Thursday, April 23, 2009

Compounding Tragedy

When tragedy strikes, especially in our families, it's natural to look for an immediate explanation and the desire to take action is strong. My heart literally aches for Mr Lovejoy and his family, in Eastpointe, MI. Were I suffering a similar loss, I can only imagine my anger and heartbreak would compell me to try to protect others from enduring the same misery. Unfortunately, when undertaken in the midst of strong emotion and without full details, these efforts can be misguided.

“There’s no good to come out of these dogs” said Mr. Lovejoy in his grief. With all due respect, my daughter, the children of friends, my great grandmother and thousands of other families in this country disagree. I've spoken before on this blog about the unintended consequences of our words. I'm certain that Mr. Lovejoy is not motivated to tear apart families and break the hearts of children, but his call for the removal of our cherished and loving family companions can result in exactly that.

As we learn more about the details that led to this terrible incident, I hope that we can all remain thoughtful in our judgements and careful in our words. In the meantime, parents everywhere remember to hug your little ones as often as possible and savor every moment. I know I will.

23 comments:

Anonymous said...

This is just awful...and what doesn't help around here is the BSL bandwagon is spreading like wildfire. In the Bay City, MI newspaper on April 19th, the editorial called for a state wide ban on pit bulls.

When times are really bad, as they are in Michigan, people look for an easy answer.

Ugh, this just breaks my heart...

Lori
Wyandotte, MI

Anonymous said...

This is definitely just the worst. I have been so depressed since this news broke yesterday. Being a parent, I can't imagine being that family and feel guilty for even owning a pitbull. It makes me wonder if people who normally pet and enjoy my dog will now be leery of him. I, in my darker moments since this incident hit the news, have even wondered "will my dog who has never given me any reason to doubt his character suddenly turn?" I keep telling myself there must have been other clues or things that are not being told to the public. I know that the uncle of the victim said the dog was aggressive and the neighbors were afraid of him. This is just the worst. I keep feeling for all the shelter dogs that this incident could keep from being adopted. In November, I got into an email debate with a news anchor (Huel Perkins) who at the end of a positive news piece about pitbulls made a disparaging comment. I am wondering if he is thinking "I told her so now". This is just the worst.

Jen Hart
Dearborn, MI

The Foster Lady said...

I too, feel badly....and as sad as this sounds, was relieved to hear you say that the uncle of the victim stated that the dog was 'aggressive'. Because I just can't accept the fact that a pitbull, let alone any dog, except one with an organic brain dysfunction, would suddenly 'turn'.....And I'm glad too, that the owner himself, got to put his dog out of his misery....sad to say...though I'm not a fan of guns.

Kirsten said...

There's no question this is an awful tragedy for the family.

There are a lot of details missing from the story thus far. Anyone concerned that pit bulls (or any other dogs) behave unpredictably can rest assured they don't. Pick up a copy of The Pit Bull Placebo http://www.amazon.com/Pit-Bull-Placebo-Politics-Aggression/dp/0972191410, and put your mind at ease. This book quantifies what we all already know: It's the circumstances, not the breed...

Again, I am very sorry for this family's loss. Further tragedies can only be prevented by truly understanding the facts and reasons behind this one, though. Breed stereotyping won't provide answers.

Dianne in DC said...

Kirsten mentions Delise's book. I am attending a No Kill Advocacy conference next weekend and she is speaking so I am sure this will be discussed. There's always a lot missing from these stories. We had a "mauling" here a couple months ago, a child's eye was injured. The media neglected to mention that the dog's owner, the mother's boyfriend, was so abusive he was kicked out of the ambulance and left by the side of the highway.

Dianne in DC said...

PS Amazon says to buy The Pit Bull Placebo with Nate Winograd's Redemption. I highly recommend it.

Bethany said...

This makes me so sad. I feel awful for the family but it's hard not to want to ask the uncle to be quiet until he is calmer.

I read about five comments on the news article before having to close it, they made me so sick.

Anonymous said...

This families loss is an enormous tragedy, but I am sure that there are plenty of pieces missing to the puzzle. I have never heard of any dog just turning like that unless rabid. Also, if you know your dog is aggressive, and you have a toddler, why would you let it near your child?

Kellie said...

To all you MI people out there...you have a very huge alley on your side! Jill Fritz, HSUS's Regional director, now is in your neck of the woods! She just transfered to MI from MN and although it is a huge loss to us, you gain a wonderful breed advocate! Jill helped us here in MN fight at the capital to keep our state law that makes it illegal for counties and cities to make any kind of law that is breed specific. http://www.hsus.org/about_us/offices_and_affiliates/regional_offices/meet-our-directors/meet_jill_fritz.html
Feel free to shoot her an email to see how you can help as I'm sure she's got some things up her sleve! jfritz@hsus.org

Tell her hi from MN and A Rotta Love Plus!

