Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Madison Park Pit Bull attacks three women

but is returned by Animal Control to its owner

On the afternoon of August 21, on a quiet street in the Washington Park neighborhood of Madison Park, two women were attacked by an unleashed Pit Bull. Both of the women were bitten, one badly enough to require a trip to the emergency room. Later that afternoon, another woman, while walking with a friend on the same street, was viciously attacked by the same roving dog. She too ended up in the emergency room, injured so severely that she was unable to return to work for a full month.

Although Seattle Animal Control was able to capture the offending dog, it proceeded to release the Pit Bull back to its owner after just ten days, telling the victims that in spite of the dog’s multiple unprovoked attacks there was no legal basis for continuing to hold the animal. Today, more than six weeks since the attacks occurred, the City has still placed no special restrictions on the released Pit Bull, and no criminal charges have been filed as a result of the attacks.

That’s the broad outline of a story that is disturbing—at least to the victims—on many levels. But there’s yet another surprising aspect to this tale. Under Seattle ordinance an owner can be fined only $269 for allowing their dog to bite someone. Yet the maximum fine for allowing a dog to be on a City beach is $500. So while the Pit Bull’s caretaker is being cited for allowing the dog to bite three people, he apparently would have faced a potentially higher monetary penalty if he’d been cited instead for three trips with the dog to Madison Park Beach:

The August attacks occurred on 39th Avenue E., on the block between E. Prospect and E. Highland Streets (shown in top photo). The victim most seriously injured that day is a Montlake resident and trauma nurse at Harborview Medical Center. She prefers that her identity not be disclosed, so we’ll call her Carol. This is her description of the attack: She and a friend were walking along the sidewalk at about 5:30 in the afternoon when they came upon a dog lying in the grass. She said “Hi Doggie” as she walked past the dog, and the dog immediately attacked her. She was severely bitten on the lower right leg, causing her to bleed profusely (that’s her injured leg in the photo below, shown three weeks following the attack).

Carol states that the dog appeared ready to make another attack, but finally ran off when nearby homeowners came out to help her and her friend. According to medical records, she suffered a three-inch laceration and multiple puncture wounds and was treated at Harborview. Because of pain and a resulting infection, she was unable to return to her nursing job until recently. She reports suffering some nerve damage as a result of the bite.

Carol says that when the Seattle Police arrived at the scene on the day of the attack officers told her she was not the first person to be bitten at that location that day. Indeed, about an hour earlier two women walking along the same street were attacked by a dog that they later identified as the same tan Pit Bull that bit Carol. According to the report of one of the victims, the dog suddenly attacked her and bit her deeply on the right calf as she walked by a hedge. The dog then attacked her friend, though the friend was able to shake off the dog and was not as seriously injured. The bleeding victim was transported to the emergency room of the University of Washington Medical Center, where she was given several stitches.

After the second biting incident, Seattle Police discovered the Pit Bull and followed it to its house, located just two blocks from the scene of the attacks. The dog was later identified by Animal Control as “Honey,” a three-year-old female Pit Bull (also designated in some documents as a Pit Bull mix).

The investigative report of the Seattle Animal Shelter (aka Animal Control) provides clues as to Honey’s behavior and that of another dog, a Rottweiler mix, staying at the same residence. The second dog was also off leash, but was not involved in the attacks. According to the report, this is what officers discovered at the house: “There were at least 20 piles of feces in the backyard, a dry and empty dog bowl, and an empty bag of dog food. The back door to the home was open. There was much clutter, debris, and flies near the back door to the home. There were no dog houses and no water available for the dogs.”

After police “cleared” the house, Animal Control officers entered and took photographs, reporting that “the inside of the house was very cluttered and there was a lot of debris and garbage everywhere, on all three floors plus the basement. There were two overflowing litter boxes…and the animals appear to be abandoned.” Photos included with the report show places in the house where animals appear to have dug up the carpeting. Officers eventually discovered some cat food and water in bowls in another part of the home. The officers felt that the Rottweiler was emaciated, so they impounded it, as well as Honey, and posted a “Cruelty Notice” at the residence. According to Ann Graves, an enforcement supervisor with the Seattle Animal Shelter, such a notice requires the animals’ owners to correct the deficiencies noted.

As required by Seattle animal-control ordinance, Honey was held in quarantine for ten days; and when evidence of her rabies vaccination was provided, she was released. Carol, the nurse most seriously injured by Honey, says she was outraged when she learned that such a dangerous dog has been allowed back into the community. But according to Graves, that’s how the system works when there is no previous record of an animal biting someone, as was the case here. The fact that three biting incidents may have occurred on the same day does not change the situation, she said. Administrative due process is still required before the offending dog can be taken from an owner.

