Whether it’s art, propaganda, or a combination of the two, a memorial to victims of fatal dog attacks is creating controversy as one of dozens of entries in a public art display in downtown Grand Rapids, Michigan.
The work is called “Out of the Blue,” a reference to how dog attacks — and particularly pit bull attacks, the artist repeatedly points out — usually happen.
The display, created by a woman identifying herself as Joan Marie Kowal, consists of more than 30 decorated crosses, representing the number of people killed in dog attacks this year, and images of the victims, many of them children.
The artwork is rubbing some dog lovers, and particularly pit bull lovers, the wrong way, which has led to some demonstrations and the kind of heated, everybody’s an expert debate that follows pit bulls around wherever they go.
Joan Marie Kowal, we suspect, has more experience in badmouthing pit bulls than she does in creating art, but then again artists don’t need credentials in this competition.
Every year, for 19 days, three square miles of downtown Grand Rapids is opened up to artists in ArtPrize, a competition that awards $200,000 to the grand prize winner.
Downtown becomes “an open playing field where anyone can find a voice in the conversation about what is art and why it matters,” according to the ArtPrize website. “Art from around the world pops up in every inch of downtown … It’s unorthodox, highly disruptive, and undeniably intriguing to the art world and the public alike.”
This year, “Out of the Blue” has proved among the most disruptive.
A week ago, perturbed pit bull owners brought their dogs to Calder Plaza, where the entry is displayed, in hopes of presenting their views and showing that pit bulls — the breed most often mentioned in the memorial — aren’t vicious killing machines.
When they sat down in front of the memorial, Kowal complained they were obstructing the public’s view.
Kowal told MLIVE.com in an email that “visitors can’t even see the art and many have told me the bully breed owners, sitting on the ledges blocking the view of the victims’ biographies and refusing to move, makes them unable to enjoy the piece.”
Grand Rapids Police Lt. Pat Dean said Kowal filed a complaint in late September about people sitting with pit bulls on the stone wall in front of her ArtPrize entry. Police found nothing illegal at that time, he said, and members of the group, while on public property, moved at the request of officers.
Kowal describes the work as “an opportunity to Pay it Forward, and show the good side of humanity. Visitors are encouraged to express their sympathy, respect, and support for the victims and their families by leaving teddy bears, flowers, or memorial decorations in the designated heart-shaped memorial space.”
According to a brief biography listed on the ArtPrize website, Kowal is an animal lover, who has feral cats and pet squirrels. She attended Grand Valley State University.
Not a whole lot can be learned about her through searching her name on the Internet, and there’s no mention of any previous artistic pursuits.
There was a 2011 MLIVE.com article that mentioned her name, and quoted her as being a supporter of a proposed pit bull ban in Wyoming, Michigan.
Perhaps she became an artist “out of the blue.” Perhaps her anti-pit bull passion needed an outlet.
We support the right for just about anyone to call themselves an artist, assuming they are making some form of art. We don’t have a problem with Kowal expressing herself — either vocally or through her “art” — on the streets of Grand Rapids. By the same token, we have no problem with pit bull owners and their dogs sitting down squarely in front of it, as long as it’s public property. They have the right to express themselves in public, too, whether they’re ArtPrize contestants or not.
So do we. And our opinion is Kowal is pushing her personal agenda under the guise of a non-profit organization’s art competition, and that it’s likely part of a well-plotted effort by those forces intent on painting all members of the breed with the same brush, reinforcing negative stereotypes while playing fast and loose with the facts.
Kowal says she plans to add three more crosses this weekend in remembrance of three other people who died from injuries she says were caused by pit bull attacks.
“That is not my fault that they were all killed by pit bulls,” she said. “I’m just showing the facts.”
Posted by John Woestendiek October 6th, 2014 under Muttsblog.
Tags: animals, art, artist, artprize, artworks, attacks, breed, breeds, contest, discrimination, dog, dogs, downtown, fatal, grand rapids, joan marie kowal, memorial, out of the blue, pets, pit bulls, pitbulls, victims
Alex Jackson, 28, was arrested at his Littlerock home Thursday after DNA testing confirmed the presence of the victim’s blood on several of his dogs.
His bail is set at $1,050,000. If convicted, he faces life in prison, a district attorney’s spokeswoman said.
