Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Steve Croft: Pit Bull Entrepreneur

[ NOTE: The list of Sources below includes news items concerning Steve Croft and Universal K9 of San Antonio. Also included is a list of pit bull attacks during the last months of 2015, the period Mr Croft's company has been in the news. Keep in mind that this extensive list represents only a few of the more notable pit bull attacks which occurred in Texas during this period. Comments are enabled for this post.]
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Corrections: January 6, 2016; 15:22 GMT
Corrections: January 6, 2016; 19:38 GMT
Revised: January 12, 2016; 21:40 GMT
Correction: January 23, 2016; 19:34 GMT

For some it is impossible to separate the term "pit bull" from the word "sweet." For others it is impossible to think of pit bulls without also thinking of unprovoked attacks on humans.

Pit bulls provoke fierce responses. For some people pit bulls and money are so interrelated that it's difficult to think of pit bulls without thinking of them as a source of revenue.

Historically, there are two ways of making money off of pit bulls: fighting them or breeding them for fighting. But during the last decade pit bull rescue has also become a significant revenue generator.

Now an entrepreneur in San Antonio has devised yet another way to make money from pit bulls. It's quick, it's easy, and it requires little or no up-front capital investment.

Steve Croft of Universal K9 in San Antonio scouts the Austin area shelters and is given his pick of the surplus pit bulls.1 Mr Croft then transfers the pit bulls to police departments, most of them in small rural communities, claiming the pit bulls are trained K-9s. Mr Croft is reimbursed for his efforts by one of the country's most ardent deep-pocket pit bull advocacy groups, Animal Farm Foundation (AFF) of upstate New York.

As part of the transaction he trains the new police handler, thereby creating another revenue stream. The handler comes to Texas, and Mr Croft is paid by the handler's employer. The training lasts 2 weeks, for which Mr Croft receives $2,500, according to news sources.

The Animal Farm Foundation originally agreed to underwrite a program which funded five shelter pit bulls a year for Mr Croft. It appears the first pit bulls (under the AFF program) were placed with police departments in 2015.

Now Mr Croft has added a new wrinkle to the formula. Mr Croft has discovered he can grow his revenue by selling his services directly on the open market, without involving the Animal Farm Foundation as an intermediary. Several towns have reportedly decided to buy discounted pit bull K-9s directly from Mr Croft.

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"Many legitimate police dog programs are being criticized . . . because of the proliferation of fraudulent trainers and handlers," wrote Daniel A Smith, the eminent Michigan K9 educator and trainer.
One of the biggest problems I saw were very short training periods for police dogs. There are agencies that are giving only five weeks of training to handler and dog and then putting them on the street.2
Mr Croft claims that he can take shelter pit bulls, with unknown histories, train them in as little as four weeks, and produce K9s that are "just as good if not as good as the [purpose bred] dogs we buy from overseas." This stands in stark contrast to most K9 schools, which require twelve to sixteen weeks of K9 training before deployment.

Mr Croft's training philosophy raises questions about the shelter pit bulls he claims to have trained as K9s:
We take back steps with them and we teach them that it's OK to be a dog, it's OK to jump here, it's OK to grab that ball and keep it for yourself," Croft said. "Once they understand that they don't need to have those manners and are able to do those things, then we put the control back into them . . . .3
Put the control back into them? To say that Mr Croft's training methods are unorthodox is an understatement.

Search & Rescue/K9 Fraud

Cheyenne, Dakota, and Tahoe were perhaps the most famous, most heroic pit bull Search and Rescue (SAR) K9 team of all time. The pit bull heroes and their handler, Kristine Rae Crawford, were allegedly asked by NASA to assist in the search following the shuttle Columbia disaster on February 1, 2003.