The son of Honey’s owner contacted us to state that he had been taking care of the two dogs while his parents and sister were on vacation. He said he visited the Washington Park house once a day to water and feed the animals. He reported that Honey is now owned by him and is living with his family at their home in West Seattle. He added that he has not received any reports from Animal Control and was therefore unaware of the details of the alleged attacks. He admitted that Animal Control had issued citations to him because of the biting, but he said he intended to contest or mitigate the charges.

He told us that he didn’t understand how it was possible that the dog had bitten anyone, since Honey was generally afraid of strangers and would run the other direction if anyone approached her. This was a legacy, he said, of her time with her first owner, who used to beat her regularly. Honey was a rescue dog that had lived with the family in Washington Park since about February 2009, he told us. “She is a completely sweet dog who sleeps with me,” and “she doesn’t deserve to be destroyed.” He added that if people were attacked “it wasn’t a purposeful act or an expected result.”

In addition to the controversy over the City’s handling of this dangerous-dog situation, the owner’s son provides us with more food for thought by stating that in his opinion the “fuss“ by the victims and Animal Control over Honey’s alleged biting is really the result of “breedism” (which is apparently something akin to racism). He told us that if the dog involved had been anything other than a Pit Bull, “we wouldn’t be talking today.”

Meanwhile, the Shelter’s Ann Graves has confirmed to us that she will be recommending that Honey be declared a “dangerous animal.” An overview of the potential implications of that action, commentary by Honey’s victims, a report on Pitt Bull-attack statistics, and a discussion of “breedism” will be included in a related posting later this week.

[Editorial aside: The victims, whose names are not part of the public record, requested that their identities not be disclosed for purposes of this story. We honored their requests. The family of the attacking dog, Honey, also requested anonymity in this posting. Their names are part of the public record, so acceding to their request was a difficult call. In the end, we determined that our responsibility as a neighbor trumps our responsibility as a journalist, at least in this limited instance. Madison Park Blogger, after all, is a neighborhood blog—not a sensationalist rag. We do, however, reserve the right to change our mind on this “anonymity-for-guilty-neighbors” decision as the case moves forward.]

Photo of Honey from Seattle Animal Shelter investigative report.

22 comments:

  1. Great reporting, MPB. I remember hearing some of this via the police scanner and heading out to report on it when I (mistakenly) thought one attack had happened on Capitol Hill. I wondered what the story was. Thanks for digging it up.

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  2. Hi I am the owner of the dog Honey, and would like to add a few things to the this story. The state of our house is of no importance as it does not have anything to do with the main issue at hand which were the attacks; we are in the process of pitting out and doing improvements on our basement level since the flooding that we had a year ago which is the reason for all the clutter and debris. The dogs are loved dearly and have been well taken care of. There were some droppings in our courtyard area as our yard service had not been to the house in two weeks and since we work long hours at our business. The Dogs had two large bowls full of cat food as we had just ran out of dog food the day previously, three water bowls two outside and one inside, as well as access to the dogs favored watering hole (1st floor bathroom. The back door was open because we allow the animals to have access to the inside of the house and fenced yard, which also features a large covered backporch area. My sister who was the person who was taking care of the animals--dogs and cats-- during the day with her now 1 yr old son had her retinas blow and has had multiple eye surgeries in the last 5-6 months, and is currently blinded in one eye with partial vision in the other. Our other dog, who was taken by animal control due to the fact because he looked thin and had an license from Ketchikan Alaska, which is where my sister had been living formerly. When I spoke with Bryan on the phone I didn't have any information on the extent of the injuries of the people involved, other than that one required three stitches, and had not view the photographs of the bites. I am deeply upset by what happened and feel very sorry for the people who were injured. I have extended my contact information to Bryan and Animal Control for the parties involved to get in touch with me and will do so publicly on this site. My cell # is 206-390-7816 and I would very much like to assure everyone that the dog will not be a problem any longer as she will either be "euthed" or moved to a "secured" lifelong facility, I am saddened for her as well as I never thought her story would have an ending like this. Thank You for the opportunity to respond to this Bryan. Please do allow my contact number to be posted here as I do wish to do right by the people injured.

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  3. Owner of Honey, your comments are hardly credible.
    An emaciated dog is NOT a dog that has been "cared for lovingly", as you state. This takes time to happen, suggesting chronic neglect. "Overflowing cat litters" suggests neglect once again. This seems hardly the story of a responsible, loving animal owner, but rather that of a person who so far has fled his civic responsibilities: to the animals, as the report seems to suggest, and to the victims, by having the audacity to consider contesting the charges. Shame on you.

