ANIMAL WATCH - Wilfred, a tan-and-white, 71-pound, Pit Bull who was impounded at the South Los Angeles shelter on January 31, 2023, gave Los Angeles Animal Services plenty of notice that he didn’t particularly like people, hated other dogs and did not want to be touched or leashed, but the Department was still determined to get him adopted into a home and family.
The photo above was posted on-line by an adoption group, and may just be a facsimile, because Wilfred turned away from the camera when brought to the shelter (see below) and the staff apparently could not get a full-face photo of him. Wilfred did not mind demonstrating his disdain for humans and his disinterest in bonding.
I.D. NO. A2068891 (WILFRED)
But, nobody listened—undoubtedly because LAAS is a “no kill” shelter and the only goal is a statistical showing of a 90% out-the-door alive “save” rate (animals only) so that donations keep pouring in from the large “humane” organizations.
This guarantees that LAAS remains one of Best Friends Animal Society’s “life-saving” shelters—but the life with which they are concerned in this quota is only that of the animal, not victims of attacks.
Humans are not factored into this equation, and no meaningful apology to the public or the victim is made during the monologue, pre-scripted reports to the LAAS Board of Commission, always indicating that the volunteer/victim is recovering and doing well—customarily followed by the comment that the person cannot wait to get back to the shelter. (See list of earlier attacks reported below.)
So, Wilfred got their attention the only way he could—by savagely attacking a 42-year-old female volunteer who was trying to take him for a walk. This followed his lack of gratitude to others who brought him treats and tried to take him out of his kennel. The well-described and documented final report by the Director of Shelter Operations and Director of Field Operations on the Request for Euthanasia written March 11, 2023, is below.
But Wilfred’s journey to that point and the damage he caused is disturbing and important because this tragedy—which caused lasting damage to the volunteer--might have been avoided if the shelter had acknowledged earlier that this dog was not behaving in a manner that indicated he would be a safe pet.
WHAT WE KNOW ABOUT WILFRED
Wilfred was brought to the shelter by a human as a “stray,” which may be true; but considering his anti-social behavior, it could also mean he was a problematic animal whose owner does not want responsibility and didn’t want to report on his prior behavior. He was also unneutered.
Because LAAS shelters are “no kill,” there is also no guilt in just turning in a pet and not giving an honest history because there is the assurance in the perception by the public that no matter how bad his behavior, the animal is going to be kept alive.
Either way, a “stray” Pit Bull or any breed should be handled with caution because there is no history of its temperament or behavior.
WILFRED WARNED THE SHELTER
“Wilfred” quickly began creating his own history when the Veterinary Technician who attempted to examine him wrote that he was “Amicable but high energy.” And another red flag was raised by the remark, “Patient will not allow full examination.”
“High energy” is the code for “aggressive toward other dogs.” And the fact that a professional could not handle him for an examination means Wilfred was going to set the rules on touching him. This is also an indicator of who will be in control.
Wilfred had already signaled this when he turned away from the camera and apparently refused to have a full-face impound photo taken.
Unfortunately, despite all these subliminal and obvious warnings, the shelter can just pass the dog on to an unsuspecting adopter, unless an actual incident occurs and is recorded while the dog is in their possession.
There is something seriously wrong with a society in which the general population and the media are livid if a vicious/dangerous or suffering dog or cat is humanely euthanized but human life is disposable.
MORE WARNINGS BY WILFRED
There is a further Behavioral comment entered in Wilfred’s early record — by kennel staff or a volunteer that—“Dog is friendly. No issues during intake exam. Is not properly leash trained and strongly pulls on the leash. Is dog/barrier reactive.”
(This last comment means he barks, lunges, or more, at kennels or cages of other dogs when walked through the kennels.)
But even with these initial warnings, Wilfred was sent to the ASPCA clinic for neutering on 2/17/23, so that he would be available for adoption.
