At the end of May, she adopted a 1-year-old pit bull named Blue from Forever Home Rescue and Rehabilitation Center in Virginia Beach. The dog attacked and killed her 90-year-old mother that night.
Linda has asked that her last name not be used for fear of harassment on social media.
The fatal attack is the latest in a series of problems that have plagued Forever Home in recent years, sometimes making headlines.
The rescue adopted out a dog that killed a cat, a dog died in their care, and they’ve been cited with code violations, among other issues.
Toni Enright, one of the center’s owners, declined to comment for this story when reached in person. Phone calls to another owner, Jamie Cochran, were not returned and efforts to reach her in person were unsuccessful.
Forever Home’s mission centers on troubled dogs. Its website touts one- to three-month training for dogs with “uncontrollable behavioral problems.”
What training and certifications do these people have - these people who claim to be able to pull aggressive, biting dogs that have bitten children, adults, pets, possibly killed other animals -- and they magically change their behavior and adopt them out? Why are shelters handing them dogs that they know are vicious, aggressive??
In December 2013, the state approved Forever Home as a shelter that could take in and adopt out animals. It has locations in Norfolk on 25th Street and in Virginia Beach a couple blocks from Town Center.
“Every dog in our program becomes a part of our balanced pack of 30 dogs who help teach proper social skills and social behavior. (Forever Home) is the last stop for dogs who have made mistakes, have human or dog aggression, or are having trouble finding/staying in a home,” their website reads.
On May 11, 2016, the rescue adopted out a 1-year-old pit bull named McLovin. Within hours, McLovin had mauled a cat to death.
The owner surrendered him to Norfolk Animal Control, which quickly euthanized the dog, prompting outrage from animal lovers and pit bull rescue advocates online.
In a statement last year, Norfolk spokeswoman Lori Crouch said staff had “researched the dog’s history and discovered repeated failed adoption attempts with other out-of-state agencies and a rabies certificate that was altered to change the dog’s breed and age.”
VICIOUS ST. BERNARD GIVEN TO FOREVER HOME BY THE LEXUS PROJECT
Four years prior, Forever Home was involved in the case of Alchemy, a Saint Bernard which bit people five times while in foster care and was set to be euthanized.
According to a 2012 Pilot article, a judge ruled the dog could live if he was kept in a sanctuary outside Virginia. Alchemy wound up at Forever Home, which at the time was operating as a sanctuary on Knotts Island in North Carolina.
A June 2012 court order from Chesapeake said Alchemy was supposed to be placed in a “sanctuary or rescue” outside of Virginia, not in a private residential dwelling.
In March 2017, a Pilot reporter followed up on Alchemy and was told by Enright only that he was adopted to a family outside Virginia. Alchemy’s original owner said he tried to find out what happened to the dog, but the Forever Home owners never told him.
This is a huge, unaddressed problem - not just with this rescue. Remember Onion, the Rhodesian Ridgeback mix that killed the little boy in Nevada? The Lexus Project attorneys wore them down in court and finally they handed the killer dog over to them. Where is it now? Anyone in Nevada who let them have the dog bother to keep track?
Onion, with the little boy he mauled to death.
Onion was supposed to be euthanized, but Nevada
handed him over to a rescue. Clarke County's only demand?
That Onion be taken out of Nevada. Where is Onion today?
Another dog that Sheriff Joe Arpaio saved - that had severely mauled a little boy. The Pit Bull's name was Mickey and nutters blamed the little boy saying he took the dog's bone. Sheriff Joe promised to house the Pit Bull forever - well, guess what? Sheriff Joe isn't there any more and the new Sheriff is not open to the animal crimes unit or the animal facilities that Sheriff Joe had running. So where's the Pit Bull today???
WHAT QUALIFIES ENRIGHT AND COCHRAN TO BE GIVEN VICIOUS DOGS?
What training does Enright and Cochran have that deems them experts in changing the behavior and desires of vicious dogs??? They took a course at PetSmart? They worked for a dog trainer for a year? They watched online videos? They've been around and trained their own animals all their lives? Seriously, what makes them the experts they claim to be?
“With our expert understanding of dog behavior,” Forever Home advertised, “we developed techniques to raise a pack of calm, submissive dogs. Previously labeled as too aggressive, most dogs slated for euthanasia that end up at Forever Home are eventually rehabilitated and later adopted without another sign of aggression.”
According to animals 24-7, "Enright and Cochran evolved from kennel attendant and bather/groomer into self-described behaviorists, recounted Liz King of the Virginian-Pilot, by “studying ‘pack’ theory, watching documentaries and reading about ‘Dog Whisperer’ Cesar Millan.”
