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Old 12-20-2017, 05:49 AM   #1 (permalink)
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Two dogs (supposedly) killed their owner

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/...ed-the-horror/

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Rumors swirled around the death of Bethany Lynn Stephens, a young woman from rural Virginia who, authorities said, was mauled to death by her dogs while out on a walk last week.
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Stephens’s friend Barbara Norris was among those who weren’t convinced by authorities’ account of her death, saying the dogs, which Stephens had been raising since they were puppies, would never turn on her.
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Old 12-20-2017, 05:56 AM   #2 (permalink)
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There is not enough data to form a conclusion. I would start with an autopsy rather than the statements of people (cops or not) who did not witness the death.
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Old 12-20-2017, 06:00 AM   #3 (permalink)
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This whole story is very frustrating and beyond sad.

They keep saying the dogs did it (and stating that she had left them with her parents with only visiting 5x a week during a duration of time so therefor, they were wild because they were outside in a kennel - not sure if that is true or the reason why she had to leave them).

I won't repeat some of the things from the article because it is a bit gory but I do actually question their outcome of the dogs killed her because of their reasoning which is actually natural animal behavior in the aftermath. (which also means I do feel the best outcome for the dogs was to be put down humanely and also a reason I didn't take an old friends cat after she was found after two weeks).

I question it because she was in the woods, and in woods - there are feral dogs and also coyotes, which would leave the same markings. The dogs pens were busted open so they fought to escape. I do wonder if they fought to escape to protect her and natural instinct after the fact is coming in to play.

Either way.....it's very sad and I truly feel for that family because in all reality, none of us or them will ever really know what happened that day or how she actually died. Be it by her own dogs, feral dogs or coyotes.

edited to add link to NG article re: the subject of natural domestic animal instinct after death of owner: https://l.facebook.com/l.php?u=http%...Yam_E2iKzBfv4z

Last edited by Misty Harley; 12-20-2017 at 06:31 AM.
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Old 12-20-2017, 06:43 AM   #4 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Misty Harley View Post
I question it because she was in the woods, and in woods - there are feral dogs and also coyotes, which would leave the same markings. The dogs pens were busted open so they fought to escape. I do wonder if they fought to escape to protect her and natural instinct after the fact is coming in to play.


THAT scenario rings true, especially with the explanation of post-mortem dog behavior, which was new to me.
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Old 12-20-2017, 06:48 AM   #5 (permalink)
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THAT scenario rings true, especially with the explanation of post-mortem dog behavior, which was new to me.
I learned about it because of the cat I mentioned. I thought it was based on hunger but in reality for dogs, it's based on many other factors instead.

It even makes sense to me that she might have had a stroke/heart attack, etc and the dogs became frantic to revive her and at that point, she tried to fend them off but couldn't (would explain defensive marks on hands).
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Old 12-20-2017, 06:57 AM   #6 (permalink)
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Originally Posted by Misty Harley View Post
This whole story is very frustrating and beyond sad.

They keep saying the dogs did it (and stating that she had left them with her parents with only visiting 5x a week during a duration of time so therefor, they were wild because they were outside in a kennel - not sure if that is true or the reason why she had to leave them).

I won't repeat some of the things from the article because it is a bit gory but I do actually question their outcome of the dogs killed her because of their reasoning which is actually natural animal behavior in the aftermath. (which also means I do feel the best outcome for the dogs was to be put down humanely and also a reason I didn't take an old friends cat after she was found after two weeks).
Yes, it is a bit like the stories of what the cats did when some old cat lady dies. You can not blame the cats and it was not like they killed their human. It is a bit surprising that cops would leap to 'they killed her' from what happened afterwards as odds are there is at least one pet person among them who would have recognized the behaviour for what it was.
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Old 12-20-2017, 08:08 AM   #7 (permalink)
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Originally Posted by Kara Spengler View Post
Yes, it is a bit like the stories of what the cats did when some old cat lady dies. You can not blame the cats and it was not like they killed their human. It is a bit surprising that cops would leap to 'they killed her' from what happened afterwards as odds are there is at least one pet person among them who would have recognized the behaviour for what it was.
I read comments on the NG link I gave above and it appears that the majority of pet owners think their own pets would never do this.

