Dog with known history of biting, causing serious injury continually listed for adoption by Ashland rescue agency

Posted at 11:27 PM, Sep 10, 2019
and last updated 2019-09-11 12:31:28-04

RICHMOND, Va. -- At ease and in love with her dogs Jillian and Jackson, Kim Newcomb says it's hard to imagine that about three years ago she thought she might lose part of her leg due to a vicious dog bite.

"It took me a long time to be able to look at these," Newcomb said while showing graphic images of the wounds from where her foster dog, Duke, bit her while she was on a family trip to Massachusetts in July of 2016.

"Seemingly, out of the blue, he just snapped, and went after my sister's dog Jambo," Newcomb said. "I thought he was going to kill him."

Newcomb and her sister managed to pull Duke away, but then, "as we were walking away, the dogs had been separated, we got quite a few steps away, and Duke turned and bit down on my leg and didn't let go."

It was a dramatic turn of events from a dog Newcomb said she had fallen in love with and hoped to adopt from the Hanover rescue group "Bark."

"I've always loved animals, Duke was the 7th dog that I've fostered," Newcomb said.

After she was bitten, Newcomb called the local animal control department.

Fairhaven Officer Kelly Massey responded and picked Duke up.

She declined to speak, but CBS 6 spoke to her mother who is an animal control officer in a nearby town.

Kathy Massey said Duke also bit her daughter and that the wound was so bad she had to be hospitalized, and was out of work for a while.

When asked if she thought the dog should be up for adoption, she said she doesn't he is safe to adopt.

"Why take that chance when there are so many other lovable pets out there that need good homes," she said.

Newcomb's injury left her unable to fully walk for two months.

"It was devastating. I had to move back home with my parents, it was my right foot, I couldn't drive," Newcomb said.

But, when she called Bark to report the bite, she said their reaction seemed dismissive.

"Her response was basically, 'I've been bitten by a dog before, it's not a big deal,' and that was the last thing I really remember their help with at all, that was my last communication with Bark," Newcomb said.

Now, three years later, Duke is once again up for adoption at Bark.

But his posting makes no mention of a bite history.

"I'm so nervous about him going to a home that doesn't know this story," Newcomb said.

And, upsetting Newcomb even more, posts on the Bark Facebook page that claim Duke was "abandoned" in Massachusetts and Bark volunteers had to go and rescue him.

"It made me feel very isolated and abandoned. I loved Duke," Newcomb said.

Newcomb said she has never publicly spoken about her experience before, but when she saw a CBS 6 report about allegations of mismanagement by Bark President and CEO Bob Tillack, she felt compelled to speak out.

In a previous interview, Tillack said, "my worst fear in all the time I've been doing this is that we put an animal in a home that injures someone. That isn't what we're about."

"I literally laughed out loud," Newcomb responded. "I never heard an apology, no one has asked how I am doing."

CBS 6 reached out to Tillack about Duke, but never heard back.

Long-time Bark volunteer Bill Riester says that Duke isn't good with other dogs.

"When I was going to Bark up until last month, he's a dog I would walk on a regular basis. He's a dog that is good with people, but not so good with other dogs," Riester said.

Riester said he believes Duke could still be adopted.

"I think he's adoptable, but it has to be a unique situation to accommodate his aggressiveness with other dogs," Riester said.

But after hearing Newcomb's story, he questions how the incident was handled.

"When something like this happens, and something as serious as this happens, in my opinion, Bob should get involved, make a phone call, talk to the person, ask what happened, there is always an opportunity to apologize and try to make things right," Riester said.

While Newcomb is doing just fine today, she hopes her story inspires others to do their research and be more aware when fostering dogs.

"I volunteered my time, my money, to love this dog, thought an organization that was credible would help me out, nothing," Newcomb said.

After the story aired, Dave Harless, a longtime Bark volunteer called and said he wanted to clarify a few things related to the story.

Harless said he was very familiar with Duke's history and said, "I'm sorry she got bit, but if she had followed the rules none of that would have happened."

He claimed Newcomb was not "supposed to take the dog out of state without us knowing about it."

"We don't put the bite record on the website, but if someone were interested in adopting Duke, we would only place him under very special circumstances, with somebody who had no kids, no other animals, and a fenced-in backyard," he said.

"We would have them sign a waiver that says they understand that he has a bite history," Harless added.

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