In a small western Colorado city, a 150-pound or larger American Allaunt alleged "service dog" is in danger of being euthanized -- possibly this very week -- as a consequence of his having attacked a woman last November 2012, and his owner's having been cited under the community's "vicious animals" ordinance. A judge ruled in January that the animal should be put down, but its owner and his friends have launched an online campaign to save the dog which has included no small amount of withholding of certain key facts, along with spinning the story such that the biting victim is cast as an abuser who provoked the attack for no good reason, and who's lying about both what happened and her concomitant injuries. A petition to save the animal on the notoriously blindly animal-loving Care2 website has been signed by some nearly quarter million people, at this writing; yet the real facts of the story are becoming lost.
In this comprehensive article, writer Gregg DesElms provides the straight skinny, and warns others to be careful about being manipulated by the dog's zealous owners, supporters and apologists.
Analysis and Opinion
by Gregg L. DesElms
Tue 12 Feb 2013 @ 2:00 PM PST
NOTE: Thurs 14 Feb update included at this article's end.
NOTE: Wed 20 Feb update included after 14 Feb update.
NOTE: Mon 25 March update included after 20 Feb update.
NOTE: Wed 11 Sep 2013 update at the very bottom.
Montrose, Colorado is a town of around 15,000 mostly white people, located in the western half of the state about 60 miles south-southeast of Grand Junction. Named after Sir Walter Scott's novel A Legend of Montrose in 1882, the small community has served as both a shipping center (on account of its railroads), and an agricultural center (on account of its canal); and its Shavano Valley Rock Art Site, where are featured art panels depicting the cultural events of prehistoric people dating back to 1,000 BC or earlier, has helped to earn it a place on both the state and federal registries of historic places. Beyond that, Montrose hasn't been famous for very much...
...that is, until this past week or so, when the city manager's office, and its animal control office, became inundated with cards, letters, emails and phone calls -- literally hundreds of them, from all over the world -- demanding that a dog named "Dutch" not be euthanized, as is the current court-ordered plan for the animal after it attacked a woman on November 14, 2012. There's even a petition on the Care2 Petition Site which, as of this writing, has garnered some just under 250,000 signatures. Here's the petition's pitch:
Save Dutch the Service Dog
Dutch was accused of being a "vicious" dog and is now in danger of euthanization by court order. Last November, he bit someone and left puncture wounds. The person who was bit admits that they spent several minutes punching, kicking, and hitting him with a metal pole before he retaliated. [...] Send a message to the City of Montrose animal control office to stop the unwarranted euthanization of an Army Veteran's service dog by signing and sharing this petition.
Note the referral to Dutch as "an Army Veteran's service dog." More on that, and the many other distortions in this pitch, later.
An official Save Dutch Facebook page was started on February 3rd, which page tells the seemingly-compelling story of a gentle and not-aggressive dog that is a victimized innocent undeserving of death. The dog-loving Dog Heirs website, which is the petition's go-to source for an accurate explanation of the events, bears the headline: "Disabled veteran asks for public support; service dog faces euthanasia for biting woman who beat him with metal pole."
According to those clamoring to save Dutch, the four-year-old American Allaunt (an extinct breed) has been owned for the past three years by Jeremy Aguilar. He and his wife, Heather, have had the animal since its original owner, a woman -- the very woman whom Dutch bit, as it turns out -- who could no longer control and properly take care of it, gave it to the Aguilars. As the Dog Heirs site explains it:
An Army Veteran with disabilities is asking for the public's help in saving his service dog, Dutch, from court-ordered euthanasia. After being punched, kicked, and hit with a metal pole for several minutes, Dutch bit his attacker and has now been accused of being a "vicious" dog.
Dutch is a 4-year-old American Allaunt, who is a registered service dog and an important part of Jeremy Aguilar's life. According to the Aguilars, Dutch has never shown any aggressive behavior before or after the incident and is a certified AKC Canine Good Citizen.
Jeremy served in the Army, and fought in Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan and Operation Iraqi Freedom. He also was also deployed to Hurricane Katrina with the Oklahoma National Guard, which was the first unit to show up. Dutch came into Jeremy’s life a month after he married his wife Heather three years ago. Heather says that Dutch has been "the most therapeutic thing that could have ever happened" to her husband.
The Dog Heirs site goes on to spin the story thusly:
On November 14, 2012, Jeremy and Heather left Dutch with his former owner in Montrose, Colorado, while they drove a family member to the airport.
According to Heather, Dutch's former owner admitted to animal control officers and in court that she was beating Dutch before he bit her.
Heather says that Dutch's former owner said, "I started punching him in the face and kept punching him until my hands hurt so bad I couldn't hit him anymore," after which she grabbed a metal pole and used the pole to beat the service dog. She then pulled Dutch from her backyard into the house by his collar, and grabbed his mouth as soon as they got inside. Dutch then bit her. The woman was bitten on her leg and buttock and Dutch sustained injuries to his face and head.
Then, in a section entitled "Dutch's Injuries," the Dog Heirs site continued:
After the incident, Dutch was taken to a veterinarian who evaluated Dutch's wounds. The veterinarian's report stated:
"Face swollen like he was hit. Extensive ST trauma on left side of face. Swelling extends from nose up to eye and base of ear. Some dried blood noted on dog's fur but no wounds apparent in mouth or on face/body.
"Note - dog was extremely well-mannered and sweet in exam room. He did not require restraint during his exam, even when his abdomen, testicles and swollen face were palpated."
The Aguilars say that when they saw Dutch after the incident, his eye was swollen shut and his snout had swelled to three times its normal size.
