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Family looking for answers after fatal dog attack

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The Brissette family is mourning the loss of their chocolate lab, Beau, who was killed by a pit bull in their Flower Mound neighborhood. (Photo by Janine Poole)
The Brissette family is mourning the loss of their chocolate lab, Beau, who was killed by a pit bull in their Flower Mound neighborhood. (Photo by Janine Poole)

On June 8, Flower Mound Pecan Acres resident Melanie Brissette took her 13-year old chocolate lab, Beau, on a walk with her daughter, Olivia, and the family’s young rescue Lab puppy, Belle, in her neighborhood. It was Beau’s last walk.

“Out of the corner of my eye, I saw a pit bull running toward us,” said Brissette. “He knocked me down on my back, I hit my head and it attacked Beau. I tried kicking the dog and was screaming for help. Olivia ran with Belle and hid on a porch. The pit bull stood over Beau and I ran to the house where I’d seen it chained in a side yard and the woman came and pulled the dog away.”

Brissette called her husband and they took Beau to the vet, but he was in such pain and he was so old that the only humane choice was to put him down. Brissette’s two children also witnessed the whole attack; the seven-year-old has started getting some therapy.

Following the initial attack, Animal Control arrived in approximately five minutes and took the pit bull into custody from the neighbor, whose home was a temporary housing situation. The dog actually belongs to the boyfriend of the neighbor’s daughter. The couple had been staying at the house to save up money to be able to afford an apartment.

“The pit bull has been deemed ‘dangerous’ and the owner has not responded to Animal Control requests or appeared at the hearing,” said Brissette. “They haven’t apologized or anything. In the meantime, the owner’s being fined for each day the dog is there. Apparently, an owner may request the dog back for a $100,000 fine.”

Dog Bite Prevention Week was May 19 to 25. It’s sponsored by the American Veterinary Medicine Association (AVMA), along with the Humane Society of America and the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) to educate people about the dangers of all dogs; not just the visibly vicious ones.

According to the USPS, more than 4.5-million people are bitten annually– and it can take less than 10-seconds for a dog to attack to happen. More than 12,000 pets, pet owners or both suffer from dog bites each day. This spring, a female veteran was mauled by a group of dogs in Dallas and died from that attack.

“In May of 2016 we had 12 reports of dogs biting people, but only four reports of cats biting people and only one of a dog biting a dog,” said Flower Mound Police Captain Wess Griffin. “We had 102 dogs biting humans reported to us for the calendar year 2015.”

Tragically, the AVMA and the American Academy of Pediatrics report that small children, the elderly and letter carriers, in that order, are the most frequent victims.

According to the Journal of the American Medical Association, dog attack victims now suffer up to $2-billion dollars annually and dog bites make up a third of all homeowners’ liability claims.  It’s extremely unfortunate but true; a nice walk in the park can turn into one hundred stitches, a week of intensive care and thousands of dollars in hospital bills for you, a family member or a pet.

Recommendations for walking—with or without a pet—are: carry a dog-attack (or aggressive stranger) deterrent spray. The most effective, UDAP Pepper Power Spray was developed for protection from Grizzly Bears. It contains 10-percent pepper spray and produces a 15-foot protective cloud, not a thin spray. Guard dog security pepper spray is also a powerful deterrent.

However, Protector Dog Spray, Sabre Red Protector Dog Pepper Spray, SprayShield Animal Deterrent Spray and Halt Dog Repellent‎ are Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)-registered dog attack deterrent sprays with a range of up to 15-feet. They temporarily sting and close the eyes of the attacking dog.  All effects reverse in just a few minutes leaving no injuries to the attacking dog and the necessary time to escape to safety. They are either pepper- or citronella-based. The deterrent sprays are available at stores, such as Petco, PetSmart or Walmart, or online.

“Walking is no longer safe in our neighborhood,” said Bisette. “Of all of the hundreds of kind people who reached out, a former neighbor with goldens [retrievers] helped us with trying to understand ‘why did this happen to Beau?’ by saying his last service on earth was to keep us safe.”

Flower Mound attorney Chuck Elsey of Elsey & Elsey Law Firm in Flower Mound said

Texas does not have an actual dog bite statute, but instead applies the “one bite rule,” where a person can be held liable for harm inflicted by a domestic animal. The “one bite rule” is based on “common law strict liability.”