Six pit bulls and two mixed breeds — were recovered from his home, according to the Los Angeles Times. Four of the dogs were believed to be involved in the attack.
“We believe there was evidence that he was aware the dogs were vicious and they have attacked before and he knew of the danger they posed,” said Jane Robison, a district attorney’s spokeswoman.
Pamela Devitt, of Antelope Valley, was attacked by a pack of dogs on May 9 and died en route to the hospital. Coroner’s officials said the cause of death was blood loss, and that they found 150 to 200 puncture wounds on her body.
Since January, authorities had received at least three other reports of Jackson’s pit bulls attacking other people, according to the district attorney’s office.
Experts said the filing of murder charges in such cases is rare.
“When it comes to murder charges, there are very, very few over decades. But increasingly dog owners whose animals attack are facing criminal prosecution,” said Donald Cleary of the National Canine Research Council. Most dogs involved in such attacks aren’t family pets, and have usually been isolated, he added.
Cleary said he was aware of only two cases in the last 15 years in which dog owners have been charged with murder — one in San Francisco and one in Atlanta.
One of those was Marjorie Knoller, an attorney whose dogs mauled her neighbor to death in San Francisco. She is now serving 15 years to life in prison for the 2001 killing of lacrosse coach Dianne Whipple.
A jury convicted Knoller of second-degree murder. A judge later reduced the conviction to involuntary manslaughter, saying there was not enough evidence for Knoller to know her two 100-pound Presa Canarios would kill. The original jury verdict was later reinstated after an appeal.
(Photo: Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times)
Posted by John Woestendiek May 31st, 2013 under Muttsblog.
Tags: alex jackson, animals, attack, bites, california, charges, death, dianne whipple, dogs, donald cleary, fatal, littlerock, manslaughter, marjorie knoller, mauling, national canine research council, pack, pamela devitt, pets, pit bull, pit bulls, pitbull, pitbulls, responsibility, victim
Since January of 2010, Houston police have gunned down 187 dogs, killing 121 of them.
And last year alone, law enforcement officers in Houston and Harris County shot more dogs than New York City police officers shot in 2010 and 2011 combined.
All of those shooting were deemed by police to have been justified, but it’s not too hard to find families that disgree with that.
The KHOU 11 News I-Team did, and its report this week is more evidence that, across the country, requiring police to be trained in dealing with dogs could save dogs, and their families, a lot of pain.
Colorado passed a law requiring that, and it was signed by the governor this week.
The KHOU report, when it looked at the police-involved dog shootings for all of Harris County found at least 228 dogs had been shot by officers and deputies since 2010, 142 of them fatally.
“If the dog turns and comes at a citizen, or the deputy, they have all right to use lethal force,” explained Dpt. Thomas Gilliland of the Harris County Sheriff’s Office.
Records show Harris County deputies shot 38 canines in the last three-and-a-half years.
When asked if all those shootings were justified, Gilliland said: “The justification is, in that matter, and at that moment the deputy had to choose the decision to use lethal force against that animal.”
Sgt. Joseph Guerra, who works as a cruelty investigator for the Houston Humane Society, said it teaches some officers how to safety interact with threatening dogs. But the training isn’t mandated for all officers.
“A lot of times, officers are not sent to training to get that type of certification to feel comfortable enough to deal with these animals,” he said. “We need to get those officers involved in some mandated training in how to defend before going to deadly force.”
The Arlington and Fort Worth Police Departments started mandatory dog training for officers last fall, and state lawmakers are considering a bill that would require the training for officers across Texas.
Posted by John Woestendiek May 17th, 2013 under Muttsblog, videos.
Tags: aggressive, animals, arlington, behavior, canines, colorado, dangerous, deputies, dogs, fatal, fort worth, harris county, houston, interact, killed, law enforcement, new york, officers, pets, police, police shooting dogs, shoot, shot, texas, threatening, training
A mastiff that killed a terrier-Chihuahua mix Thursday at Charlotte’s Frazier Dog Park mistook the smaller dog for his favorite chew toy, according to the man who brought the mastiff to the park.
On Thursday, Maran Heatwole walked into the dog park with her 12-pound dog, Presley. Witnesses said the mastiff, about 140 pounds, picked up Presley and shook her from side to side, reports the Charlotte Observer.