Then, on 3/4/23 another “Behavioral” warning/comment was recorded by a volunteer:
“Wilfred was barky at the front of his kennel when I approached. His tail was wagging and when I talked to him and fed him a treat, he calmed down a little. I tried to leash him from the top and I missed his head on the first attempt at getting the lead on.” (Getting the leash over a dog’s head is not difficult for an experienced volunteer unless the dog is seriously resisting control.)
“On the second attempt, he got ahold of the leash and started lunging and biting at it. He had a strong grip on it and would not let it go, slowly climbing it and giving me only a little slack to work with. I threw a couple of treats to try and distract him. I banged on the door, I blew my whistle but he would not give it up. I finally had to let him have it.”
“I tried to get him back into his cubby but the guillotine wasn’t working from the back so I went to grab another volunteer to help. By the time we got back to his kennel he had torn my leash into several pieces. We ultimately got him into his cubby and got the leash pieces out, but he was biting at the guillotine cable and almost pulling the door up.”
“Needless to say, I didn’t get him out today and whoever does needs to be very mindful when handling him!! He is strong and clearly very stressed!!!!”
Volunteers and staff have been complaining about the broken/malfunctioning guillotine doors for years. With the hundreds of thousands of dollars flowing into LA Animal Services from outside donors, which is supposed to be used for improving the shelters, why are the employees and volunteers still endangered?
Another comment posted was “Use caution with this dog. Will bite. Tries to bite your hand when roping him.”
NO MORE WARNINGS BY WILFRED
The following—and final—note was made on 3/11/23, “BEHAVIOR BAD”
“This dog attacked a volunteer in the kennels today, as ACT and I had to move the dog into dog obs for rabies observation, we approached his kennel and he was lunging up at the kennel door snarling and barking.
We had to get him with an animal control device. He attacked the pole and latched onto it and would not let go. We had to use a second ACD to control him to transfer him into a rolling cage to transfer him into the new kennel. Use caution with this dog.”
And yet another comment, “Use caution with this dog. Will bite. Tries to bite our hand when roping him. Charges front of cage. He broke two ACD poles while trying to take him after biting a volunteer.”
OFFICIAL DESCRIPTION OF THE ATTACK:
A volunteer was taking this dog out and got her leash on the dog. The dog immediately started biting the volunteer. Dog caused multiple bite wounds up and down her left forearm. On her left arm there was a large half dollar size open wound and similar dime- size wound further down her arm. Volunteer also had small wounds lower down her arm. Volunteer also had punctures on right fingers. Another volunteer was present and they had to put the dog in a leash choke hold in order to get the dog off and back into the kennel.
REQUEST FOR EUTHANASIA
COMMENTS BY DIRECTOR OF SHELTER OPERATIONS AND DIRECTOR OF FIELD OPERATIONS ON EUTHANASIA REQUEST:
This dog severely injured a volunteer when she was trying to walk the dog out of the back cubby area. Another volunteer had to leash-choke the dog to get the dog off of volunteer who was being attacked. This dog caused a horrific injuries on Volunteer’s left forearm.
When staff moved this dog, this dog broke 2 ACD’s and tried biting staff when being moved into Dog OBS. This dog has proven to be a huge safety risk to Volunteers and public. Dog should pass Quarantine on 3/21/23. [This means the dog will have passed the required period for rabies observation.]
The request was signed by Gerald Hill, Director Shelter Operations and Jennifer Curie, Director of Field Operations on 3/21/23.
The public is grateful for these managers recognizing this danger and making this difficult, but necessary, decision.
WHY ARE TAXPAYERS PAYING TO KEEP DISTURBED DOGS LIKE THIS ALIVE AND AVAILABLE FOR ADOPTION?
What is the real purpose of “No Kill?” It seems increasingly that just recycling money into the pet-products industry to increase their corporate value is the goal—not the welfare and happiness of the animal or the safety of staff, volunteers, adopters and families.
Why are we spending tax money and utilizing space for animals that are unhappy, constantly agitated by the surroundings at a shelter and the people who want to help them, and cannot be adopted out safely?