Seriously. That's just what I said. They watched some videos... that's how they've convinced shelters - and the courts - around the country to hand over vicious dogs!
The women say they've found their calling. Others would see it as obsession. Whichever the case, there seemed always to be room for more. More strays with fearful eyes and litters looking for homes. More castoffs rescued from the pound. More misbehaving pups dropped off by friends – and eventually, a few paying clients.
And now, a giant, 2-year-old outlaw from Chesapeake. Alchemy did come with cash - $1,000 to cover his care until his future gets sorted out. The money came from people who donated to his cause through the Lexus Project, the New York-based organization that saved his hide in court.
The 150-lb dog was decreed a danger to the community, locked in a cage at animal control and marked to be put down. Stubbs contacted the Lexus Project, a network of
dog-lovingattorneys who offer no-charge legal assistance to canines on death rowBURY COURTS IN LEGAL PAPERWORK AND DRAG OUT CASES INVOLVING VICIOUS DOGS UNTIL THEY FINALLY GIVE IN AND HAND THE VICIOUS DOG OVER TO THEM INSTEAD OF DOING THE RIGHT THING AND HAVING IT PUT DOWN. THEN THE LEXUS PROJECT SQUEALS THAT THEY'VE 'SAVED ANOTHER ONE' AND SECRETLY PLACE THE DOG SOMEWHERE NO ONE IS TOLD. MAYBE RIGHT NEXT DOOR TO YOU?
The group got Alchemy a stay of execution and persuaded Chesapeake General District Judge Timothy Wright to release him on a $2,500 bond. Granting a dog bail, said Wright, was "breaking new ground."
Alchemy, however, didn't seem to grasp his good fortune. Animal control officers say that when a Lexus Project attorney came to fetch the dog, Alchemy turned his teeth on his benefactor. But the lawyer was reluctant to squeal on his client, so officers shut the gate and called police.
"It got a little confrontational," said Kelly O'Sullivan, spokeswoman for the city's Police Department. "The attorney finally showed them his arm - you couldn't see much - but he refused to show his leg."
In the pen at Forever Home, Alchemy – all wagging tail and lolling tongue – doesn't look like a menace. Enright steps to his side and slips a hand inside panting, fang-filled jaws.
"Believe me," she says, "if a dog this size wants to kill you, he's going to kill you."
Aggression is a symptom of an underlying issue, Enright says. In Alchemy's case, losing his home: "Dogs don't rationalize. They react. It's our responsibility to understand."
As for Alchemy, on June 21 he was offered a deal, a court order that grants a reprieve if he stays in a sanctuary setting outside Virginia and isn't placed in a residential home.
The Lexus Project – now Alchemy's official owner – signed the agreement, but the dispute continues. The group says it considers the restrictions temporary, and that with enough good-time served, Alchemy can be paroled into society - maybe even make his way back to Ken Stubbs.
At the Chesapeake city attorney's office, Grady Palmer disagrees. He wrote the agreement and insists it's permanent: "This dog is not safe to be around. If he were to wind up in a private home, I would consider that to be a problem."
VICIOUS ST. BERNARD THAT JUDGE ORDERED WAS TO 'NEVER TO LEAVE SANCTUARY' ADOPTED OUT TO FAMILY. WHAT IS THE CHESAPEAKE CITY ATTORNEY'S OFFICE GOING TO DO ABOUT THIS???
* * * * * *
One month later, in April 2017, Forever Home convinced Tia Walke to adopt the the one-year-old Pit Bull named Blue. However, almost immediately the dog began behaving aggressively towards her and her family. She returned the dog to the Forever Home Rescue Rehab Center after just two days.
It was just a few short weeks later, in May 2017, that Forever Home found another person to adopt the Pit Bull. They took the dog home and it killed Linda's mother. Linda beat the dog on the head with a hammer, but could not stop the dog - it had selected its victim and it was not going to stop until she was dead.
He had been in a New York City municipal shelter, sent there after biting a child in December. The bite broke skin on the child’s thigh and buttocks, according to shelter documents obtained by The Pilot.
Animal rescue organizations often save dogs from euthanasia at these shelters in New York and adopt them out to private homes. Pennsylvania-based Animals Can’t Talk Rescue & Adoption took Blue and placed him in a foster home.
Edie Hardy of Maryland, a volunteer with Animals Can’t Talk, helped care for Blue and took him to Forever Home in Virginia Beach in February. She said Blue “had little manners and little self-control” and grabbed things with his mouth a lot, but that shouldn’t be considered a bite.
Blue “never did anything to hurt anybody” during his time in her home, Hardy said. Animals Can’t Talk officials determined that Blue needed additional training because of his erratic behavior with a foster family in New York, she said.
Hardy said she’s surrendered about six dogs to Forever Home over the years and the services provided at the center were “pretty good.”