Honestly? One of my worst 'fears' is something happening to me in the barn while the dogs are in there or a pig is out (mainly because the pig would make the dogs more frantic - well fed pigs tend to mind their own business)

And that's all I'm gonna say about that.
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Old 12-20-2017, 08:17 AM   #8 (permalink)
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I followed the rule of never reading comments. Maybe it is because I used to be around pets and various other animals but not now that I am able to look at the situation both informed and logically.
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Old 12-20-2017, 08:54 AM   #9 (permalink)
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Originally Posted by Kara Spengler View Post
Yes, it is a bit like the stories of what the cats did when some old cat lady dies. You can not blame the cats and it was not like they killed their human. It is a bit surprising that cops would leap to 'they killed her' from what happened afterwards as odds are there is at least one pet person among them who would have recognized the behaviour for what it was.
As I understand it from the article, the available evidence seems to point to the conclusion she was killed by an animal or animals of a similar size to that of her dogs, and certainly no larger than them.

In the absence of any evidence suggesting the presence of another animal on the scene at the time of her death, Occam's razor suggests we should conclude one or both the dogs was responsible.
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Old 12-20-2017, 09:42 AM   #10 (permalink)
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Originally Posted by Kara Spengler View Post
There is not enough data to form a conclusion. I would start with an autopsy rather than the statements of people (cops or not) who did not witness the death.
The police actually saw the bites on her throat, and also saw the dogs eating part of her rib-cage when they arrived. I think I'd rather believe them than her 'friend'.
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Old 12-20-2017, 09:59 AM   #11 (permalink)
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I'm sorry but I think some of you are in denial about this. According to everything I've read about this it was the dogs that killed her. They hadn't broke out of their kennel to go "rescue" her. She had taken them for a walk in the woods on one of her visits.

The dogs were previously trained to be illegal fighting dogs. She got them to "rehab" them & she had them as inside dogs. For whatever reasons she then moved them to her father's place where he kept them as outside dogs locked in their kennels. She visited them there at his house.

There were no reports of other animals in the area that could've & would've killed her other than those two dogs. She had bite marks on her head & throat that were consistent in size to the jaws of those 2 dogs.

I know people want to defend these dogs & others that're called pitbulls & I realize not all pits are like that. However, these two dogs had been trained to fight & I don't think that was wiped away by her treating them kindly or by them being kept in cold kennels outside with little human attention. And sorry but some breeds of dogs are just more dangerous than others. When was the last time you heard of a pair of dachshunds killing their owners or a golden retriever killing a child.
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Old 12-20-2017, 10:05 AM   #12 (permalink)
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The police actually saw the bites on her throat, and also saw the dogs eating part of her rib-cage when they arrived. I think I'd rather believe them than her 'friend'.
Eating the rib cage shows what dogs do post-mortem of the owner's death. It says nothing about what caused the death.
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Old 12-20-2017, 10:08 AM   #13 (permalink)
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Originally Posted by Maggy Hazelnut View Post
I'm sorry but I think some of you are in denial about this. According to everything I've read about this it was the dogs that killed her. They hadn't broke out of their kennel to go "rescue" her. She had taken them for a walk in the woods on one of her visits.

The dogs were previously trained to be illegal fighting dogs. She got them to "rehab" them & she had them as inside dogs. For whatever reasons she then moved them to her father's place where he kept them as outside dogs locked in their kennels. She visited them there at his house.

There were no reports of other animals in the area that could've & would've killed her other than those two dogs. She had bite marks on her head & throat that were consistent in size to the jaws of those 2 dogs.

I know people want to defend these dogs & others that're called pitbulls & I realize not all pits are like that. However, these two dogs had been trained to fight & I don't think that was wiped away by her treating them kindly or by them being kept in cold kennels outside with little human attention. And sorry but some breeds of dogs are just more dangerous than others. When was the last time you heard of a pair of dachshunds killing their owners or a golden retriever killing a child.
I am not trying to defend them or say they are guilty. I am simply saying that is what dogs can do once an owner dies and there is no evidence saying how the death occurred.
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Old 12-20-2017, 11:09 AM   #14 (permalink)
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I read that the authorities walked back the allegation that they were rehabbed fighting dogs, saying she raised them from puppies.

There's also this:

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At a Monday news conference, authorities released disturbing new details of the attack, and alleged the dogs had recently become “more isolated” with “less and less human contact.”