The Dog Heirs article is careful to characterize the bitten woman's weapon as a "metal pole," and it even shows a photo of the post-incident and bent pole lying on the ground, looking as menacing as possible.
The next section of the Dog Heirs article describes Dutch's temperament, and quotes Carrie Williams, a so-called "highly recognized and experienced retired dog trainer and evaluator who has evaluated for organizations including Therapy Dogs International (TDI) and the American Kennel Club's (AKC) Canine Good Citizen Program (CGC)." As expected, Williams attests that Dutch is "anything but aggressive." Her assessment is bolstered by Sandie Wyman, an alleged ACK CGC evaluator, who said: "I am the CGC evaluator that tested this sweet dog. He did pass with flying colors and even gave me a kiss afterwards. This means that he will receive a real title from AKC stating he can now visit elderly people at nursing homes. I believe this dog is anything but aggressive. I am a certified dog trainer and have also done behavior objectives on animals. Dutch is anything but aggressive."
The article continues to explain that the City of Montrose's Animal Control office was pressured by the bitten woman to cite Aguilar under the city's vicious animals ordinance, which carries a potential sentence of one year in jail; and to further the notion of the woman's unreasonableness, the article cites that when presented with the option of Aguilar putting the animal through some kind of rehabilitation (to which the judge said he would only agree if the victim agreed), the woman victim refused.
The judge is Richard Brown of the City of Montrose Municipal Court. That's the person to whom city manager Bill Bell defers whenever anyone contacts him and demands that Dutch be spared because it's out of the city's hands and in the hands of the Court, now, he insists. “The No. 1 thing for people to know," Bell said, "is that no matter how many times they call the city offices or the City Council, we don’t interfere with the judicial branch of our city government.”
That judicial branch, voiced by Judge Brown, has ordered Dutch's death by euthanization, partly on the recommendation of the city's animal control office in a memorandum to the Court; and the judge ordered Aguilar to post a $500 appearance bond, and to surrender the animal to Animal Control by no later than this Thursday, February 14th (but preferably earlier). On that date, Judge Brown has scheduled a hearing, during which he'll learn if the animal has been surrendered; and during which Aguilar will learn what will be his fine and possible jail sentence, as well as what restitution, if any, he will have to pay to the bitten woman. When Aguilar posted the bond, the judge promised him that if he failed to surrender the dog, he would serve every bit of the one year in jail.
It all sounds pretty over-the-top, doesn't it? To hear Dutch's supporters tell it, the judge is a tyrant, and the bitten woman is actually the dog's abuser who's just going after him and his owner for no good reason; that she's overblowing the situation; that her wounds were just superficial, and she brought it on herself, in any case, by provoking the animal.
The Save Dutch Facebook page contains posting after posting of both the Aguilars and their supporters who insist that it's all a big railroad job; that Dutch is being treated unfairly; that he's not aggressive and wouldn't have harmed the woman if she hadn't been beating him; that the dog has been through "service dog" training, and so, therefore, enjoys special protections; and that he's also been through the AKC's Canine Good Citizen Program (CGC), and the Facebook page is rife with photos and video clips of a trainer taking a service-dog-red-vested Dutch through a mall, where everyone appears to love him, and not be afraid of him. Featured prominently on the page is a photo of a three-year-old-boy, referred to only as Dutch's "buddy" R.J., showing the child and the dog relaxing together on a sofa, the child obviously in no danger despite the animal's size and allegations of his aggression.
A woman named Heather Marseillan, the "Tacoma Pets Examiner" on The Examiner website, has now weighed-in all the way from Washington state. She wrote that Dutch "was punched, kicked, and beat with a metal pole before biting his attacker in self defense and has now been labeled by the court as a vicious dog. To many it seems that Dutch’s attacker should be the one being labeled as vicious but the service dog is the one in trouble." Marseillan continued:
Dutch, a 4-year-old American Allaunt, is a registered service dog and a vital part of Jeremy Aguilar's life. The service dog is has never shown any signs of aggressive behavior before or after this incident and is a certified AKC Canine Good Citizen. Service animals are specially trained and can not show aggression of any sort, but when a dog is fighting for his life it seems expected that he would react. Without service animals many people are not able to live a normal life. About a month after Jeremy married his wife Heather, three years ago, he got Dutch. Heather has said that Dutch has been "the most therapeutic thing that could have ever happened" to her husband.
Such a miscarriage of justice, the both woefully and sadly misguided Ms Marseillan would have us believe. So unfair to poor Dutch and his owners, the Aguilars and others on the Save Dutch Facebook page would have us believe. What to do, what to do. One can almost hear the mournful wringing of hands and worried pacing.
Sadly, though, it's only half the story: by no small coincidence, just the half intended to pull at your heartstrings and make you feel the kind of pity for the dog and sympathy for his owners that might well compell you to become one of the hapless now nearly 250,000 obviously gullible and undiscerning people who have signed the "Save Dutch the Service Dog" online petition. It is my unmitigated outrage at how those behind said petition, and the Facebook page, have decided to win at all costs -- even if it means lying and distorting and misrepresenting and flat-out leaving-out essential facts which give some balance to the story -- that has motivated me to write this one. Granted, the Dog Heirs website finally grudgingly made a passing acknowledgement to some balancing information by linking to it, though without explanation; but not until its initial version of the story had been out there for days, and had stirred-up a hornet's nest of public support for what it had maliciously, in my opinion, helped to convince people was an grave injustice when, in fact, there has been nothing of the sort. Dutch's owners, supporters and apologists, then, have no integrity; and that, as much as anything else, is the problem.
