Sunday, October 19, 2014

Portland Streetcar Pit Bull Attack: The Backstory

In January of 2012 Courtney Ebert-Hein of Longmont, Colorado adopted a pit bull named Chocolate from the Longmont Humane Society (LHS). Later that spring Alda Crill left her home in northwest Longmont with her two Yorkshire Terriers, Belagrin and Zoar, on a dual leash. Chocolate escaped from her nearby yard and within seconds Bela's chest was torn open and one leg was ripped almost off, according to police reports. A neighbor tried CPR on Bela, but she died shortly after arriving at Longs Peak Animal Hospital.

Belagrin; d. April 26, 2012

* * * * *

In Mesa County, Colorado, on October 2012, a leashed pit bull named Bridgette charged two kenneled dogs. When Bridgette's handler attempted to control her she turned and attacked the handler.

In March 2013 Bridgette's subsequent owner was walking with Bridgette when they encountered another leashed dog. Bridgette reportedly bit through her own leash to attack and injure the miniature schnauzer.

Mesa County officials ruled that Bridgette was a dangerous dog and required her owners to surrender her. Bridgette's owners chose to surrender her to the LHS in Boulder County, a five to seven hour drive from Mesa County.

Two months later, in May of 2013, Bridgette was involved in a fight with another dog at the LHS shelter. Despite Bridgette's record of attacks Longmont officials decided she was improving and made plans to release her.

Bridgette moved to her new foster home on June 13. Four days later she escaped from her yard and attacked a neighbor and his Weimeraner while they were out walking. As a result of the attack Liz Smokowski, the director of the Longmont Humane Society, pleaded guilty on behalf of the society to misdemeanor possession of a dangerous dog.

As part of an unusual settlement a Boulder County judge ordered LHS officials to complete a restorative justice program and gave the organization a 12-month deferred sentence. If the LHS did not violate any laws during the 12-month period the conviction would be dismissed. Ms Smokowski accepted the sentence on December 13, 2013.

Liz Smokowski

* * * * * 

In August of 2012 Erica Montoya adopted a pit bull from the Longmont Humane Society. LHS officials informed Montoya that a previous owner had returned Baby Girl after keeping her only a month, and that Baby Girl "wasn't always good with other dogs."

In June 2014, Ms Montoya moved from Longmont to Westminister, Colorado and left Baby Girl with friends, after which the dog went missing.

On September 24 a Portland, Oregon police officer working on bicycle patrol stopped a 16-year old girl with a pit bull. The teenage girl was in the company of a 47-year-old homeless man, Leroy Parsons. The girl and Parsons told the officer that the pit bull they called Purrdy was theirs.

Later that evening the (still unidentified) teenager boarded a streetcar, where her pit bull attacked and killed a 13-year old Pomeranian named Lady. The microchipped pit bull was traced to Longmont and identified as Baby Girl.

Lady; d. September 24, 2014

The death of Lady on a Portland streetcar may have significant legal ramifications for LHS. The society quickly went on the offensive, and less than a week after the attack aired a story about finding forever homes for stray dogs. The feel-good TV spot, however, bears an unfortunate mixed message: the dogs are strays imported from the streets of Houston, which may not be a message Longmont citizens want to hear.

LHS also began importing dogs from Mexico as early as 2010. By 2012 nearly 16 percent of reported dog bites in Longmont were traced to dogs adopted out of LHS.

Baby Girl's (who gave her that name?) earlier owner, Ms Montoya, has since relinquished her rights to the dog. Ms Montoya's mother, Michelle Orozco, who by happenstance lives in Southeast Portland, said she only learned a week after the September 24th attack that her daughter's missing dog was in Portland, and was responsible for the fatal streetcar attack.

Ms Orozco said she is reluctant to assume responsibility for Baby Girl because her own pit bull isn't compatible with other dogs. Ms Orozco has contacted pit bull rescue groups in Oregon and Georgia to see if they could take the dog.

Sarah Clusman, LHS Director of Operations, reportedly informed Oregon officials her agency could assist in getting the dog back to Colorado, if necessary. But Ms Smokowski, perhaps more wary of the clock ticking on the one-year deferred sentence, rapidly stepped back from the offer:
I don't know any details of the situation. . .  We haven't heard from anyone. . .  We do not have anyone available for something in that type of situation, said Smokowski when asked about Baby Girl's possible return to Longmont.
Multnomah Animal Services Director Mike Oswald said Baby Girl will remain at the agency's shelter in Troutdale, where her behavior will be evaluated. Officials will then decide whether the dog, which now has an interstate rap sheet of attacks including the final, fatal attack on Lady, can be adopted or placed with a pit bull rescue group.

Meanwhile, the courts in Boulder County must decide how the fatal attack by Baby Girl will affect LHS's deferred sentence.


There were three dogs riding on the Portland streetcar, and it was a peaceable kingdom until the fourth, a pit bull, was brought aboard. As a result of the fatal attack all Portland dogs, including 13-year old Pomeranians, must now be carried "in a secure container" when riding the streetcar, or the rider is subject to a citation.

