfamiliar dogs, the pit bull was responsible for 60% and 63% of all injuries." (Prendes et al., 2015); and "Unlike all other breeds, pit bull terriers were relatively more likely to attack an unknown individual (+31%), and without provocation (+48%)." (O'Brien et al., 2015).
3As if passenger and crew safety in the aircraft cabin should be measured by a popularity contest.
4Multiple states have passed state laws making it a crime to falsely represent an untrained pet as a service animal. The problem is, these laws typically lack an enforcement body. Thus, they only hold value as being "symbolic." To our knowledge, no Faker has ever been prosecuted under one of these state misdemeanor laws.

Related articles:
08/19/19: Beneath the 'Headlines' of DOT's Final Guidance of Enforcement Priorities...
06/04/19: Delta Passenger Attacked in the Face by a Large "Support" Dog Sues Airline...
03/04/19: Mother of Child Mauled by an 'Emotional Support' Pit Bull at Portland Airport Sues
07/05/18: Why Breed Matters in Service Dogs and Why Pit Bull Service Dogs are a Bad Idea
06/23/18: Delta Bans Pit Bull-Type Dogs as Service, Support Animals in the Cabin
01/25/18: Delta Tightens Reins on Untrained 'Support' Dogs in the Aircraft Cabin
07/14/17: Delta Passenger is Severely Attacked by an Unrestrained Emotional Support Dog

2020 Dog Bite Fatality: Family Pit Bull-Mix Kills Infant in Lafayette, Indiana

family dog kills infant in lafayette
Julian Connell, 26 days old, was killed by a family pit bull-mix in Lafayette, Indiana.

Family Dog Kills Infant
Lafayette, IN - A one-month old baby is dead after being mauled by a family pit bull-mix, Lafayette police said Monday. The attack occurred at 1901 Greenbush Street at about 11:30 am Saturday. Police were dispatched to the residence after the infant's teenage brother called 911 -- both the brother and the baby's mother were in the home when the attack occurred. The pit bull-mix had been "fighting" with a beagle-mix in the home prior to attacking and killing the infant, police said.

The teenage brother separated the fighting dogs, according to police, and that is when the pit bull attacked the baby (redirected aggression).

The dog fight occurred in the same room where police found little Julian Connell and the pit bull, the Journal & Courier reports. Officers arrived to find the dog standing over the infant, police said. Officer Neil Cain shot and killed the animal in order to reach the baby boy and begin life-saving aid. Connell was transported to a local hospital, where he was pronounced dead. The family's surviving beagle-mix dog was taken to Purdue Veterinary Hospital for medical treatment.

The Tippecanoe County Coroner Donna Avolt said a preliminary autopsy showed the infant died from "multiple sharp force injuries" after sustaining dog bites to his head and neck. The manner of death was an accident. Lafayette Police are still investigating where the infant was lying when the dog fatally attacked him. WTHR reports the teenage brother took the injured beagle-mix out of the room after the dog fight. When he returned to the room, the pit bull-mix had attacked the baby.

"The two dogs were engaged in some sort of a fight in the bedroom where the infant was staying. The brother was actually able to separate the beagle away from the pit bull, take it out of the room and when he returned, he found that the pit bull had attacked the infant," Lafayette Police Lt. Matt Gard said. "The infant did suffer some catastrophic injuries." Gard added, when Officer Cain arrived, in order to render aid to the infant, the officer had to fire his handgun one time, killing it.

The Presence of Adults

Last July, we wrote about the Central Texas pediatric study, whose findings showed that parental presence was reported in 43.6% of all attacks and 72.5% were of major severity (Abraham et al., 2019). Multiple studies from Level 1 trauma centers examining severe dog bite injuries report similar findings, including that "Dog familiarity did not confer safety" (Garvey et al., 2015) and "Infants were more than 4 times as likely to be bitten by the family dog." (Golinko et al, 2017)

More recently, a West Virginia study stated, "Our study confirms the dangerous interactions between some dogs, principally pit bulls, and vulnerable persons, especially young children. The number and extent of injuries sustained by many patients, in particular among the owners or family members who had a pit bull in residence, should prompt serious consideration as to the implications of having a dangerous dog." The study called for stronger polices to protect children.

"Our study confirms the dangerous interactions between some dogs, principally pit bulls, and vulnerable persons, especially young children. The number and extent of injuries sustained by many patients, in particular among the owners or family members who had a pit bull in residence, should prompt serious consideration as to the implications of having a dangerous dog. Pediatric anticipatory guidance should include cautionary measures when it comes to safety in the home environment and potential dangers with some dog breeds." (Khan et al., Dog-Bite Injuries to the Craniofacial Region, J Oral Maxillofac Surg, [2019 Nov 14, Epub)

Recent pit bull fatalities involving active adult presence at the time of the attack include: the death of 13-month old Baby "Doug" Doe in California, whose babysitter was in "very close proximity" with the child when the family pit bull attacked, the death of 9-month old Liana Valino in Florida, whose grandmother was with the child when the dog attacked and the death of 1-year old Triniti Harrell in North Carolina, whose mother was with the baby when the family pit bull viciously attacked.

Home on Greenbush Street where a family pit bull-mix killed an infant in Lafayette, Indiana.

pit bull-mix killed an infant in Lafayette

Dog house seen at home where a family pit bull-mix killed an infant in Lafayette, Indiana.

map iconView the DogsBite.org Google State Map: Indiana Fatal Pit Bull Attacks.

Related articles:
09/24/19: 2019 Dog Bite Fatality: 13-Month Old Boy Killed by Family Pit Bull in Granite Bay
06/24/19: Central Texas Pediatric Study: Pit Bulls Inflicted the Highest Prevalence and Severity...
06/07/18: 2018 Dog Bite Fatality: Infant Killed by Family Pit Bull While Under Grandmother's Care

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.