Pit bull that attacked shelter worker had bitten before
Pontiac — A pit bull mix that attacked a worker at the Oakland County Animal Control Shelter last month, leading a staff member to shoot the dog, was a known “biter” that two months earlier had attacked two children, a woman and another animal control employee all within 24 hours.
No one is certain what went wrong with “Roscoe,” a 3-year-old dog that had been raised as a puppy by three of the people he attacked. The dog was euthanized after the Dec. 12 attack on the shelter worker.
Oakland County animal control officials are trying to use the incident as a teachable moment to instruct the public about dangers involving pets and make changes at the shelter to keep workers safe.
“We have taken steps to make sure something like this never happens here again,” said Bob Gatt, manager of the animal shelter, during a press conference Friday.
The trouble with Roscoe began Oct. 16 when Troy police responded to a 911 call reporting that a dog had bitten three family members, including two children.
Their mother, who was among those attacked, drove herself to the hospital for treatment of bites and the children were transported by ambulance.
Roscoe was snared and taken to the county animal shelter for a 10-day quarantine period. But the next day, as a shelter officer tried to remove the dog's leash, Roscoe bit him on the back and leg.
Animal control officers told Roscoe’s owner he was a threat to children and should be turned over to the shelter to be euthanized.
The dog’s owner told investigators Roscoe had been aggressive in the past and bitten family members and other people. He said he was no longer certain he wanted the animal in his home but declined to turn ownership over to the animal shelter.
In one police report, the dog's female owner said she was unsure of why Roscoe reacted as he had and suggested she might have been talking too loudly on the phone. When she attempted to calm him down, he bit her, and when the children attempted to grab his legs, he bit them.
Investigators determined the pit bull had appropriate shelter and food, a large yard to play in and an attentive and carrying family.
The county had petitioned in court to take ownership of Roscoe, but a hearing date in November was postponed until Dec. 16.
Four days before the rescheduled hearing, Roscoe bit again.
This time, the dog jumped against a cage door that may not have been properly secured and got out. A shelter worker from the Oakland County Jail tried to get Roscoe back into the cage but could not.
A supervisor, Shelley Grey, yelled at the worker to leave the quarantine area because of the bite risk.
Grey, 52, a 25-year veteran of animal control and care, attempted to approach Roscoe with a leash and was attacked. The dog bit her in the leg and knocked her to the ground, gripping her right arm in his mouth.
When two other animal control officers were unable to break Roscoe's grip on her arm, Grey yelled, “Shoot the dog!” An animal control officer pulled out a pistol and shot the dog in the head.
Gatt said Grey later said she had looked at Roscoe’s eyes and “was in fear for her life.”
Roscoe, shot in the head, slumped to the floor, while two shelter workers helped Grey to a nearby secured office for first aid and to call an ambulance.
At one point, Grey, who had also been bitten in the side of her stomach, asked a worker to retrieve her shoes, which had fallen off during the attack.
The worker found Roscoe had stumbled to his feet inside the quarantine area and was in obvious pain, so he shot the dog in the head again.
Because of the head wounds, tests for rabies could not be done on the dog, officials said.
Grey suffered a broken left finger that required surgery and muscular damage to her right forearm that also required surgery.
Gatt said officials have implemented enhanced safety procedures and installed new equipment in the shelter to assure there is no repeat of the incident.
All quarantine cages now have double locks on them. Only shelter staff and other workers with safety orientation procedures will be allowed in the quarantine sections. All workers will wear audible alert devices on their clothing when entering the quarantine areas and carry a leash with them.
Gatt said the shelter, which handles more than 4,000 animals a year, had not previously had an attack that required one to be put down.
He also said the incident had nothing to do with the pit bull breed and that several such dogs at the shelter would be good pets to consider for adoption.
But he advised all owners to monitor their pets for aggressive behavior and call the shelter if they have concerns. Signs of aggression in dogs include snarling, raised hackles on their back, a lowered tail, and ears that are back.
“I’m happy to report Shelley is home now and doing well,” said Gatt. “We will make sure nothing like this happens again.”