The man who brought the mastiff to the park told the newspaper that the dog had been playing at the park with his favorite toy, a brown stuffed bear. When Presley walked by, he said, the mastiff picked her up because they looked similar.
The newspaper did not identify the man by name, and he declined to give the dog’s name, but he did provide a photo of the toy in question.
He said he feels sorry for Presley’s owner, but pointed out the park has a separate area designated for small dogs, and that Presley should have been there. He said the mastiff was not his, but belongs to his girlfriend’s relatives in Tennessee.
Heatwole drove Presley to Dilworth Animal Hospital after the incident but veterinarians were unable to save the dog.
Heatwole passed the man’s name on to Charlotte-Mecklenburg Animal Care and Control. Officials there said Sunday night that the case is under investigation.
Parks officials said this is the first fatal incident they know of at one of the county’s five dog parks, which have been open for eight years.
Joseph Hawley, Heatwole’s fiance, said the couple is devastated by the loss and plans to lobby for stricter safety regulations for aggressive dogs in parks. “We’re gonna do as much as we can to make sure no other owner or family has to go through this.”
Posted by John Woestendiek April 5th, 2010 under Muttsblog.
Tags: animal control, animals, bear, big dog, charlotte, chew toy, chihuahua, death, died, dog parks, dogs, fatal, Frazier dog park, investigation, killed, kills, maran heatwole, mastiff, mistaken identity, mix, news, ohmidog!, parks, pets, presley, shook, small dog, stuffed toy, terrier, toy
Police in Baltimore are investigating the shooting of a 9-year-old boy and his dog Tuesday night.
The boy was shot in the left hand in West Baltimore Tuesday night after three men kicked in the front door of his residence, police said.
The boy was taken to an area hospital and is in stable condition, the Baltimore Sun reported. The dog was killed.
Police were called to the 1600 block of N. Ellamont St. about 11 p.m. and found the victim shot along with a dog. Witnesses told police that the suspects fled the residence after the shooting.
Posted by John Woestendiek December 2nd, 2009 under Muttsblog.
Tags: 9 year old, animals, baltimore, boy, child, crime, dog, fatal, home, pets, residence, shooting, shot, violence, West Baltimore
A father walking his dogs was shot to death in front of his 13-year-old daughter Tuesday night, after exchanging words with a man who got mad when one of the two dogs sniffed his legs, police said.
The father, Thomas Cunningham, 38, of Hayward, California, worked as a head janitor for the Dublin Unified School District. He and his daughter had gone to a store to get ice cream and were returning home with their two dogs, the San Jose Mercury-News reported.
Police said Cunningham’s German shepherd approached a man and sniffed his leg. An argument ensued and the man pulled out a handgun, shooting Cunningham as his daughter watched.
The two were returning from a two-block trip with the dogs — the year-old German shepherd and an unspecified smaller breed.
Police are seeking the suspect, and any additional witnesses.
Posted by John Woestendiek November 27th, 2009 under Muttsblog.
Tags: california, crime, daughter, dog, dogs, fatal, father, german shepherd, hayward, killed, leg, police, shooting, shot, sniffed, thomas cunningham
A California man is blaming his dog for the fatal shooting of his wife.
John Aaron Norris, 25, of San Miguel said his dog ran underneath his feet, tripping him and causing the semi-automatic rifle he was holding to fire.
Norris is accused of involuntary manslaughter in the July 9 shooting death of 24-year-old Tasha Dawn Norris. His preliminary hearing is scheduled to resume today.
Norris pleaded not guilty to the manslaughter charge and to a charge of possessing an illegal weapon at his home — a semiautomatic rifle found by investigators, according to The Tribune in San Luis Obispo.
Sheriff’s deputies testified Wednesday that Norris stated he was standing on the stairs when the dog ran under his feet and tripped him. He told authorities he was holding the gun because he was planning to remove the ammunition before fire inspectors came to his home to examine new sprinklers in the condominium.
Tasha Norris was seated on a couch in the home when she was shot, according to investigators. Medics attempted to revive her, but she was pronounced dead at the scene.
Posted by John Woestendiek November 20th, 2009 under Muttsblog.
Tags: accident, blame, blamed, california, charges, crime, dog, dogs, fatal, fired, guns, hearing, john aaron norris, rifle, san miguel, semi automatic, shooting, shoots, shot, tasha dawn norris, tripped, wife