Dogs That Killed Jogger Will be EuthanIzed, Owners Charged with Murder

| by Phyllis M Daugherty

Two Cane Corsos—dogs bred to fight wild boars--killed  beloved father and cancer survivor, Craig Sytsma 46, in Metamora Township (near Detroit, Michigan) as he jogged on a beautiful, peaceful country road after getting off work on July 23.

The 911 call has been released by 9News (below), and the terror in the voice of the caller is chilling. She describes the dogs as appearing to be Pit Bulls.

An unidentified man tried to stop the dogs by yelling at them and then fired shots from a 45 magnum handgun that is credited with stopping the attack. Another Good Samaritan who appeared to have emergency response training stopped and tried to stop the victim’s bleeding.

 But Craig Sytsma, who leaves behind a 16-year-old daughter and two sons, could not survive the attack by the dogs that tore the flesh from his arms, chewed his head and bit him all over his body, according to the 911 call.

The caller described him as rolling in pain until his movements stopped. He succumbed to the wretched wounds inflicted by the dogs shortly after being transported to a hospital.

An agreement says the dogs and a third adult Cane Corso in the same home will be euthanized as soon as possible, according to ABC News.

The Michigan couple who owned and were breeding the dogs, Valbona Lucaj, 44, and husband Sebastiano Quagliata, 45, are both charged with second-degree murder for recklessly allowing their large, aggressive dogs to run free after two prior attacks on humans.


Both are undocumented immigrants, according to the Detroit Free Press.


The couple is being held on $500,000 bond each, as  officials worry they might try to flee the country if released, reports, the Daily Mail,  


Lapeer County prosecutors asked for $1 million bond each, saying they  might try to escape, but Judge Mike Delling settled on a lower amount Friday, although he noted there was 'some question' about the couple's status in the US.  


They are scheduled for their next hearing in court on August 8.




Neighbors told the Free Press that the dogs roamed the neighborhood on Thomas Road, and even growled at people who were in their own yards and sometimes went into garages.  They said repeated complaints to animal control officials did not receive response.

 The pattern of attacks should have prompted criminal prosecution before this tragedy occurred, experts told the Detroit Free Press.

“This is the kind of case I would run up to the prosecutor’s office,” said Bob Gatt, the manager of Oakland County Animal Control.

Gatt explained that prosecutors are reluctant to prosecute on a first bite because the law requires that there be evidence the owner knew the animal was dangerous. But once a second attack occurs, the pattern is there to make a case for prosecution, he told the Free Press.

“Once they’re in that fight or flight mode, they’re going to do what they’re going to do,” said veterinarian Rachel Brown at the Affiliated Veterinary Emergency Service in Allen Park.


Cane Corsos resemble Pit Bulls in that they have a very similar facial contour and jaw line, but Cane Corsos are usually larger in stature. The dogs that killed Craig Sytsma seemed to be smaller than many of this Italian Mastiff breed.  Cane Corsos are believed to be direct descendant of the Molossus, the dogs of war used by the Roman Army. 

Their origin can be traced back to the 1600’s,writes Dr. Bruce Fogle in The Encyclopedia of the Dog.  They were originally bred in Sicily and were not known in the U.S. until the late 1980’s. They are also known as Cane di Macellaio, the Cane Pugliese, the Dogo di Puglia, the Sicilian Branchiero, the Italian Mastiff, and the Pugliese Mastiff.


The  Cane Corso was used to drive cattle to butchers in its native land, as a wild boar hunter (“catch” dogs)--one of the most dangerous “blood sports”—and is noted for its aggression, tenacity and determination to kill if it is “game” bred. Speaking of the breed’s history,  it “may have participated in dog fighting,” writes Dr. Fogle. (A visit to current on-line discussions of Cane Corsos as fighting dogs will confirm this, with a variety of opinions.) 




Valbona Lucaj and Sebastiano Quagliata both signed the agreement with Lapper County officials that the three adult dogs will be euthanized as soon as possible, according to ABC News. 

A hearing scheduled for Friday to decide whether the two dogs involved in the attack - along with a third adult dog and multiple puppies - would be euthanized was postponed, CBS Detroit reports. The dogs were removed from the couple's home days after the fatal mauling.

"The indication from talking to my experts in animal control is that with that bloodline now, they just can't be trusted," Assistant Lapeer County Prosecutor Mike Hodges told CBS News. "We either seize the animals, put them down or adopt them out.”

ABC News stated that the puppies may be offered to an animal rescue group, which could result in the same liability to the County, plus to the group itself since the genetic human aggression of the dogs is known.


Former Livingston County Prosecutor David Morse told the Free Press: “It would seem that prior attacks by dogs would put you on notice that that sort of outcome was possible and that you have legal duty to do something to prevent that from happening,” he told the Free Press.

In 2007, Morse charged a Livingston County woman with two felony counts of having a dangerous animal causing death and a misdemeanor charge of allowing dogs to stray after four of her bulldogs escaped and fatally mauled a 56-year-old woman and a 91-year-old man. The dogs were euthanized and the woman spent three years in jail, he said.

In Roswell, New Mexico, the family of a boy attacked by three rescued dogs that escaped from the group’s kennel facility has filed a civil lawsuit against the rescue and the city for releasing the known aggressive dogs for adoption.

 In May 2013, Alex Jackson was charged with the death of a 63-year-old woman jogger who died from more than 150 bites by his four pit bulls in  Los Angeles County, CA. The case is pending.


The benefit of purebred breeding, we are told, is to assure that the physical and behavioral characteristics of the pups will follow that of the parents.  It is also fairly accurate that certain breeds will exhibit certain genetic traits and these will determine the basic traits of a “bloodline” generation to generation.

This is especially important when considering a dog that was knowingly bred for “gameness”—the desire to conquer and kill at all costs. This is the case with Cane Corsos—the bloodline of the dog was to hunt, fight and kill wild boars, one of the most dangerous opponents. Only the strong survived. The name “Cane Corso” means “the dog of chase.”

In History of Dog Fighting, Dr. Dieter Fleig describes that the same blood lines of the ancient Molossers continue in modern-day fighting-dog breeds. Thus the instincts of aggression and competition are inherited--not taught or the result of training.

He writes,”This heritage of fighting dogs is still unmistakable in the litters of fighting dog breeds today.  Even the pups …show clear differences to that behavior in other pups They fight in the nest completely differently. Two pups, about three months old, can already fight each other…in proper dog fighting style.”

In Fighting Dog Breeds, he writes about Molosser Magazine marketing dogs,”Many a buyer of a molossoid puppy has absolutely no idea of what it means ..These dogs are no playthings for the rich, no status symbols, but complicated living creatures.”

Many animal rescues are dedicated and diligent, but they are not required to have credentials in dog behavior or assessing temperament (nor can the degree of  later aggression be confirmed in puppies) There is also not a standard requirement for insurance for rescuers.

Under no circumstances should these pups be allowed to become the victims of “transport,” which may send them out of the country and/or to unknown destinations and destroys the record of their origin..

 Since the County of Lapeer is already on notice that the Cane Corso pups are the offspring of dogs that have demonstrated an extreme level of aggression,let’s hope  they consider both the possible exploitation of the genetic traits of these puppies and  their obligation to the safety of the unsuspecting public.

Sources: Daily Mail, ABC News, Free Press, CBS, 9 News

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