A Palm Coast woman is alleging that Animal Control acted improperly when investigating a dog attack that killed her Chihuahua mix.
The city is looking into the allegations, but has denied the woman's assertion that an Animal Control officer told her not to speak with neighbors about the case.
“We’re in the investigative stage of learning more about how protocols were utilized,” City Manager Denise Bevan said. “We also have another side of the story that we want to be diligent in on how our staff approaches these matters."
We also have another side of the story that we want to be diligent in on how our staff approaches these matters. — Denise Bevan, City Manager
Carole Brasfield, 71, was walking her 11-pound dog Rookie on June 3 when a pit bull mix named Blu came charging out of the woods, knocking her to the ground before grabbing Rookie in his mouth. Blu had a documented bite history and weighed 94 pounds as of his July 2022 rabies vaccination certificate.
Brasfield suffered severe bruising on her right side and a laceration on her wrist as she and Blu’s owner, 70-year-old Deborah Sefcik, tried to rescue Rookie.
"I was dazed and in extreme pain," Brasfield wrote in her statement to Animal Control. "I tried getting up, but he had Rookie in his mouth, shaking him."
Some people in an SUV stopped to try to help as Brasfield tried to wrestle the pit bull off of her dog.
"By then, [Rookie] was dead," she wrote.
Brasfield and her husband, Randy, told the Observer they objected to how Animal Control Officer Shelley Burton handled the investigation.
At a City Council business meeting on June 20, Brasfield recounted the attack to the council.
She said Burton had argued with her about the attack and told her she shouldn’t discuss the attack with her neighbors because the neighbors “were lying.”
“This dog could have killed a child,” Brasfield said to the council. “Where is the accountability of the Palm Coast city employees?”
This dog could have killed a child. Where is the accountability of the Palm Coast city employees? — Carole Brasfield, Palm Coast resident
Brittany Kershaw, Palm Coast director of Communications and Marketing, said that accusation was false.
Animal Control policy is actually to encourage residents to speak to their neighbors, Kershaw said, to hopefully bring forth more witness reports.
Animal Control allowed Sefcik to keep Blu at home for quarantine from June 3 to June 14 as officers completed their investigation.
Kershaw wrote in an email to the Observer that it is procedure to allow an animal to quarantine at home if the home is properly fenced in or enclosed, so long as the animal is up to date on its shots and meets other qualifications.
Ultimately, Blu was designated a “dangerous dog” and Sefcik had him euthanized on June 14, 11 days after the attack, according to city documents.
Sefcik wrote in her statement to Animal Control that she had been walking Blu on a leash with a muzzle, but Blu had noticed a rabbit and bolted into the woods, ripping the leash from her hands, before noticing and attacking the Chihuahua.
Brasfield said that Blu was not muzzled during the attack.
“I was up close and personal,” Brasfield told the Observer. “There was no leash or muzzle.”
Randy Brasfield told the Observer if the Blu were muzzled, he shouldn't have been able to grab Rookie. Blu was known to cause trouble for people in the neighborhood, he said.
This was not the first time Blu was investigated by Palm Coast’s Animal Control.
A year ago, Blu attacked a corgi, JoJo, that lives in the neighborhood and is owned by the Fairbanks family.
The same animal control officer, Burton, investigated the 2022 attack and the June 3 attack.
The corgi did not suffer any dog bites or broken bones, according to an Animal Control report.
But when Burton followed up with the Fairbanks family after the June 3 attack, veterinary records showed that JoJo had suffered swelling and edema that required multiple vet visits to fix, the report said.
This is no way to treat one of our citizens. It just isn’t. — Ed Danko, Vice Mayor
At the end of the City Council meeting, Vice Mayor Ed Danko said he was concerned about Animal Control's actions.
“I really want an answer as to why an Animal Control officer thinks it's appropriate to tell a victim like that — who’s obviously going through a lot of emotional distress — to not talk to her neighbors," he said.
Danko said he wanted Code Enforcement Manager Barbara Grossman to contact not just the Brasfields, but other residents who had had issues with Blu.
“This is no way to treat one of our citizens,” he said. “It just isn’t.”
Kershaw said that city policy is to look into all complaints against staff, though not all turn into formal investigations.
There is no formal investigation into Burton yet for this incident, she said, nor are there any other complaints or investigations in Burton's file.
"Our Animal Control officers are always very professional and care very much for our residents," Kershaw said. "Animal Control officers are never trying to be insensitive."
CORRECTION: This story has been changed to reflect the accurate spelling of the pit bull mix's name.