Former workers criticize animal rehab, lack of laws after deadly dog attack

People who used to work at Forever Home Rehabilitation Center share concerns about the facility after a dog adopted out mauled a woman.

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WVEC) -- Former employees of Forever Home Rehabilitation Center (FHRC) contend the facility adopted out a dog that mauled a woman to death, knowing that the dog had a history of violence.

“I knew that something like this was going to happen,” said former employee Holly Schlosser. “Everybody did.”

Blue, a Pit Bull, attacked the woman, who was in her 90s, on May 31. She later died as a result of her injuries.

13News Now began looking into the dog's background and found out his journey to Hampton Roads began in New York.

The charity Urgent Pets on Death Row posted his photo and profile online stating he was about to be euthanized. It said Blue was surrendered to the Manhattan Animal Care Center after he bit a child.

Blue was saved by Animals Can’t Talk, a rescue group in Pennsylvania. The organization picked him up in New York and took him to Stroudsburg, Pa.

Animals Can’t Talk launched an online fundraiser with goal of getting Blue “socialization and impulse control” training. The group wanted to send him to Forever Home Rehabilitation Center in Virginia Beach.

On its website, Forever Home Rehabilitation Center says it rehabilitates and trains “misunderstood” dogs. The cost to surrender a dog, which is what Animals Can’t Talk wanted to do, is $4,000.

“When the rescues that send them these dogs, what they’re paying for, they’re paying for this dog to have training every single day,” said former FHRC employee Karen Reams. 

Animals Can’t Talk raised the money it needed, and Blue’s journey continued to Virginia Beach.

Former FHRC employee Drew Heskett said he worked with Blue during his time at the center. He described Blue as “powerful” and said the dog “didn’t handle correction well.”

“He got minimal dog socialization training,” Heskett told 13News Now. “Nothing as far as working on his aggression”

Heskett said Blue was at the facility for two to three months. When asked how many times Blue was adopted out, Heskett replied, “two times from the Virginia Beach facility before the final time that he got adopted out.”

13News Now got in touch with a woman who adopted Blue from FHRC in April. The woman asked not to be identified, but she said Blue lunged at her and bit her hand, so she returned him.

Bradley Phifer, President of the Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers, said Blue’s story shows there is a larger issue: the lack of regulations for dog trainers who adopt out aggressive dogs.

“Unfortunately there’s no expectation, government body, or regulation that would require them to meet certain standards in order to deem the dogs safe to rehome with the average pet owner,” said Phifer. “We’re probably actually lucky that it doesn’t happen more frequently than it does.”

In Blue’s final stop on his journey, he was adopted out to a family that lived on Bunker Hill Lane. That’s when police say he attacked a 90-year-old woman who died.

“They knew he had a bad bite history,” said Schlosser. “He bit numerous people. They know that. They knew it for a fact and they adopted it out.”

Schlosser said the attack could have been prevented if proper precautions were taken.

“This cannot happen again,” said Schlosser. “This should not have happened in the first place.”

After the attack, Blue was euthanized and Virginia Beach Animal Control executed a series of search warrants at Forever Home Rehabilitation Center. The center is currently under criminal investigation. No charges have been filed.

FHRC has not returned multiple calls and emails for comment.

© 2017 WVEC-TV


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