County Animal Shelter Making Changes as Supervisor Recovers from Dog Attack
(Drew Saunders, Jan. 3, 2020)
Pontiac, MI – Serious attacks from dogs can happen to anyone from owners to animal control officers. This is exactly what happened to one of the officers from the Oakland County Animal Shelter & Pet Adoption Center on December 12.
The hospitalization of the shelter supervisor after being attacked by a pit bull that was being held in quarantine after biting family members, has led to an enhancement of the equipment and upgrading of safety precautions at the shelter.
“The incident has been very traumatic for each and everyone one of us working at the shelter,” Animal Control Manager Robert Gatt said to a room of reporters at the shelter Friday afternoon, adding that the supervisor was currently recovering from her injuries.
The four year old pit bull had been removed from a Troy home on October 16 after it bit three of the four members of the family, including two minors, according to Oakland County. Animal control followed the law and removed the animal to a ten day quarantine, for observation. The shelters says that it quickly became apparent that the dog was too dangerous to be released, and that a court date had been set to attempt to gain custody of the animal from the family, which refused to give up it up.
In the early morning hours of December 12, a jail inmate worker entered the quarantine room to begin daily tasks. The county has used inmate workers for such tasks for years.
The room is a rectangular, windowless, silvery grey brick room entered by a steel door with a window reinforced with glass mesh. It has half a dozen chain link “partitions” that contain the most potentially dangerous dogs in each of their own cages, which take up about two-thirds of the room. The other one third of the room forms a corridor, which is where December’s incident happened.
As seen in a pair of security videos, which were released to the press, the inmate worker opened the dogs cell door to pet it, then shut the door again. This was at about 7:50 a.m. on December 12, according to the video and a timeline released by the county. The county is not sure whether or not the door latched properly. But what is clearly true is that the door fell open moments later when the dog pushed hard against it with its front paws.
When she realized what had happened, the supervisor ordered the inmate worker to leave, prompting the dog to charge after him. The inmate made it out of the room unharmed, followed by the supervisor. The dog stayed loose in the quarantine room for several minutes.
The supervisor then returned with a leash and attempted to use it to get the dog back into the cell. The dog outmaneuvered the supervisor and forced her to the ground, biting her on the hip, shoulder and hand. A fellow officer shot the dog to stop the attack. Once the supervisor was safely in another room receiving first aid, the officer went back to the quarantine room and was surprised to see the dog up moving around. The dog was shot a second time, this time fatally.
This attack has led to changes in how volunteers and staff interact with potentially dangerous dogs. Inmate workers petting dogs in quarantine is now specifically banned.
The cages are now going to be equipped with double locks and partitions will be installed in the cages. These will be barriers in the middle of the cage, which will separate the space into two to allow staff and inmate workers to enter the cage to replenish food and water for the animals safely; although this has not been fully installed as of publication.
Staff are now required to bring a leash and an audible alert into the quarantine room, when working there. These are red lanyards with a breakable piece of black plastic at the end of them. If a staff member is in trouble, they rip the small plastic piece off and it emits a loud alarm, to alert everyone else.
This was the most serious incident that has happened at the facility, Gatt said.
Gatt said he hopes this incident will lead to greater awareness about the need to report potentially dangerous animals, and to be aware of animal behavior if they are around animals that could bite or attack.
Dogs show tell-tale signs of aggression and anger, like growling and barking. According to documents produced by Oakland County, other signs including the dog hunkering down and its tail tucking in under its body.
When asked why the press conference was happening weeks after the incident, Bill Mullan, who handles communications for the County, said it was partially due to the holiday season, and partially because a local TV channel was requesting the video through the Freedom of Information Act.
The Oakland County Animal Rescue and Pet Adoption Center is located at 1200 Telegraph Rd #42E, Pontiac, MI 48341.
For more info on reporting potentially dangerous animals or animal abuse, as well as info on pet licensing, pet adoption and more visit https://www.oakgov.com/petadoption/Pages/default.aspx.