Similar rules regulating dogs in public spaces such as parks and public transit are being enforced across the country. These rules, intended to protect the public from fighting breeds, cause undue hardship on all dogs and their human companions. If legislators had the political fortitude to restrict pit bulls and close pit bull mixes, all other dogs and their human companions would continue to ride transit and enjoy public spaces in peace.

* * * * * 

Britta Bavaresco, co-founder of Portland's Animal Shelter Alliance, said officials may never be able to determine what the dog went through during the three months since it was reported missing in Colorado.
I'm not making excuses for the dog . . . . But the pit bull may have been fighting for her life, it could have been confused or stressed.
Hopefully Ms Bavaresco (or others who reflexively find excuses for pit bull attacks) will not be among those who evaluate Baby Girl's suitability for rehoming.

* * * * *
Resources on LHS Financial Standing:
Longmont Humane Society: Donations still rolling in after Nov. payment
   Longmont Times Call; December 4, 2013
Elevations Foundation Funds Furry Friends at Longmont Humane Society
   [PDF] Elevations Foundation, Elevations Credit Union; December 2, 2013
Longmont Humane Society Still In Big Financial Trouble
   CBS 4 Denver; November 18, 2013
Longmont Humane Society Overcrowded, Facing Huge Financial Woes
   CBS 4 Denver; September 22, 2013
Longmont Humane Society Facing Possible Foreclosure
   August 7, 2013
Longmont Humane Society makes plea for donations to avoid foreclosure
$772k needed by November for loan payment
   Longmont Times Call; July 25, 2013
Construction cost overruns from the facility's expansion that began in 2006 and six years of financial deficits have drained the organization's reserves, leaving the humane society unable to make its 2013 and subsequent annual loan payments, executive director Liz Smokowski said.

Sources on Portland Streetcar Attack:
Pit bull kills Chihuahua at Tualatin motel
   Fox12 Oregon; October 13, 2014
Dan Dassing said he had the door cracked open, and the pit bull lunged through the door when he heard the Chihuahua bark, even though the pit bull's owner had him on a retractable leash. "The pit bull just reached right inside the door and grabbed our Chihuahua and just lock-jawed onto it," Dassing said.
   The Oregonian; October 13, 2014
Third vicious pit bull attack in three weeks reported in Portland area
   The Oregonian; October 12, 2014
Portland streetcar dog attack: Girl with pit bull banned from streetcar for 90 days
   The Oregonian; October 6, 2014
Girl banned from Portland street cars after fatal pit-bull attack
   Seattle Times; October 6, 2014
Streetcar dog attack: Colorado pit bull owner relinquishes her rights; dog's fate in hands of county animal services
   The Oregonian; October 3, 2014
Streetcar dog attack: Pit bull had history of problems with other dogs, report shows 
   The Oregonian; October 2, 2014
Portland officer works to send killer pit bull back to Longmont owner
   Longmont Times Call; September 30, 2014
Houston strays find homes in Colorado
   9News; September 30, 2014
Streetcar dog attack: Case may end with pit bull's return to Colorado
   The Oregonian; September 29, 2014
Streetcar dog attack: 'She's never done this before' girl with pit bull told police
   The Oregonian; September 26, 2014
Missing Colorado pit bull blamed for fatal dog mauling on Portland streetcar
   ABC7 Denver News; September 26, 2014
Streetcar dog attack: Pit bull that killed Pomeranian was reported missing from Colorado in June
   The Oregonian; September 25, 2014
Streetcar dog attack: Q&A on the fatal pit bull-Pomeranian incident
   The Oregonian; September 25, 2014
Portland Streetcar pit bull attack: Rules for animals on public transit can be slippery
   The Oregonian, September 25, 2014
Pit bull attacks: Stories, commentary about the breed attacking, being killed abound
   The Oregonian; September 25, 2014
Pit bull attacks, kills Pomeranian on Portland Streetcar in Pearl District
   The Oregonian, September 24, 2014
Longmont Humane Society faces 'dangerous dog' case
   Longmont Times Call; October 17, 2013
Longmont couple believe attack that left their dog dead is lesson for pet owners
   Longmont Times Call; April 26, 2012
Longmont Humane Society rescues dogs from Mexican municipal dump
   Boulder Daily Camera; July 14, 2010
Dog attack leaves Longmont man hospitalized
   Longmont Times Call; May 7, 2010

Reporting by Dawn James:
The Longmont Humane Society is Killing Pets and Hurting People Across the Country
   Craven Desires; October 2, 2014
Bloody Money Trail
   Craven Desires; February 12, 2014

32 years of logging fatal & disfiguring dog attacks
   Animals 24-7; September 27, 2014

Statistics quoted on SRUV are from the nation's authoritative source for current dog attack statistics, the 30+ year, continuously updated Dog attack deaths and maimings, U.S. & Canada.
View or download the current PDF

This page may also include information from Dogsbite and Fatal Pit Bull Attacks.

Google News: Today's pit bull attacks