Don't be impressed by the numbers
Some years ago, when the 21st century was but two years old, I managed, as a volunteer, a very high-profile website owned and operated by the family of a very high-profile missing person; and of all the lessons I learned from the experience, the sheer numbers of it all is at the top of the list. Those of us of advancing years who remember, well, what life was like without the Internet; and whose only understanding of commerce was that of a brick-and-mortar world and the numbers associated therewith that a person can actually see and comprehend, sometimes have trouble wrapping our minds around the sheer numbers of visitors to a website that a big news story can generate. The case was so big, and our website was getting so many hits, that when its URL was shown across the bottom of the screen during two consecutive mornings of interviews by Diane Sawyer with the prime suspect in the case on ABC's Good Morning America (GMA) program, the site was completely choked to a standstill for around 45 minutes after said interviews were shown in each time zone across the United States.
After the first morning, Yahoo (which had donated the web hosting server space to the cause) put its best people onto the task of mirroring the site out across multiple data centers, and then carefully load-balancing the servers, routers and switches so that even if millions of people tried to visit the site at the same time from around the country, each server would only handle a small part of it and so there would be no more choking of the servers with all those hits until they just choked and stopped, as happened the first morning. So, on the second morning, when part 2 of Sawyer's interview with the famous prime suspect was aired, we looked forward to the site staying-up after its URL was displayed across the bottom of the screen toward the interview's end. But, alas, it was not to be. All servers in all data centers across the US were still choked to a stop by the overwhelming traffic. There were so many visitors to the site as each time zone broadcast the interview, and as it then rippled across the country, that even mirroring and load balancing had no effect. I've been in IT for pushing 40 years, and I know something about what it takes to bring down a multi-homed, multi-mirrored, multi-load-balanced website... especially one as well-engineered as our site had become by that second morning. No calculator I own was capable of handling all the zeros. I had to go into scientific notation mode to even adequately express it. No one on the Yahoo team had ever seen anything like it. It was one for the record books, for sure.
That's when it really hit me: the sheer numbers involved with the Internet... far more than most of we mere mortals -- and certainly our calculators -- can even fathom. No wonder even websites that sell objectively stupid stuff, I thought to myself, somehow still make money and survive... nay, thrive! The numbers of potential customers are just so mind-bogglingly huge that it only requires a tiny fraction of them to make even only small purchases, and, bingbangboom, a site owner can get rich in no time.
That's what we must keep in mind when contemplating the some quarter-million or so poor, misguided souls who have signed the "Save Dutch the Service Dog" petition. It sounds like a lot of people. In fact, even Aguilar is impressed by it. Here's what he wrote on the Save Dutch Facebook site about his first court appearance, and the over 200,000 petition signatures that have since occurred:
At the end of the court session I was asked by the judge if I had any questions and [I] asked if there was any possible way that I could send him to rehabilitation. He said no. So now they are saying euthanasia is only one of the options??? No, it was the only option I was given. Now that Dutch has so many supporters my voice is being heard. I guess no one wants to listen to one man, but will listen when over 200,000 people speak up.
Don't bet on it... especially after I make sure that all involved on the city's side of this issue read this article and get some perspective. On today's Internet, 200,000 petition signers is nothing. After Obama was re-elected in November, some GOP nutjobs in Texas launched a petition to secede Texas from the Union, and it got something like 25,000 signatures in about 8 seconds flat (not really... it actually took like a half a day or something, but my point is that it was fast). Next thing ya' know, there were 50,000; and then there was a duplicate petition for each of the other 49 states... some of which even beat-out Texas's sheer numbers in only a day or so. To those behind the petitions it all seemed like a lot, but it wasn't... neither in terms of being a percentage of all Americans or, especially, a percentage of the kinds of sheer numbers of people who can rally behind an online cause in a very short time. I wrote about it here, and here.
To keep it in perspective, our missing person site got over 200,000 unique visitors every less than a minute or so... and that was on a slow day! We had so many people signing our guest book that I had to put it into read-only mode several times a week just so the volunteer moderators (and we had a whole team of them) could get caught-up and find and delete the spam and other abuse. And it's not just our missing person site that had experienced such mind-boggling numbers. Whenever there's a big and breaking news story, the folks at Google will tell you that so many people visit the Google News site to read about it that the hit counters quite literally just give-up sometimes; and servers crash; and data pipes fill-up; and load-balancers fail; and the engineers who thought they understood the sheer numbers just sit around in amazement, trying to figure out how to keep it from happening during the next big breaking news story. Sites like that see, in just fractions of a second, as many unique visitors as have signed Dutch's petition. Just fractions! And so, I would encourage those in little Montrose, Colorado to be very careful about becoming impressed with how many people have signed the "Save Dutch the Service Dog" petition. Even if it hit half a million, it would still mean nothing, given the sheer numbers wrought by today's Internet. Truth is, it would be far more telling if all 15-thousand-something people living in Montrose all wanted Dutch's life spared... and that's clearly not the case.
“You can't convince a believer of anything; for their belief is not
based on evidence, it's based on a deep seated need to believe.”
