New Brunswick

Group pauses adoptions of death-row dogs to Maritimes after attacks

Hearts of the North, an organization that moves dogs on death row in the southern United States into the Maritimes, says it’s pausing operations to reflect on recent allegations.

No more dogs will be brought in from U.S. shelters, says Hearts of the North, in light of recent attacks

Marc Milewski and his great Pyrenees dog, Okami, who was attacked by a bully breed dog. (Submitted/Marc Milewski)

Hearts of the North, an organization that moves dogs on death row in the southern United States into the Maritimes, says it's pausing operations to reflect on recent allegations.

"We share concerns for everyone's safety, human and dog, and with that shared concern are pausing any further dog placements or processing of applications," Ashley Anne Henderson wrote on the group's Facebook page.

"Those who have adopted dogs already scheduled for transport will be the final placements until the group has time to reflect on the situation."

On Thursday Hearts of the North came under fire after two cases of dog bites came to light. In one a woman's lip was bitten and in the second another dog was attacked. 

When asked what changes will be made during the pause, the organizers did not respond.

Former volunteer skeptical 

Stuffie, Marc Milewski's hound, suffered severe bite wounds and needed stitches after being attacked by a bully breed dog that was placed in his care by Hearts of the North. (Submitted/Marc Milewski)
However, Andy Penner, who once worked for the organization, said she isn't convinced that the group will halt the dog shipments.

"They've said that several times. I don't believe a word," the former volunteer said.

"They said that in the group applications chat after multiple dog-bite incidents. There was one back in October where the dog was surrendered to animal control. They said they'd step back. The next week they took 11 dogs."

Penner claimed there were multiple incidents of dog attacks just in the few months that she volunteered.

The Facebook post says organizers, "considered it a success that out of close to 1,000 dogs saved and placed … there were two incidents."

"Still, these are serious and we recognize the need to step back and review our efforts before moving forward."

More attacks

But after an initial story by CBC News, more people have spoken out about their interactions with the group, suggesting the two reported cases were not isolated incidents.

Marc Milewski lives in Prince Edward Island and said after picking up a dog to foster, it attacked his great Pyrenees dog.

"It latched onto my dog's throat and it took me five minutes of wrestling to get the dog off," Milewski wrote in an email.

"It is months and months since this happened, and my arm is still not the same as I pulled almost every muscle wrestling the dog off my dog and holding him down till he cooled off." 

That same day, the same dog clamped onto Milewski's hound's neck "and cut him so deep he required stitches."

"The pitbull viciously tried rip off my dog's neck and was shaking and twisting as my dog yelped and screamed in what was a noise I never heard a dog make before."

Shawn Justason Carhart works for Transporters Without Borders in Saint John, an organization that also transfers dogs down the East Coast and across borders.

She said Hearts of the North scares her, because she's heard more stories of these dogs attacking people.

No longer works with group

Shawn Justason Carhart works for Transporters Without Borders in Saint John, an organization that also transfers dogs down the East Coast and across borders. (Joseph Tunney/CBC)
Transporters Without Borders no longer works with Hearts of the North after Carhart noticed discrepancies in some of the paperwork accompanying some dogs.

"When I look at the digital copy and look at the dog that is coming across and it doesn't match, I'm done," she said.

A spokesperson for Hearts of the North said the organization isn't responsible for the paperwork that comes with the dogs it rescues.

"HOTN has nothing to do with the animals documents/vetting papers — those come directly from the rescue or shelter they are from," said Stacy Ducey in an email.

​Lack of transparency 

Both Penner and Milewski claim the organization does not always inform new caregivers of a dog's history before placement, despite what the Hearts of the North organizers say.

Milewski said he later went to investigate what had happened to his pitbull and found the group had reposted the dog's availability, trying to find a new home for it.

"They completely skipped over any incident, until on the second post they said he needed an experienced owner or a one-dog family. No mention of being violent, no mention that he needs actual aggression training," he said.

"They clearly misled someone and put another dog or person in jeopardy."

Ducey refuted Milewski's statement in an email.

"All of HOTN volunteers, shelter staff, rescues, etc. have always disclosed any known issues with any and all dogs," she said.