Dog bite expert & animal behavior specialist

Richard H. Polsky, PhD, CDBC
Los Angeles, California

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Dr. Richard Polsky - The Dog Expert

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Breed misidentification in Michigan in dog bite fatality

Below are two new stories reporting on  breed misidentification with regards to a dog bite fatality in Detroit, Michigan. In the first story, the breed of dog is reported as being pit bull, and in the second story the breed is identified as bullmastiff.

Take the Pit bull identification test to further understand difficulties in accurately assessing a breed by physical characteristics alone, and in the absence of other supporting information.

Report #1

DETROIT — A 92-year-old woman was mauled and killed by her pit bull at a home on Detroit’s west side Monday afternoon, Local 4 reported. 

The woman inherited the dog after her grandson died about three years ago. The dog, for an unknown reason, turned on the woman and mauled her, the station reported. Police said two other people who were inside the home on Tyler Street at the time pulled the animal off the woman and brought it outside. A neighbor who witnessed what happened fired shots at the dog, Local 4 reported.The dog was hit by a bullet, but was not killed, the station reported. Police arrived at the scene and an officer also shot at the dog, killing it, Local 4 reported. The 92-year-old woman was found dead inside the home.

Report #2

Woman, 91, dies in attack by her pet dog

Cecil Angel, Detroit Free Press staff writer

On her block on Detroit’s west side, Mary Stiles was the one who took care of everyone. She baked pies for her neighbors, nursed them, watched their homes and gave them warm encouragement. Her love extended to animals.

When her grandson died a year ago, Stiles, 91, adopted his dog Butch, a bullmastiff that a neighbor described as 80 pounds and 3 years old. On Tuesday, for unexplained reasons, Butch mauled Stiles in her home at 2703 Tyler near Linwood, killing her in a bloody attack.”

It was at least the third fatal dog attack in metro Detroit this year. In all cases, the dogs were family pets.

According to Detroit police spokesman James Tate, police were called to the Stiles home shortly after 4 p.m. When they arrived, they saw the dog outside the house. His face was bloody.

The dog turned toward one police officer and charged him. The police officer, whose gun was drawn, fired once at the dog, which fell dead on the sidewalk, Tate said.

No one knew why Butch turned against his mistress.

“Neighbors were saying that dog was very protective of the woman,” Tate said. “For some reason, it snapped.”

EMS technicians took Stiles to Henry Ford Hospital, where she was pronounced dead on arrival.

Charles Wilson, 72, who lives down the street, said his grandson was visiting the house at the time of the dog attack. Wilson said his grandson and a man who lived in the house with Stiles pulled the dog off of Stiles and forced it outside.

His grandson rushed to Wilson’s home for help. At Stiles’ house, Wilson found the paramedics working on her. But when he returned to his home, he saw the dog in a vacant lot nearby and two young girls approaching. He screamed at them not to run and at one point grabbed his gun. Other neighbors joined in the chorus, “Don’t run. Don’t run.”

“I tried to get in between them” as the dog charged, Wilson said. “I shot two or three times. I had to.”

Then police arrived and killed the dog.

McCarver, who was taking a bath, heard gunshots and later learned that Stiles was dead.

“I couldn’t stop crying,” she said. “It’s just terrible.”

McCarver recalled how she was injured when her furnace exploded. Stiles brought her food and nursed her to health.

Another neighbor, Dell Watt, 46, said she has known Stiles all her life. “She’s like a mother to me,” Watt said. “She treats me like a daughter. She was sweet, sweet. Lord, she was a sweet lady.”

Stiles was a retired cleaning woman who stood about 5 feet tall and walked with a cane in recent years, Watt said. But in the neighborhood, she stood taller.

Neighbors knew they could count on Stiles to look after them, Watt said. Stiles watched her home and would call her about anything suspicious. She never accepted money for anything she did for neighbors, Watt said.

She said the dog barked a lot. “He never attacked anybody,” Watt said. “He never attacked her. I don’t know what happened.”