Martine said...

This is such a sad story.

Dogs are a wonderful gift and a great joy in my personal life.

There are "good" dogs and "bad" dogs in every breed and it's a shame to label one whole group as "bad" or "dangerous" because of the actions of a few.

We work so hard to end racism and unfounded stereotyping of people. I hope that one day we can use those same ideas and principles to judge dogs and other aspects of our lives.

Anonymous said...

Pit Bull Placebo has actually been put on line by Karen Delise.
Click below the picture of the book.
http://nationalcanineresearchcouncil.com/ncrc-publications/

J.

Michelle said...

My heart goes out to the family who lost their precious boy.

But, with a story like this with so many details that still need to surface, it's just a reminder that there is no such thing as bad dogs, just bad owners. :-(

The Foster Lady said...

One does wonder, however, about the stability of some of the dogs bred by 'backyard breeders'. Most of these people don't know squat about genetics and may very well be producing genetically unstable dogs, temperament-wise. This is a really scary thought for me, because I love the 'breed' and would have double the number I have now (5), if I had the room

Karen and Kenya said...

I do believe we have not heard the whole story here and probably never will, but it is good to hear the dog was termed "aggressive" and scared the neighbors. Because in that case, couldnt we blame the parents and not the dog? I really am so sorry for their loss but my God, dont they have to accept some responsibility? An aggressive dog of any breed has absolutely no place around children. Just another irresponsible owner/situation that will add to pit bulls' woes. I dont mean to sound cold, but we as humans have been given responsibility over the lesser creation, and in this case his humans failed him miserably and as a result a child--and dog--are dead. I feel the owners of the "aggressive" dog are to blame.

Jenn said...

There's too much missing from this puzzle to make a judgement yet. I can't imagine the guilt the parents are feeling. However, the fact that the uncle has stated that the dog was "aggressive" is the first red flag to me. Another red flag, it wasn't registered which to me smacks of breeder dog but I won't jump to that conclusion. I still need more information. Dogs don't just 'snap.' As a mother, I feel incredibly sad for the family. As a pit bull owner, I want to know the why. It didn't 'just happen.'

jessica said...

Hello goes out to all the fellow Michiganders reading this blog. It helps me to realize we're not all fighting the fight alone. I live in Grosse Pointe Park, three blocks from the Detroit border. The east side of D has had some major dogfighting issues. Those dogs lucky enough to escape (or unfortunately, possibly dumped) tend to come into our area. In September, GPP implemented a pitbull ban in response to issues that had arisen from the dogs wandering into the neighborhood. I know... that doesn't make sense.

I immediately contacted everyone I knew that would help support the cause. Thankfully I crossed paths with another pitbull advocate that till that point I had never met. I enlinsted the help of BAD-RAP and Hello Bully in helping to make the issue known. Buster Foundation was instrumental in the fight against BSL in Grosse Pointe Park and my thanks goes out to Ken. I am proud to say that with the assistance of the three organizations, local vets, loving pet owners (of bully and non bully breeds) and even some very supportive attorneys, we were able to have the law repealed. My precious Juno is able to walk the streets again, just like every other pup. It is my biggest hope that the city of Eastpointe will not try to take this situation into their own hands. I would hope with all the readily-available statistics they will not get involved by implementing unnecessary legislation as other cities have also unsuccessfully tried. To all the Michigan people, we need to continue to stick together, network in order to gain strengh and continue momentum. I am an individual that makes her living as an advocate (for an unrelated field). An advocate's job is never over and we need to continue being heard.

My sincere condolences to the family. This is not an easy time for them and it is understandable. yes, there is information missing from this story that we may never know, but we cannot let people take this opportunity to further discriminate against the breed.

Anonymous said...

After reading the comments here, I do feel so much better. I, too, believe that there is more to the story than is being told right now and we may never know. It always seems like something surfaces a few weeks later when most people hae stopped paying attention. I do know that a few people did come up and pet pitty (tail wagger!!!)while I was walking him yesterday and they were very supportive.

Jen Hart

Anonymous said...

Behind every "bad" dog stands a human that screwed up...........

Ken Foster said...

It was interesting, and infuriating, that the details of neighbors terming the dog aggressive were buried in a caption to a photo of their yard (with a "beware of dog sign") but not mentioned anywhere in the initial news reports.

Thoughts said...

This is a terrible circumstance but that's no reason for lovejoy to blanket statement generalize and slander the breed...

Like the first commentor, areas of northern Ohio where I live are also on a witch hunt for pitties, enacting new laws and regulations across counties and different cities on what seems like a monthly basis. I am totally powerless to stop it. Even if I had thousands of supporters, there's just more people who are uneducated and against the breed than there are people like us. Im starting to lose hope... :(

Still a big fan of yours,
Jaime Smith
Cleveland, OH

Kristi said...