Doubts began to surface about Crawford soon after the attack on the World Trade Center. Crawford subsequently pled guilty to charges of grand theft and embezzlement, and was eventually exposed in a 2006 ABC TV investigation.4 Blogger Craven Desires has tracked Crawford's muddy trail and in 2013 published a major exposé, after which Crawford closed at least four of her 29 websites, a number of which included PayPal donation buttons. The aftershocks of Crawford's downfall rippled through the pit bull chatrooms for years.5 Nonetheless, Dakota continues to be heralded as a pit bull hero on many pit bull advocacy sites, including Pit Bull Rescue Central.

Cheyenne, Dakota, and Tahoe in one of their pimped-out vehicles.
Crawford also used an elaborately refitted emergency medical vehicle with flashers.

Dakota may have been the most notorious fraudster claimed to have worked at Ground Zero, but the tragedy also attracted other unscrupulous SAR wannabees. Among those who were ultimately exposed were James Symington and his dog Trakr, and Sandra Anderson and her dog Eagle. The convictions of fraudulent K9 handlers such as Russell Lee Ebersole (2003) and Anderson (2004) brought additional attention to SAR/K9  fraudsters.

James Symington and Trakr pose at Ground Zero

Steve Croft's Rescued Pit Bull K9s

According to a recent article by the Dutch animal behaviorist Alexandra Semyonova, "Sales of pre-trained dogs to law enforcement agencies have mushroomed in recent decades, . . . especially by smaller agencies which previously could not afford to have canine units."6 Mr Croft jumped on the bandwagon and has been trying to sell recycled shelter pit bulls to law enforcement agencies since at least 2013. The media, which apparently can't resist a pit bull hero story, has responded with friendly coverage for Croft. The Associated Press has been especially generous.7

Croft had little success placing pit bull K9s until he formed the partnership with Animal Farm Foundation. With their help he has now placed at least one pit bull K9 in a major city, Poughkeepsie NY. As it happens, Poughkeepsie is a short drive from AFF headquarters in Duchess County NY. Croft's partnership with AFF has inoculated him from charges of fraud.

Mr. Croft may claim that his shelter pit bulls are every bit as good as a purpose-bred Belgian Malinois or German Shepherd K9, but the claim is fraudulent. We urge the US Police Canine Association and other reputable organizations to censure Mr Croft for his promotion of pit bull K9s. To allow pit bulls to proliferate among the ranks of well-trained, trusted K9s would seriously erode the public trust in a valued law enforcement asset.

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1   SRUV has not yet learned why Mr Croft makes the 75 mile trip to Austin for his pit bulls, rather than drawing them from one of San Antonio's shelters.
2   Fraudulent Use of Canines in Police Work
     b Daniel A Smith
3   Local company trains shelter dogs to be police dogs
     December 10, 2013; KSAT
4   Less Than Heroic?
     Dog Handler Accused Of Scamming Those Who Help Her
     December 12, 2006; KGTV ABC 10 San Diego
5   Pit Bull TalkPit Bull Forum
6   Police dogs should be trained as officers, not equipment
     by Alexandra Semyonova; January 5, 2015; Animals 24-7
7   The media coverage was positive despite the fact that pit bulls killed 33 people in 2015, the fourth year in a row they have killed over 30 humans. In addition, in 2015 pit bulls maimed 459 people, or 1.25 people every day of the year. (See Statistics, below.) A forthcoming post will focus on David Klepper's laudatory AP article about Mr Croft's pit bull K9s, and about the AP's coverage of pit bulls in general.

K9/SAR Resources:

The Problem with Pit Bull Service Dogs (and numerous other posts)
   February 12, 2015; Craven Desires

How the Americans with Disabilities Act has become the “Pit Bull Pushers Act”
   July 3, 2015; Animals 24-7

Service and Therapy Pit Bulls that turned pit bull
   September 16, 2014; Daxton's Father

LawDogsUSA, Pit Bull Detection Dog Program, Shuts Down
   November 5, 2008; Dogsbite

News Sources:
Arlington Dog Loses Leg In Brutal Attack, Owner Wants Changes
   January 19, 2016; CBS DFW

Fort Worth Child Recovering After Pit Bull Attack
   January 16, 2016; NBC DFW 5 (update on late October attack)