The dogs recently allegedly “were a little bit neglected,” said Sheriff’s Sgt. Mike Blackwood. “She left the dogs with her father, her father was not taking care of the dogs, it wasn’t his responsibility, and she would come home maybe five times to the father’s house a week on average and take the dogs out, and so they became more isolated where the only contact they had was with each other, and it was less and less human contact.”

“I’m not saying that the family was neglectful,” Blackwood said. “They were kept outside, and they previously had been inside dogs” who “became a little distant from their owner towards the end.”
And this:

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At Monday’s news conference, Goochland County, Virginia, Sheriff James Askew said he wanted to address skeptics who floated other theories about Stephens’ death.

In response to reports that Stephens had received unspecified threats, or possibly been a victim of human violence or sexual assault, and that her dogs were protecting her when they were found with her body, the sheriff said: “It does not seem, from what we found on the scene, from the evidence that we observed, from the evidence that we collected, that narrative doesn’t fit.”

He said, however, “we are still following up on those” reports.
And this:

Quote:
Rumors also circulated that Stephens was being threatened and that an ex-husband or boyfriend might be to blame.

Again, the medical examiner found no evidence of that: No signs of strangulation, suffocation, blunt force trauma or sexual assault. The victim had no broken bones. Bruising did show that some of the bites were inflicted while the victim was still alive and others after she passed away.
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Old 12-20-2017, 11:46 AM   #15 (permalink)
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Originally Posted by Kara Spengler View Post
Eating the rib cage shows what dogs do post-mortem of the owner's death. It says nothing about what caused the death.
According to the report,
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Agnew said many have inundated his office and social media with calls, emails, attacks and false narratives about how Stephens died. He told The Washington Post earlier that investigators don’t suspect foul play and that evidence recovered from the scene, including defensive wounds on her hands and arms, showed that the dogs were responsible for her death.

Investigators also have looked into statements from other witnesses, including the possibility that Stephens was killed by someone or something else and that the dogs were trying to protect her. But investigators don’t believe that is what happened. Agnew said at least one of the dogs had a significant amount of blood on its collar and neck.

“Now, having said that, we are still following up on those. We’re still doing some forensic tests. We’re still doing interviews,” Agnew said. “But . . . from the evidence that we observed, from the evidence that we collected, that narrative doesn’t fit.”

Authorities said the bite marks on Stephens, including the ones on her skull, were consistent with canine marks. Had she been attacked by a bigger animal, such as a bear, Agnew said, the bites would’ve punctured her skull.

Shawn Whitlock, an investigator with the sheriff’s office, said there was no sign that she was killed any other way.
So I would say there seems to be quite a lot of evidence that she was killed by an animal attack, and that the animal(s) was about the same size as her dogs.
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Old 12-20-2017, 12:17 PM   #16 (permalink)
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Originally Posted by Maggy Hazelnut View Post
I'm sorry but I think some of you are in denial about this. According to everything I've read about this it was the dogs that killed her. They hadn't broke out of their kennel to go "rescue" her. She had taken them for a walk in the woods on one of her visits.

The dogs were previously trained to be illegal fighting dogs. She got them to "rehab" them & she had them as inside dogs. For whatever reasons she then moved them to her father's place where he kept them as outside dogs locked in their kennels. She visited them there at his house.

There were no reports of other animals in the area that could've & would've killed her other than those two dogs. She had bite marks on her head & throat that were consistent in size to the jaws of those 2 dogs.

I know people want to defend these dogs & others that're called pitbulls & I realize not all pits are like that. However, these two dogs had been trained to fight & I don't think that was wiped away by her treating them kindly or by them being kept in cold kennels outside with little human attention. And sorry but some breeds of dogs are just more dangerous than others. When was the last time you heard of a pair of dachshunds killing their owners or a golden retriever killing a child.
Just a quick note, the police clarified the dogs were not trained to fight.

I'm not defending the dogs per say....I am saying that until a full toxology report is returned to determine cause of death....I wouldn't be so quick to say the dogs killed her.

Could they have?

Yes, absolutely. Most likely, they probably did but not in the sense that so many people think: They turned on her and attacked her

She could have been mauled by feral dogs and/or coyotes as well.

or...a bit more realistically:

She could have had a heart attack, stroke, fell and struck her head while walking and the dogs tried to revive her and go anxious when they couldn't and started biting her (this is actually something that happens more often then any of us care to think about). At that point, she could very well have came too and tried to fight them off and lost the battle because of their natural instinct to kick in due to tasting flesh and blood.