Under the “one bite rule, a victim can recover compensation from the owner/keeper of a dog if (a) the dog previously bit a person, or acted as if it might and (b) the owner/keeper was aware of the dog’s previous conduct. Sans both of these conditions the “one bite rule” is not grounds for recovery.

If the “one bite rule” is not applicable, an injured dog-bite party may be able to recover damages based on negligence. The courts have held that an owner of an animal, even one with a non-aggressive past, can be subject to liability for the negligently handling of an animal.

Negligence is the absence of the kind of care a reasonably prudent person would exercise in similar circumstances. If a person’s conduct in a dog-bite scenario falls short of the conduct of an ordinarily prudent person, then that person may be held negligent.

To recover under a negligence dog handling claim, a person must prove (1) the defendant owned or possessed the animal; (2) the defendant owed a duty to exercise reasonable care to prevent the animal from injuring others; (3) the defendant breached that duty; and (4) the defendant’s breach was the proximate cause for the person’s injury.

In addition to those causes of action, many local governing bodies like Flower Mound have specific laws requiring dogs to be on a leash and prohibiting them from trespassing on other’s property. In many cases the courts have held that violating such laws can form the basis for liability.

In Texas such a violation creates negligence per se. To prevail on a claim the person alleging negligence per se must show that there was a violation of a statute or an ordinance.

In some cases a person may be entitled to recover damages for injury to themselves and their dog.

The things the Brissette family value most are the fond memories of their loyal companion.

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About The Author

Lyn Rejahl Pry

Mark Smith is the Editor of The Cross Timbers Gazette.

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  • mike

    The same thing happened to me on a quiet Lake Dallas street and a 250 pound dog, The owners never paid for my lost dogs, and never apologized. The dog died, but Animal Control did not help when the dog killed my pomeranian earlier

  • Master

    I don’t want a pit bull living next door to my family.

  • Keeping Dogs Safe

    None of the pit mongering organizations even mention the pit’s “leave home to attack and kill dogs unprovoked” traits.

    None offer any ways for normal people or pets to be safe with game insane bully dogs invading our communities.

    They cannot offer any suggestions as it is impossible to be safe with the silent attack from behind, kill or die trying pit Bully plague spreading into our communities.

  • Bobbie Irish

    Oh, and by the way, to all the idiots recommending pepper spray, even UDAP, it may stop a Grizzly Bear, but it won’t stop a Pit Bull attack, for they are dead game, and won’t quit. Don’t go out without a sidearm, for that is the ONLY thing that will stop an earnest Pit Bull mauling, a bullet to the head.

  • Bobbie Irish

    Thank the AVMA, who have declared that the increasing violence upon people’s pets is not due to any particular breed, and in fact claim that “Pit Bull” dogs make great family pets. Think of the millions, hundreds of millions of dollars those same Veterinarians are taking in, due to someone’s pet being mauled by a Pit Bull type dog. Check it out for yourselves. Go to nationalpitbullvictimawareness.org. Just check out the attacks on their site, on the right side of the page. Check their archives. It is Pit Bull after Pit Bull after Pit Bull, to the point many neighborhoods are simply not safe to even take a walk in anymore. Pit Bull advocates, rescues, and pro Pit Bull organizations take in millions of donor dollars per month. They adopt out full grown, Pit Bull type dogs, without any realization of how those dogs were raised and trained. Without proper guidance, even good Pit Bull dogs can go bad in a second. It is what the breed was genetically engineered to do. To attack, maul, kill and bite. Like a retriever loves to retrieve, and a border collie loves to herd, Pit Bull type dogs love the attack. You can find video after video after video of these dogs attacking other pets and humans, with their tails wagging violently. They simply love what they were bred to do, as nature dictates. Yes, there are nice Pit Bulls, I have known several. But they are rapidly being buried by the bad ones. It is to the point of being ridiculous, attack after attack after attack. The AVMA needs to wake up, quit raking in the dough from mauled animals, and let people know the truth. If these Pit Bull type dogs are no different than any other dog in their attacks and bites, how about all AVMA member Veterinarians agree to treat all and any mauled pets completely free of charge.

  • Gabriel Barros

    March 22, 2014

    How many other animals did pit bulls kill last year?
    By Meritt Clifton

    Pit bulls killed 99%

    Pit bulls appear to have inflicted not less than 95% of the total fatal attacks on other animals (43,000). Altogether, pit bulls inflicted 96% of the fatal attacks on other dogs (11,520); 95% of the fatal attacks on livestock (5,700); 95% of the fatal attacks on small mammals and poultry (16,150); and 94% of the fatal attacks on cats (11,280).

