Couple sentenced in (preventable) dog mauling

On July 13, Valbona Lucaj and Sebastiano Quagliata were sentenced to from 57 months to 15 years in prison for the fatal mauling of a jogger last year in Metamora, 45 miles northwest of Detroit. The dogs involved in the incident have since been euthanized and eight puppies seized, reported the Chicago Tribune.

The couple was breeding Cane Corsos. The two dogs involved were known for running loose and terrorizing the neighborhood in the months prior to the death. Evidence revealed they had bitten at least two others, reported USA Today.

“No matter what the court does, this has destroyed two families,” Judge Nick Holowka stated, adding that the defendants leave three children behind. Holowka also noted it could have been easily prevented, reported the Chicago Tribune.

Animal behaviorists and researchers agree.

“There were warning signs,” animal behaviorist and expert witness Suzanne Hetts, PhD, CAAB, CVJ, told NEWStat. “Cane Corsos are big dogs bred for aggressive tendencies. Without proper socialization or training, and left free to roam, those aggressive tendencies come out.

“The fact that the dogs were kept in a chain link pen is a sign they were likely ‘resident dogs,’ and not family pets.”

A “resident dog” is one who, unlike a family dog, is isolated from humans and human interactions, notes a 2013 Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association (JAVMA) study on dog bite fatalities. As a result, resident dogs never learn how to behave appropriately or interact positively and humanely with humans.

Hetts added that the owners were negligent in letting the dogs run loose.

But they weren’t the only ones. Indeed, it takes a village.

“It was such a preventable incident,” Hetts said. “Where was animal control? If there were previous citations, did they follow up? And what about the community? Did they do anything or did they just put up with it? There should be zero tolerance in any community for dogs at large.”

Research supports Hetts’ position.

The 2013 JAVMA study cites seven controllable factors that contribute to fatal dog bites, including:

  • No able-bodied person was present to intervene.
  • The victim didn’t have a familiar relationship with the dogs.
  • The owners failed to neuter the dogs.
  • The victim had compromised ability.
  • The dogs were isolated from positive human interactions unlike family dogs.
  • The dogs' owners have a history of prior mismanagement of the dogs.
  • There is a history of owner abuse or neglect of the dogs.

Four of the above factors were present in 80% of the fatal cases the JAVMA study reviewed.