- Carl Sagan
Those who have signed Dutch's petition, and who are commenting in his support on the Save Dutch Facebook page, are a combination of those who have simply been misled, as well as those who are animal lovers of such nutty intensity that they routinely personify them; people who ascribe to animals decidedely and uniquely human ways of acting and reacting; and who think that animals should have the same rights as people. And on the Care2 site, where Dutch's petition may be found, you can't throw a cyber rock without hitting one: they're everywhere, there... and unreasonable -- rabidly so, in fact -- to the last of them! I predict that when this article is read by them, I will be nothing short of Satan in their minds. Mark my words, and watch for their outrageousness in the comments beneath this article. Heck, over on the Reddit site, a poster whose monicker is "Audog" dared to go against the pro-Dutch status quo with what I thought was a quite reasonable posting about how the law views service dogs, and which ended with this:
It doesn't bode well in a court of law when attempts are made to bolster Dutch's legitimacy as a Service Animal by slapping a label on him after an incident has happened, not to mention that if Dutch was instremental in the mitigation of the handlers condition then why was the dog shelved instead of on duty? Any dog that shows animal aggression is a poor candidate for service training and anyone who would certify a dog after such a short time of being involved in such an situation should be looked at very carefully.
For this simple bit of wisdom which asked only of the pro-Dutch mob on that Reddit page that it take a giant step back and re-think things a little, user "Audog" was labeled a "troll." That's how it is with these animal rights nutjobs: they're deaf to all reason. Their precious animals can do no wrong; and are basically furry and four-legged little people to them. When it comes to the pathology of seeing animals as being on-par with people, I don't even know where to begin.
But it's even worse with those who are into what they call "bully" type dogs -- pitbulls and others similar -- because such owners exhibit the double-whammy of not only the previous paragraph's kind of blindly irrational dog love, but they're also constantly on the defensive because one can hardly turn around anymore without reading an article or hearing a news report about some pitbull somewhere killing a child or mauling an adult. Some of them are even engaging in a conscious propaganda campaign, building pro-pitbull websites; and posting videos onto Youtube showing how harmless are their pitbulls as demonstrated by such as their allowing their infants to play with them, unabated. Conversely, if anyone deigns to post a video of a pitbull's real and typically-aggressive behavior, the pitbull apologists complain to Youtube that it's too violent, or violates someone's copyright or trademark, or somehow defames someone...
...all such complaints lies, of course; but all of them things which Youtube takes seriously, and so will likely result in the video showing the pitbulls' true aggressive nature being taken down, even if only for however long it takes for Youtube to investigate. If the video's owner doesn't know how to protest (and the pitbull apologists are counting on that they don't), then the video will likely stay down, investigation or not.
That's the kind of one-sided, lying, manipulative, half-truth-telling, you're-all-wrong-about-my-pitbull crap that "bully" dog owners pull. You should have seen all the vandalism of the Wikipedia article about pitbulls that there was for a while a few years back, until it finally got locked while it all calmed down. Pitbull owners were just going in and making stuff up! It was a mess; but a telling one.
In her "assumption of risk doctrine" versus "strict liability" comments regarding the controversial ruling in Tracey v. Solesky, 427 Md. 627, 50 A.3d 1075 (2012), Maryland attorney Jennifer Lubinski deftly wrote, in May of 2012:
I’ve seen a lot of people posting cute little photos of pit bulls since this decision came out, with snarky captions like, “Look how scary we are!” or “I Love My Pit Bull!” That’s nice. And I love dogs too [but h]ere’s the thing: pit bulls – and I know that’s not the correct breed name for this dog, but it’s the name we all use in discourse, so let’s be honest and not get bogged down in semantics – were bred, historically, for two things: fighting and small prey hunting. Yes, it is sad, but true, that these dogs have been genetically abused by humans for centuries. They have been selectively bred for genes that will make them powerful biters and aggressive fighters. And they are terriers. I own a terrier, albeit a Wheaten Terrier, whose most serious injuries inflicted have been, to date, oodles of dog goo following major face-licking episodes. But terriers are really smart. And they are really stubborn. They were bred to be that way, because they were bred to hunt small vermin on farms, and only a dog who could think for itself could be trusted to decide whether to pursue a rat down any particular hole. They don’t wait for instructions.
When you pair a certain stubbornness with intelligence and brute strength, you have the makings of a potential disaster. Which is why a 2000 study by the US Centers for Disease Control (CDC) concluded that roughly half of all dog-related fatalities involved either a pit bull or a Rottweiler.
...what we have seen, in this particular case, is a decision by the Court of Appeals that pit bulls are dangerous dogs, and that the people who own them must be held responsible for them.
Do I think we are on a slippery slope, one on which eventually all dogs will be considered potentially dangerous? No. Have you ever seen a Yorkie? (Honestly, I’d rather be bitten by a pit bull. I firmly believe that dogs should be dog-sized.) The fact that a toy breed might be prone to biting doesn’t make it dangerous if, realistically, the dog is too small to cause much harm. Nor is size the determining factor, although it is certainly one factor. The point is, when the Court of Appeals decided to apply strict liability to pit bulls, it made a policy determination based upon the breed’s history, size, temperament, and jaw strength. Like it or not, a pit bull is more likely to bite than a Bichon, and when it does, its jaw clamps down like a vise. There are anecdotes about pit bulls who simply WOULD NOT LET GO. So if you are going to voluntarily own such a dog, great, good for you: but be prepared to pay the medical bills if your dog bites somebody. That’s all this decision does. It holds you responsible for your decision to own a dog that can cause an enormous amount of hurt when it bites.
...if you are going to choose to own a dog as powerful as a pit bull, you’d better be prepared to pay for ... stitches and God knows what else [a victim's] going to wind up needing, because that is how responsibility works in society. Deal with that.