    About 30,000 pit bulls were involved in attacks on other animals. There are about 3.2 million pit bulls in the U.S. at any given time, according to the my annual surveys of dogs offered for sale or adoption via online classified ads. Thus in 2013 about one pit bull in 107 killed or seriously injured another animal, compared with about one dog in 50,000 of other breeds.

  • Maryjane

    No pepper spray will stop a pit bull. Carry a gun or a knife. The only way to stop a pit bull from attacking is to kill it.

  • Jaloney Caldwell

    http://www.nationalpitbullvictimawareness.org http://www.dogsbite.org http://www.banpitbulls.org, http://www.daxtonsfriends.com Get involved as these dogs are destroying lives and taking human lives and body parts, traumatizing dog owners and in many cases victims can’t sue. Drunk driving used to be trivialized too..

  • Keeping Dogs Safe

    It’s not an “accident” when pits/bully dogs do exactly what they were and largely still are bred to do: attack and maim dogs, unprovoked and prolonged.

    We need new laws that will make dog caregivers care enough to prevent these attacks.

    Dog fighting is a felony. Permitting dogs to kill victim digs should be as well.

    What can we do to make dog owners/handlers care enough to keep our communities and their dogs safe? What we are doing now is obviously not enough.

    The dogs that attack suffer too when their owners fail to understand them and /or fail to manage and prevent them from harming others.

    Fines alone aren’t working as the wealthy simply pay them and the poor simply don’t.

    Prisons are too full already and too expensive as well.

    Euthanize the attacking dogs, they buy and breed more.

    Here’s a cost effective, breed neutral (not breed specific) plan we could implement.

    Charge all owners and all caregivers/handlers of dogs that severely injure or kill other dogs, farm animals, or humans, or cats on the cat owner’s property, with felony animal neglect and abuse. They neglected to care for their dogs, to keep their dogs safe, so their own dogs and others suffered.

    And a felony law regarding fleeing after a dog attack.

    This would not be directed at single non-injury nip but at severe injuries and fatalities.

    Immediately remove ALL dogs from their property and management. No dog should be forced to live with neglectful animal abusers.

    Found guilty, ban all the owners and any of the dogs caregivers from owning, living with, or managing dogs, for LIFE, not 2 years, not 5 years, for LIFE!

    Start an animal abuser registry. In the USA the FBI has recently begun tracking animal abusers, so they could become the US national registry. Online registry would enable neighbors to research who is restricted from owning or handling dogs.

    Signs must be posted at the convicted neglectful animal abuser’s residence, “No Dogs Permitted.”

    Any dogs later found on their property or in their care will be immediately confiscated.

    It must be a punishment that will make all dog owners “sit up and pay attention!” and if enforced, would greatly reduce recidivism.

    Publicized and enforced, this law would reduce loose and stray dogs, reduce dogs being killed in traffic, and dogs being stolen (as caring owners would supervise their dogs when outdoors) and would increase dog sterilization.

    It would reduce intentional dog fighting as intent would not need to be proven, since recent dog fighting injuries alone would be criminal neglect /abuse and punishable by ending dog ownership.

    This law would reduce spontaneous dog attacks on dogs, farm animals, and humans.

    This law would also gradually reduce the breeding of aggressive dogs of any type. Breeders who are producing reactive or aggressive dogs would have more difficulty selling their puppies when their dogs get a reputation for being dangerous and therefore putting the new owners at risk of becoming convicted of animal neglect and cruelty.

    This law would cause a decrease in irresponsible dog ownership.

    This law would benefit all dogs in the long run.

    No responsible dog owner would be punished. You can own any dog you want, you can train it any way you want, until you fail to manage your dog safely.

    Choose your dogs carefully, manage them well. Remember that a chain is as strong as its weakest link. If your children are neglectful of closing gates, better not own a dog that is “good” at maiming and attacking, of any breed.

    Failure to keep your dog safely will mean that this dog will become your, and your family’s, last dog.

    No dog should be forced to live with known animal abusers.

    Some will say “accidents happen”. Not if people prevent them! And if law is enforced, there will be fewer “accidents”.

    Since the negligent dog owners will no longer be spending money on dogs, this law would be beneficial when fines or restitution are to be paid.

    Those who fight dogs HATE this idea as it could put them out of business.

    Only irresponsible dog owners, those sadists who enjoy aggression, and dog fighters would reject this sane, compassionate plan.

