Our Response to Statements made by Goochland County Sheriffs office.

In the wake of a horrific tragedy, we find that many will jump to a conclusion based on the limited information that has been provided thus far. We are not going to justify or advocate for or against the animals directly involved in the death investigation of Bethany Stephens.  Instead we wish to make a few statements regarding the information and several accounts made by the Goochland County Sheriffs Office, Internet comments, and the media.

Let us begin by acknowledging that a life has been lost, and respect should and must be given to the family.  In turn, faith must be given to the investigation. No other person was present to witness the loss of life and at this point any assumptions or statements surrounding this tragedy are simply opinion and not fact. Until all evidence is brought forward to include toxicology and necropsies, one can only conclude based on incomplete information.

It is unfortunate that Sheriff Agnew and his department felt it necessary to utter several damaging statements early on.  No formal or probable conclusion can be factual without including each piece, and no investigation should ever be completed without full and total knowledge. We are not here to decide what happened or where guilt lies. There are many people who have already decided guilt, and others innocence, instead of waiting to see the totality of evidence and where it leads. The facts of this case thus far are that a young girls life has been lost, that her two dogs lives have also been lost, and that an investigation is still open. Regardless of outcome, statements made by Sheriff Agnew have perpetuated several untruths and false information in regards to pit bull type dogs. Let us make clear that we do not advocate for any animal that is a clear and direct threat to human safety.  We are very firm in our belief that any dog that displays human aggression should be humanely euthanized. We are also strong unwavering advocates of responsible guardianship.

In response to Sheriff Agnew’s comment in reference to the taste of blood, might we all then surmise that any police K9 would need to be euthanized after a take down involving a bite and hold. In regards to the dog’s weight and breed, while it is understandable that in the moment of encountering the two dogs their size and scale may have been skewed as to affirm his initial fear of the horror he came to witness; however prior to making any statements one should have obtained actual facts. In regards to the breed, type, or rearing of the dogs, we can easily say brindle is a pattern not necessarily a pit bull, and while on the subject of the term pit bull, let’s discuss the actual words. Pit bull is a general term not an actual breed, it is comprised of several different mixes and upon DNA testing it is fact that many if not all deemed to be pit bulls are in actuality just mixed breed dogs. It is a fact that anything with teeth can bite, it is however not fact to assume anyone person can predict the action of any dog in every circumstance. We as humans have a much greater ability to decipher and explain behavior, but only when and if we have all the information and tools necessary to form an educated conclusion or opinion. We live in a society that plays the blame game in just about every single unsavory scenario.  We hear it’s how they were raised, they must be trained to fight, they were neglected or cruelly treated, they were rescues, and the list goes on. In truth none of these, and we mean none of them, are reason for a dog to maul a human. We absolutely do not believe the, “how it was raised’ dialogue because if this was the case you could never rehabilitate or rehome an animal. Many American Pit Bull Terriers recovered from dog fighting operations successfully enter society with several becoming therapy dogs and working dogs.  Combine that with the knowledge that any fighting dog that can not be handled by its owner or handler in the fighting pit is culled, and the fact that the APBT seized from fighting operations are not your average mixed breed pit bull type dog; they are a breed not even recognized by many internationally recognized groups and are not the giant dogs seen in your neighborhoods, they are small, agile, lean dogs and you can see that this argument simply does not hold up. In response to the number of people who think that because they are rescue dogs with unknown background they must be more dangerous, you are simply unequivocally incorrect. Dogs live in the moment, they do not tell time, they react to stress and or situation, sometimes incorrectly, regardless of background or breeding. We will support the veterinarians and professionals in the field and their empirical knowledge of behavior, there is always a reason why dogs react or act in a specific way or situation. We believe dogs are not born inherently aggressive, there are biological, physiological, and environmental reasons for dogs to react, or act out, or cause harm. In each instance that an animal has reacted poorly, bitten, or attacked a human, one can find a root cause if willing to look beyond the surface and when one is open to all possibilities and not just looking for the simplest explanation of “its a dog”.  All mammals have the ability to react poorly and make wrong decisions, this is not us justifying any action of an individual dog, it is a statement of truth that stressors physical, biological, and environmental can cause any human or animal to react in a negative way. We do know, and understand that, many people need to find a reason and do not want to believe that something so gruesome could be caused by a dog, while others believe based on a hate filled dialogue that a type of mixed breed dog is more dangerous.  Our position is to always wait, look at the totality of evidence, peal back the layers, look for the root cause, and then make a fact based decision. Hate gets us no where. Perpetuating unsubstantiated myth gets us no where. Demonizing types of dogs gets us no where. Slinging mud and spewing untruths only causes more unrest.

Our deepest respect to the family of Bethany Stephens.