Once again I'm a bit behind and am going to group a couple of attacks together. Actually, it makes sense in this case because the circumstances surrounding these attacks are strikingly similar.
Before getting into the individual cases, I again note that fatal incidents are extremely rare given the 75 million+ owned dogs in the United States. And while the circumstances behind the attacks are very consistent, the type of dog involved is not. This is why all analysis of such attacks should involve looking at all the human-created circumstances leading up to the attack -- this is how such incidents will be eliminated in the future.
Turns out that police were able to determine that the dogs that fatally attacked Pamela Devitt were indeed owned by 29 year old Alex Jackson.
Jackson was originally arrested on drug charges for having a marijuana growing operation at his home, but now is also facing charges of second degree murder. If convincted, he could face life in prison.
In order for murder charges to stick, authorities will have to prove that Jackson should have reasonably known the dogs were a threat. So far, they have found three or four other people coming forward to testify against Jackson that they too had been attacked by the dogs, or that their livestock had been attacked by the dogs. Turns out that the horse and rider that was attacked just two weeks prior to this ALSO involved Jackson's dogs. In that case, Jackson is being charged with assault with a deadly weapon for having thrown a rock at the rider of the horse.
These recent cases aren't Jackson's first run in with the law either. In 2006, Jackson had four dogs that were destroyed by authorities after attacking some emus in Littlerock. Jackson would have been 22 at the time.
So it appears that much of the "stray and loose dog problem" in Littlerock has been because of Jackson -- who has a long history of dogs being allowed to roam at large attacking people and livestock. He'd also had a depth of recent history of having dogs that were problems, and yet, authorities allowed the dogs to remain with him until the incidents escalated into tragedy.
When people talk about problems with dangerous dogs, smart ones continue to highlight the impact owners/caregivers have on these attacks. In this case, we have a very clear case of owner negligence, dogs with a history of problems, an owner with a history of problems, and a little illegal drug action on top of it.
Two weeks ago, 63 year old Pamela Devitt was out jogging as she ususally did near her home in Littlerock, CA. During the walk, Devitt was attacked by a pack of dogs. A woman in her car tried to stop the attack, and called police. An officer arrived at the scene and shot at one of the dogs, and it reportedly ran off into the dessert.
The victim died in route to the hospital.
Hours later, the sheriff and animal control officers served a warrant on the home near the site of the attack. The home was owned by 29 year old Alex Jackson. When police served the warrant, they found 8 dogs (not four as reportedly attacked the woman), all contained in the house. The dogs were described as 6 'pit bulls' and 2 mixed breed dogs, including a Lab mix and an Australian Shepherd mix. Also in Jackson's home was a marijuana growing operation.
Police were investigating the dogs to see if the DNA from the dogs matched DNA found on the victim's body. And while dozens of media outlets reported that the 'pit bulls' confiscated from Jackson's home were responsible, spokespeople from the police department have noted that the dogs responsible MAY VERY WELL HAVE BEEN STRAY DOGs -- an that residents of the area note that stray dogs constantly roam the area and have attacked people before -- including a woman riding a horse just two weeks prior to this. At this point, even two weeks later, police have not confirmed the involvement of Jackson's dogs so the type of dogs involved in the attack is completely unknown.
Littlerock is a community of about 1400 people of which more than 20% live below the poverty line -- well above the national average without taking into account the higher cost of living in California. Media reports and others familiar with the area note that packs of stray dogs roaming at large are often a problem and are not addressed. While one legislator has used this attack to grandstand against the state's prohibition against breed bans, it should be noted and well documented that the dogs were roaming at large, likely strays or even ferals, and should have been captured by animal control long before an attack occurred.
It's a tragic story, and my heart goes out to the victim's family. But all of the discussion about "breeds' in this case are completely misguided, in part because the dogs involved are unknown at this point, but mostly because the dogs were roaming at large, and could have been seized with a well-enforced leash law (which is something it sounds like the area needs).
In Harleyville, SC, 80 year old Carlton Freeman was attacked by four dogs roaming at large. Freeman, who had preveiously had both legs amputated at the knees and was paralyzed, was riding his scooter down the road as he regularly did.
However, on this day, four dogs ran out and attacked him and pulled him from his scooter. He later died from injuries sustained in the attack. Neighbors reported that the dogs had been roaming the neighborhood for months prior to the incident.
While there have been a handful of "citizen journalism" sites that have reported the dogs to be 'pit bulls', there has never been any type of official word from a legitimate news sources or from a local official. In fact, it turns out that local officials, who originally seized 3 dogs they believed to be involved in the attack, are now saying the dogs were feral dogs that were without an owner.
Harleyville is anothers small, rural community (popluation 683), in which 35% of the population lives below the poverty line, and nearly 20% live on income less than 50% of the poverty line.
So, in both of these cases, you have rural, impoverished areas which have had known groups of feral dogs roaming that then attacked an elderly person as a pack. In none of the cases are the types of dogs known, but it is clear what where the problems lie and how to easily solve the problem (by solving the problem of stray, feral dogs).
As always, I'll update these cases if any additional information becomes available.