Saturday, October 20, 2012

A Terrible Accident

No one knows what happened, It was a terrible accident.
Robert Rios

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To: US DHHS, Administration for Children and Families
      Region 1: Mary Ann Higgins
      Region 2: Joyce Thomas
      Region 3: David Lett
      Region 4: Carlis Williams
      Region 5: Kent Wilcox
      Region 6: Leon R McCowan
      Region 7: Patricia Brown
      Region 8: Thomas Sullivan
      Region 9: Sharon Fujii
      Region 10: Steve Henigson
      Child Welfare League of America, American Humane Association, and dozens of state Child Protective Services officials, and others

On Friday Sept 11, 2011, 20-month old Neveah Bryant of West Haven CT was killed by her aunt's three pit bulls. Thirteen months later, on Oct 11, 2012 Neveah's aunt, Erica Hobdy, pled guilty to a misdemeanor charge and received a suspended sentence of one year of jail and three years of probation.

For those unfamiliar with the case we've listed the relevant details:
  • Hobdy had left the child in the house alone with her three pit bulls while she went to the store for drinks for her son and a friend, who were outside the house;
  • Police and neighbors confirmed that the dogs had previously demonstrated aggression;
  • Hobdy was arrested after the attack, in December of 2011 and released on bail. She was soon taken into custody again because the arrest violated probation conditions of her past criminal cases.
  • Local rescue groups claimed that the tragedy was an isolated case. 
  • According to news reports (see below), Hobdy's  previous dogs attacked a mailman and children years ago in another city.
This was not an accident, nor was it an isolated incident, as advocates of fighting breeds often claim. Earlier this month Tarilyn Bowles (MI), less than a year old, was killed in a similar incident. In September Rayden Bruce (TX), also less than a year old, was killed by a family pit bull, as was James Hudson (NC), also less than a year old. In June Tyzhel Latella McWilliams (CA) was killed before her first birthday. In May Makayla Darnell (OH), less than a year old, was killed during the same week Ohio pit bull advocates were celebrating the dismissal of Ohio's Breed Specific Legislation (BSL). Also in May, Jazilyn Mesa (NM), who had recently celebrated her first birthday, was killed by the family pit bull. In January Jace Valdez (TX), a year old, was killed by the family pit bull.*

There is wide disparity in how these cases are prosecuted. Hobdy was charged but plea bargained her way to a suspended sentence. Three members of the Mesa family were recently charged. SRUV previously reported on the death of a 10-day old infant in Kalamazoo, MI, after an attack by a recently adopted pit bull. In that case detectives sought involuntary manslaughter charges against the child's mother but the county prosecutor's office declined to press charges. Kalamazoo is the home of the United Kennel Club, the official registry for the American Pit Bull Terrier.

Law enforcement officials are often unwilling or unable to bring charges after an attack by a dog which results in the death of a family member. Many of these deaths, and hundreds of tragic disfigurements, could  be avoided if Child Protective Services and other social welfare agencies were to recognize the inherent danger of accepting fighting breeds as family pets.

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* For details of these attacks, as well as the attacks on adults, see Fatal Pit Bull Attacks

News sources:
Aunt of toddler killed in West Haven pit bull attack claims the dogs had no history of aggression (Oct 1, 2011)
Autopsy Complete on Toddler Attacked by Pit Bulls (Oct 3, 2011)
Pit bulls' killing of Fairfield toddler an accident (Oct 4, 2011)
West Haven pit bull owner gets no jail time in fatal mauling of toddler (Oct 17, 2012)

Google News: Today's pit bull attacks