The medical report (until complete autopsy) hasn't determined really much of anything for internal issues or even a head hit due to the bite marks.

Yes, again...the dogs could have turned on her unprovoked at the same time and took her down and killed her. It's happened before with at least one dog on the scene as well as pack dogs.

Even with her only walking them 5 times a week - it's very plausible.

However, I still maintain that the Officers investigating are using the wrong things to determine whether or not those dogs attacked and killed her maliciously. Because a dog eating it's owner after death is not uncommon, out of the ordinary or even unique. It's not done because they are hungry and most often, it's done because animal instinct takes over once they get frantic enough to try and revive, start nipping at their owner and that causes the feeding instinct takes over

Regardless of whether they attacked her maliciously or not - the only humane thing to do for them is put them down.
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Old 12-20-2017, 12:34 PM   #17 (permalink)
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no injuries to the throat area . 
Um... when dogs attack one of the areas they go for first is the throat. The quickest way to kill your prey. Canines aren't the only ones that do this. Watch any NatGeo wildlife program and observe how many different species (like the big cats) go for the throat in preference to, say, the soft underbelly.

Two dogs attack and neither one goes for the throat? I find that very difficult to believe.
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Old 12-20-2017, 12:46 PM   #18 (permalink)
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Originally Posted by Maggy Hazelnut View Post
I'm sorry but I think some of you are in denial about this. According to everything I've read about this it was the dogs that killed her. They hadn't broke out of their kennel to go "rescue" her. She had taken them for a walk in the woods on one of her visits.

The dogs were previously trained to be illegal fighting dogs. She got them to "rehab" them & she had them as inside dogs. For whatever reasons she then moved them to her father's place where he kept them as outside dogs locked in their kennels. She visited them there at his house.

There were no reports of other animals in the area that could've & would've killed her other than those two dogs. She had bite marks on her head & throat that were consistent in size to the jaws of those 2 dogs.

I know people want to defend these dogs & others that're called pitbulls & I realize not all pits are like that. However, these two dogs had been trained to fight & I don't think that was wiped away by her treating them kindly or by them being kept in cold kennels outside with little human attention. And sorry but some breeds of dogs are just more dangerous than others. When was the last time you heard of a pair of dachshunds killing their owners or a golden retriever killing a child.
Fighting dogs are not trained to attack humans. They are trained to attack and kill other dogs. They can be rehabbed successfully although some are too far gone to be rehabbed. That doesn't appear to be the case here.

If you don't believe dachshunds or retrievers are capable of killing humans, you are only fooling yourself. Any canine, domestic or wild, is fully capable of taking life, including human life regardless of the size or disposition of the canine.

Even with that in mind, I have my doubts. If the two dogs are responsible, then something provoked the attack and THAT is what needs to be figured out. Dogs don't normally just go off the deep end and attack without reason or provocation.
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Old 12-20-2017, 12:47 PM   #19 (permalink)
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Um... when dogs attack one of the areas they go for first is the throat. The quickest way to kill your prey. Canines aren't the only ones that do this. Watch any NatGeo wildlife program and observe how many different species (like the big cats) go for the throat in preference to, say, the soft underbelly.

Two dogs attack and neither one goes for the throat? I find that very difficult to believe.
I'm not certain, but taken together with the context and with other statements about the extent to which the body had been damaged post-mortem (thus obscuring, if not destroying altogether, many potential clues) I took that as meaning there were no apparent internal injuries consistent with strangling to those parts of her throat that could be examined, not that her throat remained intact.
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Old 12-20-2017, 12:58 PM   #20 (permalink)
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Originally Posted by Misty Harley View Post
Just a quick note, the police clarified the dogs were not trained to fight.

I'm not defending the dogs per say....I am saying that until a full toxology report is returned to determine cause of death....I wouldn't be so quick to say the dogs killed her.

Could they have?

Yes, absolutely. Most likely, they probably did but not in the sense that so many people think: They turned on her and attacked her
Exactly!!!!!!

Not having any emotions one way or the other on this I look at this as if it were just another legal case. As such, there just is no evidence one way or the other. The main thing we have been told is not uncommon for pets to do after their owner expires. Pre-mortem wounds are possibly circumstantial at best as there are ways to explain it. A 'witness' that observed the scene after the fact is of no real help, what they need are an autopsy (which maybe they have?) and the input of an expert in dog behaviour.