We had a similar incident in Minneapolis. In this case the father went to trial for manslaughter. Here is the article. Take note of what the judge says. "When pit bull kills a child, we all want to find a person who is responsible . . ."

This is a sea change in attitude when you think about it. However, ultimately Minneapolis Animal Control was blamed for not euthanizing the dog earlier (!)

(Interestingly it was reported after the trial that this judge owned a dog (not a pit) that had bitten a person, and been reported, but he did not recuse himself.)

April 12: Father acquitted in son's dog-bite death
ROCHELLE OLSON, Star Tribune


When a pit bull kills a child, "all of us want to find a person who is responsible and to hold them accountable," Hennepin County District Judge Kevin Burke said Friday.

But Burke decided that Zachary King Sr. was not guilty of second-degree manslaughter in the death of his son "Zack Jr." from a pit bull attack in the family home last August.

Instead, he noted that several others -- including Minneapolis Animal Control -- could have warned King about the dog's violent tendencies.

"In the final analysis, the decision comes down to an application of one of the most important concepts in our law: reasonable doubt," Burke said.

In an emotional courtroom scene, King cried and reached for tissues as Burke read his eight-page verdict. The judge's voice cracked as he read the final sentences.

King raised his fists in the air. His wife and three surviving children were among a couple dozen family members present.

Outside the courtroom and surrounded by reporters, King was asked what he has been going through. He softly said, "Can I say it on TV? Hell. ... I raise my kids as best I can, and the media play it like I'm something like a gangster. ... I'm not a bad person."

Last August, King's dog Face was tied up in the basement of his Minneapolis home when Zack Jr. went down to play with him. The dog seized the boy's neck, breaking it, crushing his larynx and severing a key artery. He died of asphyxiation. His father was upstairs sleeping at the time.

Freeman would do it again

In the high-profile case, the prosecution drew much attention, in part, because fatal dog bites are unusual, and also because Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman stepped in to try the case alongside Assistant County Attorney Amy Sweasy.

Freeman rarely appears in court; in his other recent appearance, he unsuccessfully asked the state Supreme Court last year to remove a judge from the Myon Burrell case.

But Freeman said Friday that if he had it to do over, he would put King on trial again.

Talking by phone from a convention in Savannah, Ga., Freeman noted the dog's seven prior bites.

"We're not trying to be mean or vindictive. It's just, people have got to be responsible," he said. He noted that the dog was kept on a 3-foot leash for hours without food or water and in his feces. "That's not what you do to a dog," Freeman said.

He said the four children had the run of the house along with another pit bull and five puppies. "Vicious dogs treated inhumanely and children do not mix," he said.

Defense lawyer Craig Cascarano said Freeman's office was misguided in going after King. He repeated what he said in court: that the family is to be admired, they take good care of their children and send them to parochial school.

Cascarano said if anybody is at fault, it is Animal Control, which had every opportunity to tag the dog as dangerous and euthanize him.

Burt Osborne, director of regulatory services for Minneapolis, called it ludicrous that Animal Control is culpable.

"That guy is 100 percent responsible for the death of his child, and if he is not criminally responsible, he is responsible," Osborne said. "We could not have stopped him from chaining up the dog for 17 hours sitting in its own waste."

City Council President Barbara Johnson, who represents part of north Minneapolis, called the decision discouraging. "Parents have a responsibility for the safety of their household," she said.

In response to this case and two other dog attacks last spring, the Minneapolis City Council toughened its regulation of dangerous dogs.

Blame for Animal Control

The judge said King is "profoundly distraught" by his son's death, but sympathy had no place in the decision.

Burke said Animal Control knew of the dog's previous bites, but no attempt was made to classify it as dangerous or potentially dangerous.

Given the family had four children, it would have been reasonable to kill Face after he bit Zack Jr. and a contractor next door in the summer of 2006 and another woman in December 2006, Burke wrote.

He noted, however, that an animal behaviorist testified that most pet owners find it impossible to kill a pet.

King said he will never own a dog again. Of his case, he said, "It's not really a lesson because it was an accident, a tragic accident."

Donna said...

It's very interesting to me that this case is "still under investigation." Huh.

Anonymous said...

It is interesting to me that is still under investigation also. I am very sorry for the famalies loss, but things just don't seem to add up.

I am a resident in Eastpointe and after hearing the first initial report I anticipated there may be an issue coming. A few days later it was in the paper that the family was calling for a ban and discussion would happen at the next council meeting.

At some point the city did have a breed specific ordinance which was repealed. Unfortunately the ordinance is still listed on the cities website. I have no idea if the council even knows it was repealed. I have been trying to get information about the repeal, but I am not sure where to look.

I must admit that I am very scared about what is going to happen. So think positive thoughts for us.

Shelly and Khan
Eastpointe, Mi