  • Mary Ann Redfern

    Texas has anti-BSL legislation which prohibits local jurisdictions from passing BSL or banning of pit bulls. Aren’t you so proud, Texas legislative morons? Texas has subsequently become Pit Bull, USA. I used to visit there, as I live “next door” in Louisiana. I will not step foot in Texas nor spend a single red penny there as long as that stupid and heartless legislation remains. Haven’t been to Texas in years and that’s a blessing obviously with pits running amok statewide. Gross breed, gross owners, gross STATE.

  • Keeping Dogs Safe

    Good game which means INSANE pits may not be stopped by pepper/bear spray.

    Some famous winning fighting dogs were blind, so blinding a game pit with pepper spray may not prevent a horrific attack.

    Before the psychopathic pits were mongered as normal dogs, the old dog fight/squabble advice was ,” left the dogs work it out”. Dogs fought but the fight ended the moment one dog submitted and was permitted to lesve alive.

    Dogs never fought to the death on neutral ground. It is cruel and insane to continue to breed more handicapped, suicida,l attacking dogs.

    • Mary Ann Redfern

      AND it is equally cruel and STUPID for a state, any state, to pass a law forbidding local jurisdictions from passing BSL or banning of pit bulls. Texas is going down the pit bull toilet, around the bowl and down the hole. Disgusting.

    • e small

      Its actually much harder to defeat a pit bull than this article states. Anyone reading might look up :

      How to Defeat a Pit Bull with Your Bare Hands..

      Its not easy. Any person facing an attacking pit bull needs luck to survive it. A child has almost no chance at all.

      The best course of action is to avoid pit bulls where ever you find them (difficult these days). Never go over to a home that harbors a pit bull. Leave the area when a pit bull is present. Cross the street…it could save your life.

  • Keeping Dogs Safe

    No one who actually cares about dog welfare wants more dog aggressive, dog killing dogs to be born.

    US and UK Dog fighters, the kill or die trying style of fighter, all choose pits. Other dogs can bite but non bully dogs simply are not game insane enough to attack unprovoked and prolonged.

    This attack was “good” pit bull behavior.

    Who needs “leave home to hunt down and kill dogs” dog aggression?

    Dog fighters and psychopaths do!

    • Mary Ann Redfern

      THOUSANDS of animals each year…dogs, cats, cows, horses, sheep, goats, pigs, name it…killed by pit f’ng bulls. Worthless breed, completely and utterly worthless.

      • Hundie

        Still, not one dog on this planet is as worthless as you are.

        • Keeping Dogs Safe

          Typical bully person post.

          No compassion for dogs, not even for the bully dogs that suffer atrocities daily.

          Bully people cause it to continue, by mongering pits as pets, by resisting any ways to reduce the disproportionate suffering and death that is the bully dog crisis.

        • e small

          People are more important than pit bulls. Any and every person is more important than a dog.

          This attitude is why there are 27 deaths attributed to pit bulls in the year 2016, out of 458 total fatalities.

          Hundreds of maulings every year, and 66 dogs killed every day, besides the other animals…

        • Inayawan

          A little late but I have to reply to this idiot. 7 or 8 years ago I was walking some of the trails around where we live, I’ll just say it was south of Denton, anyway out of nowhere this angry growling dog came running up to me; so I did what any “normal” Texan would do,
          I shot him about 6 or 7 times with my .22 automatic. That saved me from getting bit and eliminated a future threat to the community.
          I left him where he fell and finished my hike.
          I like dogs but not ones that are mean.

  • nonpitbullpetslivesmattertoo

    Pit bulls have been selectively bred for extreme aggression for hundreds of years for violent blood sports with a deadly bite. They are not safe or appropriate pets and should never be considered as such. Not all pit bulls will maim or kill but predicting which ones will is impossible.

    Pit bull-type dogs make up 6% of the U.S. dog population but are responsible for 95% of the severe attacks on people, pets and livestock every year in the U.S. Pit-bulls are dangerous because they have the capability of inflicting life threatening injuries in a split second.

    The vast majority of the pit bull type dogs that severely maul or kill are family pets, and are not trained fighters. Pit type dogs are hardwired to maul and kill without warning, it is a part of the genetic code like border collies herd, labs swim, goldens retrieve, pointers point, and bloodhounds track.

    From 2005-2016, 245 people killed by pit bull type dogs. Go to: DOGSBITE ORG

    This site tracks severe pit bull attacks: National Pit Bull Victim Awareness

    459 disfigurements in 2015 by pit bulls.