El Paso County Sheriff’s Office addresses recent pit bull attacks
   January 14, 2016; KFOX 14

Man attacked by pitbull in San Antonio
   January 14, 2016; WGNS

Pit bull in Montana Vista mauls neighbor's dogs
   January 7, 2016; KFOX 14
. . . I find it unfair that the dog jumped over and we have a closed area and it killed my dog and they’re not going to put him down.
Two pit bulls jump fence and kill five dogs in Canutillo
   January 3, 2016; KFOX 14
They called our neighbor to come get his dogs and they told us they just couldn't do anything.
SAPD officer injured while saving man being mauled by dogs on the South Side
   December 15, 2015; My San Antonio
When Belver arrived, he found 39-year-old Abel Arias lying in a pool of blood with four to six pit bulls mauling him.

Texas Officer Shoots 3 Pit Bulls To Save Man From Mauling
   December 15, 2015; KWTX (San Antonio)

Southampton Animal Shelter Raises Funds To Send Dog To Police Training School
   December 15, 2015; Southampton Press

Pit bull mix joins Normangee Police Department's narcotics detection team
   December 12, 2015; The Eagle (Bryan College Station, TX)

Southampton Animal Shelter Dog Set To Go To K9 Police School
   December 11, 2015; Southampton Press

Caught on Camera: Beloved pet mauled in South Side neighborhood
   December 5, 2015; Fox 29

Dog Owner Facing Hefty Fines
Neighbor shoots dog after it attacked his dog
   December 3, 2015; KRGV

Pit bull named Kiah will be one of a few of her kind to take a spot on a police force helping to fight crime
   By David Klepper
   November 27, 2015;  Albuquerque Journal

Troy Police Department Gets New K9 Unit
   November 16, 2015; (Updated 12/16/2015) KCEN TV

Woman, daughter attacked by their four pit bulls
The woman suffered bites to her body, her daughter suffered a cut on her face
   November 13, 2015; ABC KSAT 12

Pit bull police dog defies breed’s savage stereotypes
   By David Klepper
   November 13, 2015; Albuquerque Journal

Bryan officers save man from pitbull attack
   November 4, 2015; The Eagle

Deputy shoots, kills pit bull after dog attacks him, HCSO says
   Pit bull was 1 of 3 dogs that bit women, 2 men
   October 26, 2015; Click2Houston

This dog was once abandoned but you won't believe where she is now.
   October 21, 2015; American Kennel Club

Woman's dog mauled by same pit bulls who killed Texas boy
October 21, 2015; WMAZ 13

Texas boy, 5, mauled to death by two pit bulls at home of family friend
   October 20, 2015; NY Daily News

Local business training shelter dogs to be K-9 units
   Universal K-9 giving shelter dogs second chance
   October 2, 2015; KSAT 12 ABC

Two pit bulls attack men in two separate West Side incidents
One pit bull captured, one still on the loose
   August 15, 2015; KSAT ABC 12

   August 12, 2015; San Antonio Express-News

2 pit bulls attack woman in Texas driveway
   August 6, 2015; USA Today

Dog Attack in SW Houston Sends Woman, Girl to Hospital
   August 4, 2015; ABC Eyewitness News

[Boston]Terrier Dies Protecting Children From Pit Bull Attack
   July 15, 2015; ABC 13 Eyewitness News

Dog mauling victim blames city, company for attack
   July 10, 2015; KVUE ABC

From Shelter to K9 Unit: Group Gives Dogs Second Chance and a Duty
"We thank Brad for writing us a letter about his dogs"
   July 7, 2015; ABC News

Woman injured, dog dead after 4 pit bulls attack them in Kyle
   June 12, 2015; KVUE

Longview woman charged in pit bull attacks cited for dogs
   June 5, 2015; Longview News-Journal

Couple And Pet Survive Dog Attack, Want Pitbull-Mix Punished
   June 1, 2015; CBS DFW

