Initial reports indicate that the dog was adopted from a rescue or shelter; the public must know which organization is releasing dangerous dogs into the community.
Numerous individuals were involved (and may be culpable) in the death of Savannah. This includes the owner of the pit bull as well as the family members who may have exposed Savannah to the dangerous dog. Prosecutors have been reluctant to bring charges against families who, through their own negligence, lose a child; the possibility presents a dilemma of biblical proportions for law enforcement.
The individuals and organizations who rescued, fostered, or otherwise maintained the dog and eventually placed the dog with Savannah's family may also be culpable. All of these individuals and the organizations they are affiliated with may be subject to charges ranging from child endangerment to negligent homicide or an equivalent charge. The organizations face potentially devastating financial consequences if they are sued by the Edwards family for wrongful death.
The only way to stop rescues and shelters from adopting out dogs which later kill humans is by holding individuals and organizations accountable. The questions below may help those who are investigating the death of Savannah and serve as a guide for other similar investigations.
Revised: Jan 4, 2012; 06:42 GMT
* * * * *Question: Bill Acree, Director of Helping Hands Humane Society, reported that a check of their records "shows no one from the incident address adopted" a pit bull from Helping Hands. This is an evasion, as the adopter may have recently moved to the address where Savannah died. The information may be confidential but a child has been killed; a humane society can be expected to cooperate in the investigation of the death. Can Mr Acree prove that the pit bull that killed Savannah did not come from Helping Hands? Assuming that it did not, what rescue or shelter provided the dog?
* * * * *Q: Shawnee County investigators should now know the provenance of the dog but may be unwilling to make the information public. Journalists are often capable of discovering information not available to law enforcement and should pursue a parallel investigation into Savannah's death. Shelters and rescues which were not involved with the dog that killed Savannah could easily be convinced to make full disclosure, to clear themselves from suspicion. Ask all regional shelters and rescues to prove they did not adopt out the animal in question.
* * * * *Q: Journalists can uncover other important information by checking public records. How many of the dogs adopted out from shelters and rescues have subsequently been involved in attacks on other pets? How many of these adopted pit bulls which were involved in attacks have been returned to the owners after the attack? How many adopted pit bulls have been involved in attacks on humans? What happened to the dogs in these cases? This information will help develop the overall picture of the effects of rescue and adoption of pit bulls in the region.
* * * * *Q: What are there county requirements for reporting dog attacks? Are accurate records maintained? This area of Kansas is an active area for "rescuing" and adopting out pit bulls; does the Sheriff's Department record whether or not the attacking dog was a "rescue" dog? Does animal control record the breed of dogs involved in attacks?
* * * * *Q: Most rescues are registered 501(c)3 tax exempt organizations, and thus have a public responsibility. Do local pit bull rescue organizations (such as GameDog and Mid-America Bully Breed Rescue) voluntarily provide information regarding the pit bulls they place in family homes?
* * * * *Q: Animals adopted from animal shelters must be spayed/neutered by Kansas state law, but there are potential loopholes in the process. How many of the dogs in Shawnee County which have been adopted from shelters or rescues remain intact? How many are unlicensed? How many adopted intact pit bulls live in homes with infants or children? Do the shelters and rescues perform followup visits to confirm that the adopted dogs have been neutered?
* * * * *Q: Did the owner of the dog that killed Savannah have previous citations for dangerous dogs, dogs running loose, or any other animal citations? Did the owner previously own fighting breeds before adopting this animal? Do the local rescues check the backgrounds and records of potential owners for previous ownership patterns?
* * * * *Q: When the identity of the dog in question is determined, check it's history. Was this dog rescued from a fighting (or suspected fighting) operation? Did the rescue or shelter organization determine that the dog had been rehabilitated and was no longer aggressive? How was this determined? Did the rescue organization use in-house "experts" to decide that the dog was no longer aggressive? Do these rescue organizations use anyone other than pit bull advocates to determine the aggressiveness of pit bulls eligible for adoption?
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Source: DA to decide fate of dog (Topeka Capital-Journal, Dec 14, 2012)
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