"A dog that can cause an enormous amount of hurt when it bites." Well said, Ms Lubinski; but that's only the half of it. There's also the animal's marginal propensity to bite -- nay, to attack -- and to be both relentless and merciless about it. Pitbull apologists toss around words like "provoked" or "provocation" to defend their dogs' malicious acts, but just as they (often intentionally) misinterpret criticism of them and their animals as an attack, and respond with outrageous and over-the-top adhominem and invective, pitbulls misinterpret the innocent acts of humans as potentially threatening and respond with attack because that's how they're wired; and no amount of wishing otherwise will change that.
As lawyers debate whether Tracey v. Solesky is too legally sweeping, the pitbull apologists would like us to forget the material facts of the case which caused its filing in the first place:
The present case involves an attack by a pit bull named Clifford. Notwithstanding his relatively benign name, Clifford possessed the aggressive and vicious characteristics of both Trouble and Rampage. He escaped twice from an obviously inadequate small pen (see footnote) and attacked at least two boys at different times on the same day. The pen was described as being 4 feet high with no overhanging ledge and an open area at the top. Clifford jumped out of the top of the pen - at least twice on the day of the attacks. In Matthews v. Amberwood, supra, at 563, we quoted language from the New Mexico case of Garcia v. Village of Tijeras, 108 N.M. 116, at 119-121, 767 P.2d355 (1988) that “. . . extraordinary measures are required for confining American Pit Bull Terriers, such as a six [emphasis added] foot chainlink fence with an overhanging ledge to keep the dogs from jumping out . . .”
After he attacked the first boy, the pit bull's (Clifford's) owner apparently restrained the dog and put him back in the pen he had just jumped out of, whereupon, in a short period of time the pit bull jumped out of the pen again and attacked the second boy, Dominic. The first boy attacked, Scotty Mason, was described after the attack on him as he appeared before his mother (an assistant States Attorney for Baltimore City) as:
"He was hysterical. He was bloody from about the chest area up. Hisface was covered in blood. He was crying. He didn’t look like Scotty. I thought he had been hit by a baseball bat. Well, he was unable to talk. He was so hysterical, but the two older boys told me he had been attacked by a dog, and I was frankly shocked."
The second young boy was Dominic Solesky. As a result of his mauling by Clifford, Dominic initially sustained life threatening injuries and underwent five hours of surgery at Johns Hopkins Hospital to address his injuries, including surgery to repair his femoral artery.
He spent seventeen days in the hospital, during which time he underwent additional surgeries, and then spent a year in rehabilitation.
In Maryland the vicious mauling of young children by pit bulls occurred as early as 1916 in Bachman vs. Clark, 128 Md. 245; 97 A. 440 (1916). While there were prior dog bite cases, we believe that case was the first instance where the attacking dog is described as a bull terrier. In that case, a ten-year-old boy, John L. Clark, was playing on the north side of a street when a pit bull (“bull terrier”) came across the street from its owner’s property and attacked him, inflicting serious injuries. The pit bull refused to release the boy until a witness picked up a “scantling” (a small piece of timber such as a 2" by 4" or similar piece of framing, etc.) and struck the dog, killing it. Similar to the testimony in the present case by the boy’s mother, in that old case the mother described the aftermath of the attack on her child as follows:
"[H]e was unconscious, in such a condition that she did not know whether he was living or dead . . . Blood all over him."
Id. at 247, 97 A.2d at 440.
Over the last thirteen years, there have been no less than seven instances of serious maulings by pit bulls upon Maryland residents resulting in either serious injuries or death that have reached the appellate courts of this State, including the two boys attacked by the pit bull in the present case. In addition to the maulings in Maryland, there have been at least two instances of serious maulings by pit bulls that have reached the appellate courts of the District of Columbia, infra, since 2005. Accordingly, within a hundred mile radius there have been nine serious mauling appellate cases involving pit bulls within the last thirteen years. Five of the pit bull attacks in Maryland have been brought to the attention of this Court, and two have reached the Court of Special Appeals.
The Court then went on to cite:
Shields v. Wagman, et al, 350 Md. 666, 714 A.2d 881 (1998), where a pit bull attacked a business invitee at a strip shopping center and later attacked a tenant. Both attacks took place in the parking area of the strip-shopping center. In the first instance, Ms. Shields took her car to the parking area for repairs, and as she exited her car and approached the leased premises, the pit bull broke through the door and attacked her, inflicting serious injuries. In the second instance, the pit bull was not restrained and chased another tenant in the shopping center, Mr. Johnson, onto the roof of a car in the parking lot and attacked him, again inflicting serious injuries. The pit bull was owned by an automobile repair business tenant of the strip shopping center.
Matthews v. Amberwood Associates Limited Partnership, Inc., 351 Md. 544, 719 A.2d 119 (1998), wherein a pit bull attacked a child inside a tenant's apartment killing said child.
Moore v. et al., v. Myers, 161 Md. App. 349, 868 A.2d 954 (2005), wherein an unleashed and unrestrained pit bull chased a twelve year old girl into a street where she was run over by an automobile, suffering two broken arms, a broken leg, and a fractured jaw.
Ward v. Hartley, 168 Md. App. 209, 895 A. 2d 1111 (2006), wherein a taxi driver was dispatched to pick up a passenger at an apartment. When he knocked on the door he heard an adult voice inside telling what turned-out to be the boys behind the door to not open it. But one of them did, and a pitt bull came charging out as the same adult yelled "get the dog." The driver hit the pit bull with some rolled-up paper he had in his hand and the pit bull grabbed his foot. He then ran to his cab with the pit bull still holding onto his foot and, with the pit bull still attached, climbed on top of the car. A police car appeared on the scene, and as it did, two boys ran out of the house laughing and pulled the dog off of the cab-driver's foot. The cab driver's foot was severely injured and required surgery.