    50,000 animals killed by pit bulls every year.

    Pit bulls do not lock their jaws but with their gameness trait they do not let go.

    Two words to prove pit bull type dogs are inherently dangerous, “BREAK STICK’.

    Does this sound like a normal and safe dog breed to have live in our neighborhoods? Pit Bull Rescue Central recommends ALL pit bull owners to have a “break stick”, a wedge-shaped piece of wood used to pry open a pit bull’s jaw during an attack. “Since pit bulls have a strong fighting background, we recommend that pet owners also have a breaking stick as a precaution, even if they don’t plan to use it in an illegal context. However, please be discreet. Breaking sticks are not something to brag about and the general public might have the wrong impression if you walk around with a stick in your hand. Breaking sticks are not illegal, but they are considered dog fighting paraphernalia in certain states and/or with certain law enforcement agents.”

    According to Pit Bull Rescue Central, “It is a FACT that our pit bulls, AmStaffs and pit mixes come with a built-in fighting heritage.It doesn’t matter where we get them from, whether it be the pound, a stray we pick up, or a puppy we buy from a breeder. The majority of pit bulls will, at some point in their lives, exhibit some degree of dog-on-dog aggression. Yet, chances are that a “normal” pit bull will not share his affection with other animals.We cannot predict when or where it will happen and we can’t love, train or socialize it out of the dog. Pit bulls may not start fights, but they will finish them.”

    Red Flag: MOST insurance companies have come to the same conclusion and do no cover pit-bulls because they can’t afford the risk. Insurance companies have a calculated actuarial risk of pit bulls of 3,000% compared with other dogs. Pit bulls are seven times more likely to attack their owners. Dog attacks are the third most common claim on homeowner’s insurance. More evidence that people who have pit-bulls and certain other types of breeds are endangering people and other people’s beloved pets in our communities.

    It all starts with the ethical breeder willing to produce a dog with a stable inherited temperament. Domestic animals are selectively bred for certain traits, people are not. It is not possible to discriminate against dog breeds that are purposely bred for certain traits and characteristics. Dog breeding is the practice of mating selected dogs with the intent to maintain or produce specific qualities and characteristics. There are 300+ dog breeds. Pit bull breeders are the only ones who are breeding for aggression, tenacity and power to create the ultimate canine gladiator. The reality is that it is not how you raise them, it is how they are bred. “Love” will not take away a pit bulls inherent drive to kill. They are supplying to dog fighters, drug dealers, gang members, people who want a guard dog or a dog that looks like a protection dog. Aggression is a dominant trait resulting in a 75% chance of inheritance. One needs to actively breed to eliminate it through selective breeding and deliberate attrition, things that back yard breeders never do. Another problem is the rampant inbreeding with pit bull that produces unsafe dog. Pit-bull type dogs are the number one dog surrendered to shelters, a million every year, mostly because of aggression issues. Then many are rehomed by irresponsible pit bull advocates back into our communities. Watch this clip of unethical backyard breeders:

    Most dogs warn you before they attack, growling or barking to tell you how angry they are—”so they don’t have to fight,” ASPCA adviser and animal geneticist Stephen Zawistowski stresses. Not the pit bull, which attacks without warning. Most dogs, too, will bow to signal that they want to frolic. Again, not the pit bull, which may follow an apparently playful bow with a lethal assault.

    BENJAMIN HART, professor emeritus at the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine and animal behaviorist, “It’s quite common for a pit bull to show no signs of aggression. People will call it a nice dog, a sweet dog, even the neighbors – and then all of a sudden something triggers the dog, and it attacks a human in a characteristic way of biting and hanging on until a lot of damage is done. Hart said pit bulls are responsible for about 60 percent of dog attack fatalities each year, which is “way out of proportion” compared with other breeds. Pit bulls make up less than 5 percent of the American dog population. “It’s very poor policy to allow any child around a pit bull, in my mind, let alone climb on a dog.”

    Tia Torres who has a T.V. show on Animal Planet called, “Pit Bulls & Parolees​” wrote this for Rescue Train. “It’s a mistake to think the fighting gene can be easily trained or loved out of a pit-bull.”

    Why she think it’s appropriate to rehome pit bulls after saying that is beyond me. Adopting out predators of other people’s beloved pets compromises public safety. In my opinion is immoral. Pit bulls are zero mistake dogs and people make too many mistakes.

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