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  4. After reading this article I am shocked at the state of the house that these two dogs were living in and cannot believe that Animal Control released these dogs back to their owners after 3 people were bitten. It is obvious that these dogs had been neglected for days/weeks. Where are the owners of the house? How come they haven't commented? Breedism.....are you kidding me. Is that the issue or the 3 inch gash in this woman's leg. Sue them for everything they've got.....

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  5. Why didn't your neighborly duty include reporting all the facts (before seven weeks had elapsed) in order to alert ALL of your neighbors to a potential danger, rather than protecting ONE of them from embarrassment?

    The City is mostly inept, some dogs bite people sometimes, some people say stupid things sometimes....is this really news at this late date? I sort of have to agree with the son on that one miniscule point. Un-cared for dogs in basements and pitbulls biting people are both sexy topics these days, but what is newsworthy here all these days later? Generalissimo Francisco Franco is still dead.....

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  6. I appreciate that you reported on this, Bryan.

    My family had two close encounters that day with the dog in this picture. I was out for a jog earlier in the day and encountered the dog off-leash on the sidewalk of Highland between 38th and 39th. I like dogs, but this dog's stance was so aggressive I crossed to the other side of the street instead of running by it. More alarmingly, our two young children were walking on that same block minutes after "Carol" was attacked. Her friend told them to get away. I feel terrible for Carol and grateful that her friend was able to caution our family to get away.

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  7. In response to the comment made that the story took so long to come out: I am one of the victims, and I was assuming that the dog would NOT be released back to the community once the 10 days of quarantine had elapsed. I was shocked that the dog was released and contacted Seattle Animal Control as well as the Seattle City Attorney's Office several times once I knew that (by the way, no one calls to let you know -- you have to call Seattle Animal Control to find this out). When it was clear that nothing would be done to take that dog back to a safe place, I started looking for someone who could inform the community about this. I thought this issue could have been resolved the right way without involving the media. It turns out it couldn't. Our system failed in protecting the public, so we should be happy our "community media" -- Bryan -- was interested in running the story.

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  8. As husband of one of the victims I'm deeply concerned about thus event. I drove my wife (a physician) and our friend (an attorney) to the emergency room at UWMC shortly after they were attacked. I'm a dog lover myself, but in my opinion this dog -- yes, partly because of its breed -- is too dangerous to remain in this or any neighborhood. I urge "Honey's" owners to find a permanent fix for this problem so that neighbors like my wife, our friend, and others can walk our neighborhood without fear. We have not yet received a bill from UWMC for my wife's treatment, but the owners can be assured it will be forwarded to them for payment. In addition we will be working for a City of Seattle ordinance that will protect others who are yet to be attacked by dangerous animals like "Honey."

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  9. Honey is a beautiful and sweet dog.
    I've had the opportunity to meet her
    once at her home in MadisonPark,
    and again later, after the incident, in
    West Seattle. Each time greeted with
    a wag and a sniff, she seemed a bit
    hand shy, which we've learned is from
    a previous owners abuse. Being as the
    normal owners and caretakers were gone
    for a period of time the dog with a past of
    abuse and abandonment had every reason
    and right to act of complete fear. As
    unfortunate as it is that you or your loved one
    was attacked, it is more unfortunate for a perfectly
    healthy, young, beautiful dog to be put to death
    because she acted out of fear, is there not forgivness?
    Does forgivness not bring life? let the animal live!!!

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  10. When that dog kills a kid who just happens to be walking by, will you still be talking about "forgiveness" and "sweet Honey"!!! Wake up here!

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  11. From what I can tell from this article about the conditions of Honey's home, the "normal owners" had left those two dogs in the care of the son and he left them without food and water. The house had feces both inside and outside. Does that sound like a loving home for those dogs? Have the "normal owners" tried to contact the women who were attacked? I don't blame the dogs......I blame the owners.

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  12. This is right on my daily running route. My dog or I could have been one of those victims; which is very scary. I feel AWFUL for the victims. I think this is an important reminder that all dogs need to be secured or on leashes when they are out of a secured area. There are too many residents of Madison/Washington Park who think they are above this law. It is for the safety of everyone and I wish more dog owners would realize this. I also feel badly for this dog, as it sounds like its treatment could have led it to act out of character. Some people should not be allowed to own animals.