Note the boys' laughter, in the immediately-previous paragraph; something I call to your attention because it's just so typical of the attitude and behavior of so many pitbull owners who, in their twisted and pathological thinking, encourage and admire their dogs' aggressive acts, and just laugh off the dire consequences as nothing serious. In this particular instance, though, the boys' behavior was even more egregious because they had been warned to both not open the door, and to grab the dog once they had; neither of which adult admonition they heeded. Instead, they obviously intentionally dispatched the dog to attack the cab driver. Worse, they seemed to delight in what they had done, delaying coming to the cab driver's aid and taking control of their animal, and so doing only once police finally arrived, so they could enjoy watching their vicious pet of which they were so proud try to tear off the cab driver's foot. Only when police arrived did they realize that they would finally have to at least seem to care about the man, and call-off their dog. While so doing, though, they obviously couldn't hide their laughter and glee. As far as I'm concerned, the boys should have been arrested and prosecuted for criminal assuault with a deadly weapon.
It is that kind of pathology which motivates blind-to-the-facts pitbull owners and apologists to defend-at-all-costs their animals, no matter what they've done to humans. Invariably, they lie, like the Aguilars are lying about Dutch, claiming that their animals were somehow provoked, or that whomever was attacked was somehow threatening; and so the pitbull was just acting as would any other animal -- never mind that pretty much only pitbulls, among domesticated animals, tend to so behave -- under the same circumstances.
Last June 3, 2012, two-year-old toddler Keiron Guess could not possibly have been threatening to the pitbull that was notorious in its neighborhood for previous attacks, and which viciously attacked the child, pushing him to the ground and biting at his legs, face and the back of his head. Yes, the toddler wandered out of his own back yard and into the pitbull's when his mother looked away for just a moment; but could the child possibly have been threatening or provoking in any way to the animal? Or is the child's mere encroachment onto the pitbull's territory sufficient to warrant what would have been the child's death had he not been rescued?
It is believed to have been the dog's owner who eventually succeeded in lifting the child above his own head and onto his shoulders; yet, the pitbull just kept jumping at the boy, biting and biting him.
“The dog was ripping Keiron to pieces," said the toddler's grandfather of what he saw when he arrived on the scene. "He was a mess. I grabbed Keiron off him and ran back out into the alleyway” back to the child's home, where police and medical first responders were called.
“I saw Dad with Keiron cradled in his arms," said the child's father, "but it didn’t look like Keiron. I could see bubbles of red coming out of his face. His nose was gone. His face was ripped to shreds. It was like someone had used a sledgehammer. It was like a horror film.”
“All I could see was blood," said the child's mother. "I remember just collapsing. I thought Keiron was dead.”
By the time the child was loaded into a medical helicopter in a nearby park so that he could be airlifted to the specialist hospital where surgeons were being scrambled, first responders -- which included an on-call physician -- were doubting that he'd make it. The child's nose, a huge chunk from the back of his head, and the bones above and below one of his eyes were gone. His face was torn open and peeled back in several directions exposing muscle, teeth and bone; and a bystander who had found Keiron's ear was handing it to paramedics in a handkerchief.
When the child's maternal grandmother arrived at the scene, she found her daughter -- Keiron's mother -- on all-fours, throwing-up on the ground. When the family arrived at the hospital, more than a dozen doctors and nurses were working on him; and they were told to say their good-byes before he went into surgery because he'd likely not make it.
“They told us we had ten seconds to kiss him and say goodbye," said Keiron's mother. "I couldn’t kiss his face, it wasn’t there, so I kissed his stomach and told him, ‘Mummy loves you.’ The surgeon later told us Keiron had the worst facial injuries he had dealt with in his 30-year career.”
The first life-saving, and then initial reconstructive surgery, lasted over 10 hours. The child's face was preliminarily repaired and his nose partially reconstructed. His leg was so severely bitten that doctors first feared the dog’s teeth had fractured the bone; but that ended-up not being the case. The leg ended-up being in good enough condition to provide the skin graft to replace what the animal bit from the back of the child's head. Most of the rest of his ear was amputated. His parents were told it was likely Keiron would be blind -- that is, if he even survived, the chance of which was a mere "50/50" -- as he was taken to intensive care, where he was put on a respirator and into a medically-induced coma to give him a better chance at recovery.
“His face was like a balloon," his mother said. "On his head were staples everywhere. I didn’t recognize him.”
About a week later, Keiron was awakened. “That was the best moment of my life," said the child's father. "We weren’t sure how much he would be able to see until my dad visited and Kieron shouted out, ‘Grampie!’. At least he had some vision. It was a relief.”
The toddler endured several more surgeries, and spent most of the rest of the month of June in the hospital before finally being released. While he was in the hospital, authorities secured the dog owner's permission to destroy the animal, which happened before Keiron was even awakened from his coma. The dog owner's adult son, though, angrily confronted Keiron's grandfather, blaming the child, in effect, for both what happened to him, and for the dog's demise.
A photo was taken of Keiron just days after he finally returned home. Given the severity of his injuries, it's a testament to the skill of the surgeons. “You don’t see a child looking like Keiron because they don’t normally survive an attack like that," said his mother.
Keiron and his brother Mackenzie were too traumatised to go home, so the family moved in relatives while they look for another place to live.
“Keiron’s on the road to recovery but he’s changed," his mother said. He used to be happy and smiley, now he has terrible nightmares. He saw a dog the other day and was petrified and said, ‘Dog bite, dog bite!’.”
