For those of you interested in the case of Mickey the Pit Bull in Phoenix who attacked Kevin Vicente, a then 4 year old child, I’d like to offer some clarity.
I was consulted on this case by John Schill, the dog’s attorney who defended him successfully and kept him from being euthanized. If anyone doubts the source I’ll be happy to copy them the emails and transcripts of the phone calls.
First off, the most common “urban legend” being born in this case was that the child “took a bone” from the dog who was tied on a chain in the yard.
No bone was present, and this did not occur. The following is what I was told by the people directly involved in the case and the court documents reflect it as well. Unfortunately, not one of the multitude of media sources pecking and scratching at this story like vultures has included all the facts, and many have not only added their own but directly and purposely distorted them to sensationalize the story, inflame the public and garner more attention for themselves in the coverage.
Unfortunate, to say the least, but true-a dog that never bit anyone doesn’t sell newspapers or generate web site hits on the Internet. This is a fact first used as a description by William F. Stratton in his books about the American Pit Bull Terrier back in the 1970’s when they first came to the public’s attention and began being vilified and eviscerated in the news for profit. I obtained (found in the desert) my first APBT in 1977 and have been a fan and advocate of the breed ever since-including being the Training Director for the second largest Pit Bull Rescue in the United States for 14 years! I’ve trained literally THOUSANDS of pit bulls for everything from therapy work to protection competition on an international level.
Ironically, that entity was eventually guilty of a situation very similar to Mickey’s and I’ve since parted ways with them-after they first caused a bite on a 5 year old child then stole the dog from my sanctuary and had him euthanized to prevent him being used as evidence in legal proceedings against them! Sadly one of their employees now sits on a “Task Force” involved in critiquing Maricopa County Animal Care and Control, the second largest of it’s kind in the country by volume. Politics has it’s downfalls, to be sure, and the irony is distasteful to say the least.
Mickey was tied in the yard of his owner, the “babysitter” lived next door and was a friend of the family. Multiple adults were present, as were a number of children besides Kevin who was bitten, playing soccer in the yard. They were within feet of the chained animal running and screaming and chasing a ball-enough to excite any animal, much less one with previous known aggressive tendencies. A moving item is a “prey” item to ANY predator/carnivore on the planet.
The child simply ran within the reach of Mickey’s 18 foot long chain tie out, and was taken down by the dog and mauled while the people tried to pull him off.
Several salient points have received little or no attention in all the news coverage, yet stand as FACTS very much affecting the case and how it has played out.
Number one fact: The dog had previous aggression issues WELL KNOWN to the people “supervising” the soccer game mere feet from where he was tied.
Fact number two: Tying a dog is the BEST way to INCREASE aggression as it’s frustrating to the animal and literally a form of teasing. When we train a dog FOR aggression, such as protection work or K9 duty with law enforcement or the military, tying the animal and then “agitating” him with a tug cloth or bite sleeve is often part of the process. This method not only increases the aggression, it STRENGTHENS THE BITE!
Fact number three: Not only were the adults present aware of Mickey’s aggression history, they were standing RIGHT THERE watching children kick a ball around. Any IDIOT in the world could tell it was a high possibility none of these children were Pele and could lose control of the ball, and that is exactly what happened.
Fact number four: Being aware of an aggression problem in a dog and not training him out of it OR keeping him SECURELY SEPARATED from other animals or people he may attack is the same as randomly firing a gun in various directions thinking you won’t hit an unintended target! Criminal charges SHOULD have been filed and the humans involved held responsible for the neglect and glaring endangerment and resultant harm to this child. Had he died, involuntary manslaughter would have definitely applied. Too often our legal system FAILS TO BE APPLIED OR FUNCTION AT ALL in these cases.
Fact number five: While the dog is directly responsible for the damage to the child in this case, and many others, NO ANIMAL is aware of the “right or wrong” in following it’s instincts as pertains to it’s interaction with humans in it’s environment, unless it’s been trained and educated to know better. It simply is not in any animal’s nature or ability to sense the human list of good versus evil behavior-they are only animals. Much as a person from one country is a foreigner in another land or culture, they are foreigners in our’s and need to be guided, educated and supervised until they acclimate properly and show repeated signs of good behavior. Too often we raise our idea of a dog or other animal’s perspective on life to that of our own, but ignore the fact that we’re putting food in a bowl for them or they’d starve!
Fact number six: As I mentioned previously, and having been a professional behaviorist and trainer for nearly 40 years, it is always unfortunate when the squeaky wheel gets the oil and only the statistically rare cases of animal behavior become fodder for the news media and hysterical ignorant public to exercise the lowest of MAN’S instincts-bloodlust.
It’s great news that Mickey was not euthanized for this tragedy, but even Mr. Schill in his representation of the animal made a great deal of money off the case and continues to do so each time he is called upon to think about it, actually represent it to the public with statements or file paperwork regarding it. This is evidenced by the simple fact that Mr. Schill does not take cases where he doesn’t get international attention and several hundred dollars per hour for his work. I personally informed him of the case where another pit bull was poorly placed by a rescue in a home with another 5 year old child after having displayed aggressive behavior for months and bit her in the face. But because the individuals involved in the situation didn’t have a foundation to pay him thousands upon thousands of dollars, he was not interested. Luckily the damage was not as bad, but the irresponsible and public endangering behavior of the people involved was JUST as blatant and ignorant. I suggested in the end that Mr. Schill remove the “c” from his last name, for accuracy’s sake.
Hopefully, Sheriff Joe Arpaio and his office have been responsible and properly vetted the new facility where Mickey will live out his life. While the case has brought, like many others, a great amount of attention to the Sheriff and his Office, I hope this is the last we hear of Mickey until the story that informs us that he has passed away of natural causes ( Unless his skin cancer kills him. ) at a ripe old age. The child’s physical scars will heal with time and care but he will never see life out of the eye he lost or likely forget the terror and pain he has experienced emotionally and psychologically. Hopefully his adult care givers and parents won’t either, and act more responsibly in the future where animals and children are involved. It is undeniably their fault this happened, and both Mickey and the child have suffered enough for their shortcomings while many other people and entities have actually PROFITED from it!