I do agree that the best thing for the dogs was to put them down though. That has nothing to do with whether they were responsible or not, but future trauma over their owner being dead. It is not like you can explain death to a dog (and that they may have had something to do with it).
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Old 12-20-2017, 01:03 PM   #21 (permalink)
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I'm not certain, but taken together with the context and with other statements about the extent to which the body had been damaged post-mortem (thus obscuring, if not destroying altogether, many potential clues) I took that as meaning there were no apparent internal injuries consistent with strangling to those parts of her throat that could be examined, not that her throat remained intact.
I went back and read that part again.

Quote:
“Nothing that said domestic violence. Nothing that said she was stabbed. Nothing that said she was shot. No bones, no injuries to the throat area . . . There was no particular bleeding inside the esophagus, which would’ve been conducive with choking her out. None of that,” Whitlock told reporters.
Any injuries to the throat done by a canine could also cause bleeding inside the esophagus, which in turn could have caused her to choke to death on her own blood.

When you take into consideration Whitlock mentions being stabbed which may or may not be a result of domestic violence and he also mentioned being shot which also isn't necessarily the result of domestic violence before saying there were no injuries to the throat area.

In addition Whitlock says there are no injuries to the bones. If a dog bites you in the throat, chances are there will be tooth/teeth marks on the bones, depending on how deep the bite is.

Like someone said, until a complete autopsy is done, the cause of death can't be determined definitively.
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Old 12-20-2017, 01:09 PM   #22 (permalink)
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If you don't believe dachshunds or retrievers are capable of killing humans, you are only fooling yourself. Any canine, domestic or wild, is fully capable of taking life, including human life regardless of the size or disposition of the canine.
My sister used to have a great dane that was as sweet as anything. One who was REALLY funny because it always seemed she did not realize how big she was. My sister has kids though and, kids being kids, one eventually provoked Rose (the great dane) enough to nip back. Of course Rose got sent to live elsewhere. I do not think any of the adults blamed Rose for it, but she simply could not be allowed to be around kids after that.
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Old 12-20-2017, 01:15 PM   #23 (permalink)
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I think from the point of view of the local police, the two important questions are whether they should be looking for a potential murderer and whether they should be looking for a wild animal in the area that may have killed her and may attack others.

They seem to think that they've answered both questions to their satisfaction.
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Old 12-20-2017, 01:20 PM   #24 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Innula Zenovka View Post
I think from the point of view of the local police, the two important questions are whether they should be looking for a potential murderer and whether they should be looking for a wild animal in the area that may have killed her and may attack others.

They seem to think that they've answered both questions to their satisfaction.
Which is frustrating. If their assumption is correct, fine. If not, well ....

It could be just something like a heart attack. If it is a wolf or a human though they are putting their town in danger.
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Old 12-20-2017, 01:25 PM   #25 (permalink)
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Originally Posted by Maggy Hazelnut View Post
I know people want to defend these dogs & others that're called pitbulls....
Nope, not me. Just for the record, I'm VERY wary of pitbulls as a breed, and the fact that pitbulls were involved makes me more inclined to accept the official findings. But there were a number of critical facts in conflict -- such as whether they were rehabbed dogs versus raised since puppyhood -- so that did muddy the waters for me when I first read the report.

I've been pondering the news all morning because it's such a disturbing incident. Not the corpse-munching part, but definitely the "kill owner" part.

I agree with Misty that the fact the dogs were eating her corpse is not really relevant to determining what happened prior to her death. As to the rest, in absence of any other corroborating evidence and given the breed involved, I'd reluctantly agree that the most likely scenario is that the dogs were the aggressors from the start. At the risk of falling into stereotypes, the owner doesn't look like she has the physical authority to handle a difficult breed. On top of that, the dogs were in a transition from house to kennel, where they were more isolated and lacking in constant human contact. All of which could create high anxiety levels, which slips easily into aggression.

There are still some points that nag me. Wolf pointed out one that I found striking, which was the lack of wounds to the neck. Like her, I found that puzzling for this scenario.

I dunno. Something just doesn't quite fit... but I'm hardly a forensics expert and I'm in full agreement that this is entirely feasible in the abstract.
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