Pitbull apologists are in denial... or worse. Their animals may be calm most of the time, but they're on a hair trigger; and because most of them are both inordinately strong for their size, and also have tremendous both biting and holding power, people like Keiron end-up getting very seriously injured and even killed by them every year. Worse, that's all perfectly sociopathically okay with such dangerous dog owners, who always insist that their precious pet was provoked... as if that, somehow, granted it the right to maul or kill a human. Pitbull apologists will, in Keiron's case, for example, focus on that he wandered into the dog's territory, and so, then, for them, that makes what the dog did to the toddler perfectly reasonable... expected... acceptable. Certainly the dog owner's adult son thought so. The dog, they'll say, has rights, too.
But that's the part that they just don't get: these are dogs, we're talking about, here. Animals, not humans; and humans trump animals, always. They have no rights... not any, at least, which trump a human's rights. Dogs are nothing but domesticated wolves, albeit many thousands of years removed from the larger and more vicious wolves of our early human ancestry. They are, nevertheless, the result of many millennia of conditioning and breeding to get the prehistoric wolf danger out of them. But even the wolves who were domesticated dogs' forerunners were smart enough to figure out what our cave-dwelling human ancestors wanted of them so they'd get fed. That adaptability, over the millennia, has helped dogs to learn to read human expressions almost as well as humans; and they live, now, to make us happy; to behave in the cute ways that they've been conditioned to tell we want them to behave. And stupid humans who don't understand that that's all that's going on chalk it up to human-like intelligence and cognitive powers on the part of the dog... hence the reason they personify the animals, and start thinking they're on-par with humans, and so it's okay if a dog attacks a human, as long as it was provoked.
It is not. They simply will not grasp that even if the dog is provoked or even attacked, it's not okay. If we wanted to live with that kind of danger from the pack animals surrounding our campfires, then we'd have left the version of wolf that existed alongside early humans well-enough alone. Yes, in time, even they became relatively tame; however, like a pitbull, they, too, were on a hair trigger, and had both the size and strength to kill humans... and the fossil record shows that they sometimes did. That's why humans bred it out of 'em; and so the pitbull apologists now trying to bring back that kind of aggression -- and, trust me, they are -- is counter to literally thousands of years of work by humans to make the dogs in our lives safe to be around... yes, even if they're provoked.
Biting, attacking dogs -- regardless of breed or even provocation -- have no place in human society and culture. They need to be culled from the herd so that Darwinian rules of evolutionary breeding may help keep domesticated animals calm and subservient to humans -- which dogs always need to see as categorically alpha -- for everyone's safety. The "bully" dog apologists, though, would have everyone believe that those who own or have anything to do with dogs should expect to be bitten, or even attacked, every now and then; that it's normal... par for the course. Worse -- and this, to me is the really scary and anti-social part -- they elevate the dog to human status in terms of rights, responsibilities and consequences. It's just ridiculous; and it spawns outrageousness.
"It's the woman who was bitten who needs to be euthanized," some of the signers of the "Save Dutch the Service Dog" petition, and posters on the "Save Dutch" Facebook page have written, and far worse. Res ipsa loquitur. And to think: these nutty people are allowed on juries. Oy.
It's all, in any case, just a big con job! The "bully" dog apologists are pulling the wool over America's eyes, and undiscerning America's letting them. Such has been the case with Dutch, this week.
About Dutch and his breed
Dutch is a "bully" type dog, though a relatively rare one because he's of a technically now-extinct breed called the "American Allaunt," which isn't an official AKC breed. Allaunts are large and muscular, with emphasis on both those words. At the shoulder, an Allaunt can stand from 24 to 30 inches... quite tall for a "bully" breed; and they can weigh 100 to 150 pounds... sometimes, but rarely, more. One fellow who claims to know the parties in this case, and to whose answers to specific questions on Reddit the Dog Heirs article referred readers, claims that Dutch is at the larger end of that scale, standing ever bit of 29 inches to 30 inches at the shoulder, and weighing perhaps as much as 200 pounds.
Personally, I think he's exaggerating, but who knows. Based on the breed's standards, it seems statistically unlikely to me that Dutch is quite that large. It's statistically more likely that he's 29 or 30 inches at the shoulder, and around 150 to maybe 170 pounds. But even then, his sheer size and strength are considerable; and they play an important role in this case, so please keep them in mind. He's very large, and very strong. That's the bottom line. Imagine any pitbull you've ever seen -- even the largest of them (assuming it's not an Allaunt) -- and then doube, triple or maybe even quadruple its height and weight in your mind: that's Dutch: Very large. Very strong. Very capable of killing a human.
Allaunts have a broad head, muscular jaws and a large muzzle. The body is longer than tall, with thick bones and straight legs. The chest is very wide with a more narrow stomach and hips. The coat is short and thick, colored variously in solid or brindle, merle or spotted black, gray, white, cream, brown or tan. It requires relatively little grooming, and has very few known health issues.
American Allaunts are also very agile, fast and have good stamina. Originally bred for guarding and hunting, the Allaunt is particularly good at capturing and then holding -- with emphasis on holding -- its prey. It's very energetic and usually needs to be taken on a minimum of two good, long walks a day; plus it's happiest when it has some kind of decent-sized back yard in which to roam and explore and get a little additional exercise. That said, as long as it gets those two daily walks, an Allaunt may happily live indoors with the family...