“What they do isn’t easy, they’re not taking the easiest dogs,” she said.
Hardy said she gave Forever Home all of Blue’s documents from the New York City Animal Care Centers, including those detailing his bite history. But Linda said the documents she received from Forever Home didn’t include the bite history.
Linda showed The Pilot three pages that she says was everything the shelter gave her and it did not include any behavioral history. She said Forever Home representatives told her that Blue had been adopted out of Forever Home twice and returned both times, at least once out of fear of the dog’s behavior.
Forever Home has not been cited for what happened with Blue. Animal advocates and rescue professionals said there are no laws or regulations compelling rescue groups to disclose dogs’ histories, although experts said shelters should do so, especially for aggressive dogs.
Linda has a lawyer and is evaluating her legal options.
“Inadequate” veterinary care
Since May, the center has been searched by police and cited for code violations.
Police executed search warrants at the locations in Virginia Beach and Norfolk on June 8, just over a week after the fatal attack. No charges have been filed and the information contained within the search warrants has been sealed.
On June 9, the Norfolk location was cited for violating the city’s fire, property maintenance, zoning and stormwater codes. Forever Home was told to reduce the number of animals on the property; Crouch, the Norfolk spokeswoman, said it was not licensed to serve as a kennel and could house only four dogs at a time.
Like other shelters, Forever Home gets inspected by the state veterinarian’s office to ensure animal welfare. It received clean reviews in late 2015 and 2016. A February 2015 report, however, cited several issues at the Virginia Beach shelter.
The report says Enright took a dog named Delbert to a vet after staff told her Delbert was bit on the ear by another dog at the shelter. Enright told the inspector the shelter had started using Tom Wood as their primary source of veterinary care that same month. The reports also say Wood took Delbert to his home where he had a surgical table and gas anesthesia.
Wood concluded Delbert likely was kicked in the abdomen, the report says, but the only treatment Wood gave the dog was cleaning the bite wounds and telling Enright to keep him quiet and separate from other dogs.
Delbert died the next day. In the report, the inspector described the veterinary care as “inadequate.” The reports do not indicate Delbert’s exact cause of death.
Since 1997, Wood has been brought before the Virginia Board of Veterinary Medicine five times for potential violations of codes of conduct and the law. There is no indication the board took any enforcement action against him outside of a few hundred dollars in fines and a 2006 order to go into an intervention program for mental, physical or substance abuse, from which he was later ejected.
Efforts to reach Wood at his home in Virginia Beach were unsuccessful. Wood has been licensed to practice in Virginia since 1992.
That same shelter inspection report from 2015 says Forever Home’s Virginia Beach shelter was cited for keeping 77 dogs in unventilated conditions, holding five dogs in unsafe enclosures and giving an unsterilized dog to Imperial Kennels in Suffolk for breeding purposes.
Forever Home’s owners have had their own legal troubles.
Both Enright and Cochran were charged with felony embezzlement in early 2012 for offenses between December 2010 and May 2011.
Court records say they were stealing veterinary supplies from Owl Creek Veterinary Hospital on Birdneck Road in Virginia Beach to use in their own efforts to rescue dogs.
A bail determination sheet in Cochran’s file said she had faced charges of animal cruelty and larceny in North Carolina, but both had been dismissed.
Dismissal of a charge means nothing - it could be that they were given diversion or they dropped one charge in an effort to get a guilty plea on another charge.
The pair pleaded guilty to misdemeanor embezzlement under an agreement. They received a suspended one-year jail sentence and were ordered to pay $452 each in restitution to Owl Creek and fines of $253 each.
Enright and Cochran were also banned from Owl Creek and ordered to remain on good behavior for two years.
Forever Home has been registered as a 501c3 nonprofit organization since 2011. Most nonprofits file a Form 990 with the IRS every year, but since 2011, Forever Home has filed the abbreviated 990N, which is reserved for groups that bring in less than $50,000 annually. It discloses little about the organization.
According to the center’s website, Forever Home’s behavior training courses range from $1,000 to $2,000 per dog depending on the length of time and types of behavior. Surrendering troubled dogs for Forever Home to later adopt out costs $4,000 per dog, the group’s site said.
Forever Home is still in operation. As of July 5, its website said the facility had 19 dogs up for adoption.
VIDEO NEWS CLIP #1:
VIDEO NEWS CLIP #2:
(Pilot Online - July 5, 2017)
- Virginia: Forever Home Rehabilitation Center convinced family to adopt their pit bull; within hours it mauled a woman to death
- Virginia: Woman claims she warned adoption center of Pit Bull’s aggression before deadly attack on elderly woman
Excellent assessment from Animals 24-7.com