Rachael Honabarger (5/2/13) DBRF #12



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Rachael Honabarger

35-years old | Coshocton, OH

Rachael Honabarger, 35-years old, was brutally attacked by her family German shepherd, sustaining life-threatening injuries. A neighbor driving by her residence saw that she was in clear distress with the dog beside her. As the neighbor approached to help her, the dog began attacking her again, this time biting into her neck. There were no witnesses to the initial attack. The man was able to pull the dog off Honabarger and secure it in an outdoor kennel. He then called 911 and administered life-saving first aid until EMS arrived on scene. Rachael was transported to a local hospital then airlifted to Grant Medical Center in Columbus. She died two days later. Another neighbor said the dog was very aggressive, but never went beyond the property line; the dog guarded the family home. The male German shepherd was euthanized the day after her death and transported to the Ohio Department of Health for rabies testing. The results came back negative. [source citations]

2013 Dog Bite Fatality: Coshocton Woman Dies After Vicious Dog Attack

Insights from Behaviorist

UPDATE 04/07/13: The dog mauling death of Rachael Honabarger, 35-years old of Coshocton, Ohio, has many readers questioning why a German shepherd would inflict a sustained and deadly attack upon an adult family member. The questioning began early on when the dog was initially reported to weigh 150 pounds. This weight fell into a more acceptable weight of a male German shepherd, 104 pounds, after the dog was weighed, euthanized and tested for rabies.1

DogsBite.org reaches out to animal behaviorist Alexandra Semyonova to learn more:

Alexandra Semyonova

There are two possible explanations for this attack. It’s possible that this German shepherd came from one of the lines that are being bred for impulsive aggression [footnote] — the same trait that makes the pit bull type dog so unpredictable and dangerous. This genetically determined trait is still relatively rare in the German shepherd, but there are kennels that breed specifically for guard and police work and imagine that an aggressive dog makes a better guard dog. These kennels select for impulsiveness in general and impulsive aggression in particular. When a dog has the impulsive aggression trait, no provocation or harsh treatment is needed to trigger a sudden and vicious attack. If you breed for this trait together with magnified body size, you are creating inherently dangerous dogs.
It’s possible that this German shepherd was not bred in such a kennel, but that it was subjected to harsh training methods. The use of prong collars, choke collars, electric shocks, electric fences and other aversives can make even a normal dog aggressive. Many of the things people are told to do to establish ‘dominance’ over a dog have the same effect. In both cases, the dog learns to mistrust humans and to expect something awful to happen when a human approaches. Most dogs will (at first) prefer to flee and avoid, but a dog can learn that this doesn’t work and that full-out attack is the only way to protect itself.
In either case (genes or abuse), you can’t call a full-out attack by a dog on an adult an accident. Accidents are by definition things you can’t predict or avert. Where dangerous dogs are concerned, we can predict and avert first of all by the type of dog we choose, and then by what we teach the normal dog we’ve chosen to expect from our own species.

Alexandra Semyonova is an internationally acclaimed animal behaviorist, behavioral biologist, anthropologist and author. View additional posts by Alexandra Semyonova.

05/06/13: Dog Euthanized, Tested for Rabies
A family German shepherd that attacked and killed a Coshocton woman last week was euthanized Friday and tested for rabies. The test results came back negative. Russell Dreher, the Coshocton County Dog Warden, said, “The investigation is complete.” Rachael Honabarger, 35-years old and the mother of two, died Thursday according to her published obituary, not Saturday as previously reported by news media outlets. The victim only survived two days after the severe attack.

In the 8-year period of 2005 to 2012, German shepherds contributed to 9 human deaths. The age range of victims was 7 and under (5 victims) and 55 and older (4 victims). Of these deaths, 2 involved “pack attacks” (four or more dogs) and included pit bulls.2 Of the older victims, 3 cases involved the death of a female senior citizen: Linda Mittino, 69, Shirley Lou Bird, 79, andMagdelena Silva, 96. Both Mittino and Bird had been injured by the dog prior to the fatal attack.

05/04/13: Woman Dies After Dog Attack
Coshocton, OH – A Coshocton woman died Saturday from injuries sustained after being attacked by her family dog earlier this week. A Grant Medical Center spokesperson confirmed that Rachael Honabarger, 35-years old, of 41900 County Road 23 was deceased. The woman had remained in critical condition since the attack on Tuesday. Coshocton County Dog Warden Russell Dreher said a family dog, a 3-year old, large male German shepherd, attacked the woman at her home.

According to a news release from the Coshocton County Sheriff’s office issued Wednesday, a neighbor was driving by the residence and saw the woman in distress. As he approached her to provide aid, the dog began attacking her again. He was able to pull the dog away and secure it in an outdoor kennel. He then called 911, requesting immediate help, and provided life-saving first aid until EMS arrived on scene. At that time, the neighbor was credited with saving her life.

Honabarger was taken to a local hospital then flown by helicopter to Grant Medical Center.

The dog was registered to her husband, Michael Honabarger, according to Dreher. He said his office had not received any prior complaints about the dog. The animal showed no diseases upon testing. At least two other dogs were also on the property, Dreher said. John Speaks, a man who lives nearby, told Fox 28 that he was familiar with the dog. “He’s always been very aggressive but he would never go beyond the road, he guarded the yard and the house,” said Speaks.

Related video


-Neighbor stopped attack by family pet, but mauling proved fatal for woman

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German Shepherd Dog

*Because they are so often used for police work, some lines of GSDs have developed behavior that makes them unsuitable as household pets. Police lines often suffer an ADHD-like excitability and lack of impulse control. Some have developed what looks like ‘impulsive aggression’ – sudden, unprovoked, disproportionately savage attacks on another dog or on a human. If you are considering a German Shepherd Dog as a household companion, it is important to be sure you choose a dog from a working guide dog line or a companion dog line, and avoid breeders who supply police trainers and/or shutzhund clubs. This is particularly important if you expect the dog to interact safely with children and with other animals.


In North America, from 1982-2013, German Shepherds have been responsible for 102 attacks on humans, resulting in 53 maimings and 15 fatalities. German Shepherd mixes have been responsible for 59 attacks, resulting in 35 maimings and 10 fatalities.




This is a list of dog breeds that have a history of being potentially dangerous to people, especially children. Daxton’s Friends for Canine Education and Awareness understands that any dog has the ability to bite or inflict serious harm to humans. This list consists of several dog breeds that have a higher than average number of recorded human fatalities. Please use extreme caution if you choose to bring one of these breeds into your home. Rental communities and homeowners insurance may restrict many of the dog breeds on this list due to the likelihood of a serious incident.

Pit Bulls, Mastiff, and Rottweiler lead in fatalities and are listed first. The rest of the breeds are listed in alphabetical order:

Pit Bull Terrier Family





Alaskan Malamute

Chow Chow

Doberman Pinscher

German Shepherd

Shar Pei

Siberian Husky

Wolf Hybrid