...speaking of which: The Allaunt is surprisingly calm and well-mannered for its size and imposing, seemingly-aggressive appearance. Very intelligent and trainable, the Allaunt does surprisingly well with children, and tends to never show any signs of aggression toward family members, over whom it can be very protective. However, even strangers can do quite well with the Allaunt, as long as the animal has been well-socialized during its upbringing. It does better with strangers, though, when it meets them away from its home territory, over which the Allaunt can also be very protective. That's, in part, why it makes such an excellent watchdog.
Regarding that: The Allaunt can be a little bit barky when it kicks into "guard" mode and hears or sees something out of the ordinary, but it's a generally quiet dog which neighbors tend not to mind having around. I was a neighbor to one once; and I made sure to reach over the fence when he was a pup and pet him and make kissing sounds and love him up so that when he was finally big enough to kill me (and he eventually was), he wouldn't. He was a big and imposing dog, but as nearly as I could tell, a real sweetheart... at least to me. Sadly, I fear that that was his ultimate undoing. I had, for years, parked my car on the street near the corner of his yard, and whenever he'd see me, he run to the corner, put his paws up on the top of the just-over-four-foot chainlink fence, and we'd greet one another. He'd wag his tail so hard his whole body shook, and I unhesitatingly petting him everywhere and let him lick my face...
...until one day when his owner was outside and saw it all for the first time. I could tell that he was outraged; that the dog he had thought was such a good watchdog, and was so imposing, and had maybe even had some aggressiveness training, was, at least to me, a little sweetheart. The man called the dog, sternly. Until that moment, I didn't even know the dog's name. The animal cowered as he slinked back to his owner who yelled for him to get in the house. Then the man glared at me for a moment and went inside, too. I never saw or heard that dog again. Ever. About a month later, the fence came down; and about six months later, the house was empty and had a for-sale sign in front of it. I'm not saying he left because of me and the dog thing; he had been prepping the place for sale for almost a year. I'm simply saying that I never saw the dog again after that day; and when the fence came down so soon after the incident, yet months before he finally left... well... do the math. It was about 9 months after that before the for-sale sign came down and there was a new neighbor... who has a little yappy mutt. I've always wondered what happend to that Allaunt who had obviously so disappointed his master because, I'm guessing, he wasn't mean enough. That's the sad reality of most "bully" dog owners: They like the animals because they're dangerous... to everyone, that is, but them. They'll deny it, of course, but that's what truly gets their rocks off. It's often more than just the dog, then, that's a bully.
My neighbor, though, had probably chosen the wrong breed. Being generally nice, absent aggressiveness training, is kinda' the thing that weighs in the Allaunt's favor. It's not nearly as naturally testy and quick-to-aggression as most "bully" breeds. It mostly only looks imposing and potentially aggressive. I'll give the breed that. Assuming it has never been encouraged to be aggressive, and it has not grown-up in an environment where it has to compete with other dogs for food and attention; and assuming it has been well-socialized to humans, the Allaunt is generally quite even-tempered and may even go its entire life without so much as growling at anyone. It is, then, among the more better-natured and compatible-with-humans of the "bully" dogs. That, I must concede.
That said, even the calmest of Allaunts age, and with age can come aggrression. They can also have their aggression, at any age, triggered by the presence of another dog which is behaving aggressively. Unlike many other "bully" breeds, Allaunts have been known to react quite well to the presence of other dogs, as long as they're acting friendly and merely inquisitive. However, if the Allaunt encounters another a member of another "bully" breed that's known for its aggression, and is expressing it, then the Allaunt's aggression will come out. And the problem is that, as with all "bully" type dogs, it can happen in an instant, with no warning, and for seemingly no reason which the humans around it may easily discern. Yes, of course, there's always a reason, but it could be something that only a dog would care or worry about, and so the humans around him end-up being taken by surprise by the sudden aggression. Sadly, we're not talking about a Chihuahua becoming suddenly aggressive, here. Rather, we're talking about an animal that's easily as strong as a human, and has, at around 400 pounds per square inch, the biting and holding power of a Great White shark. No, seriously. The same as a Great White Shark.
When something like that gets suddenly upset, people and animals can get seriously hurt. That's what happened with Dutch, last November.
Service dog, schmervice dog: It's a lie, by any standard
Jeremy Aguilar and his wife Heather are, technically, by the US Housing and Urban Development (HUD) definition, homeless because they have their names on no lease or mortgage anywhere. In fact, they have no permanent residence. Instead, they live in either Colorado or Oklahoma, with either friends or relatives, depending on in which place they happen to find themselves at any given moment. One could argue, then, that they have no business trying to own and properly care for an animal of Dutch's size, strength and daily requirements since they can't even provide a permanent home or territory for him; and territoriality is one of the Allaunt's biggest things in life.
Dutch was originally acquired as a puppy four years ago by Jeremy Aguilar's older brother and his common-law wife, the latter of whom is the victim in this case. After a year they realized that they simply could not properly take care of such a large and powerful "bully" type dog, and so they offered it to Jeremy and his then-new bride, Heather. Dutch began his life as their new pet at the age of one year; and they've raised and cared for him for the past three years... the entire time they've been married. Dutch is now four. Allaunts typically live to the age of 10 or 12, so he's considered to be somewhere in his 30s in human years.
Indeed, Jeremy Aguilar is an Army veteran of both Afghanistan and Iraq; and he, indeed, responded as part of the National Guard to the Hurricane Katrina disaster. He's also, technically, fully disabled on account of his service, though one can't tell by just looking at him. However -- and this is critically important to understand -- he has never required a service dog to accommodate his disability; and, most importantly, Dutch, for the entire three years prior to the incident that the Aguilars owned him, was never Aguilar's "service dog." He was just a pet. The whole service dog ruse came lat