Stray off the streets is ‘rock star’ for police
   May 3, 2015; Washington Times

If A Pit Bull Attacks My Dog -- Or Me -- Will I Be Prosecuted If I Shoot The Damn Thing?
   April 24, 2015; Dallas Observer

As Family Mourns, Propaganda Hides Danger of Pit Bull Attacks
   April 23, 2015; Dallas News

Infant Killed In Pit Bull Attack In Dallas
   April 20, 2015; CBS DFW

Houston man honored for rescuing woman in pit bull attack
   March 30, 2015; Houston Chronicle

Austin Pets Alive pit bulls training to become police K-9s
   March 6, 2015; KVUE ABC

[For Texas pit bull attacks during the first half of 2015, see Cities of Strays]

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Statistics quoted on SRUV are from the nation's authoritative source for current dog attack statistics, the 32+ year, continuously updated Dog attack deaths and maimings, U.S. & Canada.
View or download the current PDF

Record 33 fatal pit bull attacks & 459 disfigurements in 2015

2015 Dog Bite Related Fatalities (Daxton's Friends)

Fatal Pit Bull Attacks

Today's pit bull attacks

SRUV uses the definition of "pit bull" as found in the Omaha Municipal Code Section 6-163. As pit bulls are increasingly crossed with exotic mastiffs, Catahoula Leopard Dogs and other breeds, the vernacular definition of "pit bull" must be made even more inclusive.

Sources cited by news media sometimes refer to "Animal Advocates" or sometimes "Experts." In many cases these words are used to refer to single-purpose pit bull advocates who have never advocated for any other breeds or species of animals. Media would be more accurate to refer to these pit bull advocates as advocates of fighting breeds.

Similarly, in many cases pit bull advocates refer to themselves as "dog lovers" or "canine advocates" and media often accepts this usage. The majority of these pit bull advocates are single-purpose advocates of fighting breeds.

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  1. This is not a good idea at all. I would like to hear what real animsl behavior experts have to say about the differences between pit bulls and shepards as k-9's!! Very good work exposing this scheme!

  2. Thank you, very interesting article.

  3. So it sounds like several Pit Bulls are in a Police environment already. Haven't read anything about any Police/Rescue Pit Bulls actively "on duty", biting anyone or going after any other dogs or animals? So maybe it will work out???

  4. There are currently about 40,000 dogs working with police departments in the U.S. and Canada, and another few thousand working with federal law enforcement agencies.

    Among them may be at most a dozen pit bulls, meaning that pit bulls are well below a tenth of one percent of the total police dog workforce, and are most likely among the 1% with least exposure to the public, since they tend to be with some of the smallest detachments, with the least history of using dogs at all.

    With that much said, over the past 33 years the number of attacks by police dogs which have inflicted enough damage to make my log of fatal and disfiguring attacks has rarely fluctuated above half a dozen, and is usually 1-4. In 2014, though, there were nine such attacks, and in 2015 there were at least fifteen.

    Historically, the police dogs involved in attacks have always been identified, and were almost always either German shepherds or Malinois.

    Suddenly in 2015, though, I began noticing that the breed identities of some police dogs involved in attacks were withheld — as if to conceal possible liability from scrutiny.

    For more about this issue, please see: http://www.animals24-7.org/2015/01/05/police-dogs-should-be-trained-as-officers-not-equipment/, by Alexandra Semyonova.

  5. And how will victims prove that they were needlessly mauled by a police owned pitbull? Will they invent crimes? This is horribly reckless as pitbulls won't track and take down a criminal.. they will eat them up.. and may suddenly attack police and citizens, too.

    1. Which is exactly why NONE of the police departments that accepted these junkyard rejects is using them for BITE WORK, only for sniffing drugs and idiotic photo shoots.

  6. This will keep going on until a police officer gets mauled or killed by his own junkyard pit bull.


Please do not cut and paste comments or include extensive linking. Comments are moderated but we will post all comments which do not include profanity or ad hominem attacks. Play nice. The SRUV comment section is not a forum for the advocacy of fighting breeds.