Is the shelter indicating or assuring adopters they will be safe with a dog like Wilfred by keeping him and making him available?
It is obvious that major donors (sports teams, car dealerships, etc.) now advertise by placing banners on L.A. Animal Services shelters and appear prominently in LAAS-created and posted media releases and are getting millions of dollars in free advertisement and name recognition for a relatively small donation to the shelter.
Appearing to be a “No Kill” shelter should not be a sell-out of government to big money interests, and no amount of money from outside sources justifies endangering shelter employees, volunteers, or impounded animals nor incurring the costs to taxpayers for legal expenses when someone is hurt or killed.
DOG-BITE EXPERT EXPLAINS IMPORTANCE OF BEHAVIORAL HISTORY
Richard H. Polsky, a well-known Los Angeles animal-behavior expert and expert-witness on dog bite attacks states in Dog Bite Risk in Pit Bulls After Adoption from an Animal Shelter:
“If a shelter fails to consider the behavioral history of the dog prior to adoption, or if they use improper behavioral testing techniques, then problems may arise. Animal shelters and humane societies obviously assume substantial risk because in essence they are in the business of trying to save the lives of countless number of abandoned dogs.
“The humanitarian contributions these organizations, as well as the score of smaller adoption agencies, make to society is immeasurable. Nonetheless, they have the responsibility to ensure that the dogs they re-home have non-aggressive temperaments and are free from foreseeable behavioral problems.”
DOG-BITE LAW ATTORNEY ON NEED FOR FULL DISCLOSURE BY SHELTERS
Shelters Can Be Forced to Tell the Whole Truth
“‘The Pit Bull Meat Grinder Case’ (Alvarado v. City of Los Angeles) Will Force Shelters to Tell Adopters in Writing the Whole Truth about a Dog's Bite History and the Circumstances of Any Bite,” states Los Angeles Dog-Bite Attorney Kenneth M. Phillips. on his Dog-Bite Law blog.
Following are excerpts:
In September 2020, 70-year-old Argelia Alvarado became another victim of our nation’s animal shelters which, simply to boost their own reputations, trick people into adopting vicious dogs by engaging in a pattern of deception, a habit of NOT telling the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.
Los Angeles Animal Services, East Valley Shelter, impounded a vicious pit bull dog on May 25, 2020, because it had attacked a jogger and inflicted serious injuries on him. The circumstances of that incident moved a Shelter worker to recommend a formal administrative hearing to determine whether the dog should be put down. On June 20th, just 24 days afterwards, however, the Shelter adopted-out the dog to Brent Alvarado without disclosing the severity or circumstances of the May 25th attack, but just the opposite, “talking up” the dog and in different ways pressuring him to accept it. Just 99 days later, on Saturday, September 26, 2020, the dog attacked Brent’s 70-year-old mother, Argelia Alvarado, in the backyard of their house….
The attack was a savage mauling in which both of Mrs. Alvarado’s arms were brutally shredded, with her right arm almost entirely chewed off. A Los Angeles Police Officer who was a first responder described it as “looking like it went through a meat grinder and the bones were broken.”
This terrible accident happened for three reasons which were all the City’s fault. First, a disclosure law was broken. In January 2020, California became the second state in the USA to require all public and private animal shelters to give people a written description of a dog’s bite history including the circumstances of each bite, when the dog is being adopted-out. (Read more here.)
This fascinating, in-depth discussion ends with Attorney Phillips’ statement:
Every state should impose on public and private shelters a mandatory statutory duty to provide an adopter with detailed written information about a dog's bite history, meaning each prior bite plus the circumstances of each prior bite, and to obtain the adopter’s signature on an acknowledgement to confirm the information was given. “No-kill” should mean “no-kill” humans, not just dogs.
(Phyllis M. Daugherty is a former Los Angeles City employee, an animal activist and a regular contributor to CityWatch.)