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  13. My advice to victims is to pursue this in the courts...its the only way to deal with what appear to be mentally ill pit bull fanatics. Even if they claim they are getting rid of "Honey", what typically happens with people like this is that they will run out and adopt another "needy" pit bull with temperament problems. Get their homeowners insurance carrier involved, and they will be unable to secure HO insurance when their agent finds out they own TWO banned breeds, much less a pit bull with a bite history.

    Pit bull owners are typically narccisistis misanthropes...never trust them to do the right thing on their own.

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  14. Second the comment on forgiving the sweet dog that has just mauled or killed a defensive child or elder. You have the right to carry a weapon to dispatch mad and lethal dogs whose irresponsible owners fail to secure them.

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  15. This story is disturbing, yet all too common not only in Seattle but across our nation. Pit Bull attacks are going unreported and the crazy Pit Bull propagandists are manipulating and cow-towing the media, shelters and animal control. Animal control is releasing-relocating vicious dogs back out into the community as are "rescue groups". I suggest that the victims contact local attorney Chris Davis http://www.injurytriallawyer.com/ as well as contacting your local-city, county, state representaves to help solve this problem
    of vicious dogs.

    Google Jeannette Cunningham and you will find her story. Attacked and disfigured by a pit bull in Burien. Her face ripped apart. Only to have Burien Animal Control relocate this vicious dog to another county.

    Speak out for victims!!!!

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  16. The Pit Bull defenders are always spouting the mantra of "Punish the Deed, not the Breed", but when their breed commits an evil deed, they are quick to jump in and blame the victim and rush their evil maul spawn off to some other unsuspecing community.

    Thank you Madison Park Blogger for bringing this to the surface!

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  17. reply to pit bull owner, that's what owners do defend the actions of their dangerous dogs. Carry a weapon and defend yourself from pit bull attacks!!! we have a right as Human Beings to go about our lives without being attack by ANY DOG. AS long as dog owners don't have scars on their bodies from dog bits, they don't CARE about others having scarred up bodies, owners need to be fine $10,000 and pay the victims medical bills and put the dangerous dog to sleep for good!!!Stiffer fines need to be set in place and then maybe pit bulls owners will be more responsible and keep their killer dogs off the streets!!!!

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  18. I say carry a registerd weapon and shoot to kill. We have a right to protect ourselves from dangerous pit bulls, or any dangerous dog. There are a lot of pit bull attacks happening. People can't walk the streets and be safe from dogs anymore, especially Children. I can't stand for dog owners to say their dog have never shown any aggression toward others, that their pit bull is friendly and loving, BULL CRAP!!!Pit bulls need to be BANNED their breed are vicious don't trust the owner nor the dogs. Reminder 4 day old baby killed by Family's pit bull. SAD SAD SAD. God help people to wake up and open their eyes.

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  19. pit bulls and rotwiler's are breeds from the PITS OF HELL DEVILS DOGS, and some People are their Little Demons protecting them. They are going to continue to attack that's why they are being put down when they kill. BANNED both breeds. Protect People not the dangerous Devil's Dogs.

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  20. I feel for anyone who has been bitten by a dog, but would there be a long blog post written if the dog was not a pit bull or pit bull mix? In the last 5 years of residing in Seattle, I am horrified at the amount of off-leash dogs that have threatened me or threatened my on-leash dogs - all breeds, but most often labs, goldens, border collies, and mutts. The reason we have dog issues in Seattle is because too few people actually abide by the leash laws in this city. I met one neighbor who allows her dogs to run leash in our local park and she joked about being fined three times, but explained to me that it was worth it to pay a small fine because her dogs have so much fun running off-leash. I now carry mace when I walk with my dogs and will use it on any off-leash dogs - irrespective of breed - that threatens myself or my dogs. Seattle needs to wake up and start enforcing leash laws and hitting people with fines that will actually make an impact!
    You mentioned the $500 fine for dogs swimming in Seattle beaches, but what is the point of your comment, when dogs are in the water and running off-leash all the time and they rarely get cited, apart from the situation mentioned with my neighbor. Enforce the leash laws and we would have few dog related issues in this city. Maybe then people will learn to be responsible with their animals.

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  21. Oh, and for those ignorant people targeting pit bulls you might want to do some research. I imagine none of you saw the grotesque images of the french woman who had her face mauled by her labrador? Yes, we rarely hear about the true and fatal stories of other breeds, but they do happen.

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  22. DISGUSTED-

    to Anonymous who posted at October 9, 2010 9:38 PM . You are utterly ridiculous! Forgiveness, it's not about forgivness, it's a matter of safety for crying out loud. I wish the dog would have bitten you or one of your children, then I would like to see you post the same stupid comments.

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