VIRGINIA BEACH — The daughter of the 90-year-old woman who was mauled to death by a pit bull earlier this year has filed a civil suit against the rescue center that housed the dog.
Linda Patterson is suing the Forever Home Rescue and Rehabilitation Center for $5 million for the wrongful death of her mother, Margaret Colvin, according to court documents filed Aug. 18. A trial by jury is demanded by Patterson.
The dog, a one-year-old American pit bull terrier named Blue, was adopted out by the facility on May 31 to Patterson, just hours before the fatal attack.
The dog was outfitted with an electronic collar so that his new owner could continue using training methods established by Forever Home. When the collar came off, the dog’s behavior changed.
According to the family’s attorney, Colvin was attacked without provocation and disemboweled by the dog.
The civil suit claims that Blue had a history of biting people and had bitten at least one other person before Colvin’s death. Documents also state the rescue organization “knew or should have known” of the dog’s bite history and Forever Home “negligently failed to advise Ms. Patterson of the dangerousness of Blue.”
“I think they were negligent in selling this dog and delivering this dog to Linda Patterson without warning her of the dog’s history,” said Irving Blank, Patterson’s attorney.
Colvin died from her injuries the following day.
Use of the electronic collars, or shock collars, are widely debated.
Ashley Tucker, a local dog trainer who has run her own business for a decade, told Southside Daily in June that if the collars are used inappropriately on an aggressive dog, the dog will quickly learn that it can behave differently when the collar is removed.
“These dogs are smart,” Tucker told Southside Daily in June. “I cannot reiterate enough the fact that you are doing so much harm to a dog, just by throwing an electronic collar on and cranking it up, and the relationship it has with humans.”
Blank said that Colvin’s arm was amputated in an unsuccessful attempt to save the woman’s life, and that Patterson herself suffered injuries while trying to pull the dog away from Colvin.
Services on Forever Home’s website indicated the organization charged anywhere from $1,000 to $4,000 to rehabilitate dogs with behavioral problems.
According to a YouSharing campaign posted by a rescue in Pennsylvania, Blue seemed to “react badly to loud noises and sudden movements.” The campaign was made to raise funds for Blue’s treatment at Forever Home, which, according to the page, was around $2,000.
Former employees of the rescue organization criticized owner Toni Enright’s training methods in June, saying that dogs were often kept in crates for long periods of time, left in dark rooms and had buckets water poured over them often.
A phone number previously used to contact Enright was no longer in service Thursday afternoon.
Aiden Nash said he worked for and also lived with Enright in 2016. Nash said that dogs that were surrendered and in need of rehabilitative training would sometimes go without before being adopted to customers.
“When I started working there, I was excited to help give these dogs a second chance,” Nash said. “But as the weeks went by, only some dogs were being trained before being adopted out. I told the owners that was a risk.”
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