Saturday, August 22, 2015

Dogs Who Bite

Sometimes not enough thought goes into what comes out of my fingertips, which is not a good thing when you manage a Facebook page with 8,000+ followers. Recently I posted a picture of one of the dogs available for adoption at the shelter, with a frank assessment of his history...he had been adopted out as an ~8 week old puppy, then around the age of 1.5 he bit the family's other dog and was returned to the shelter.

The post was up for a day and a half without any red flags...people liked the picture and commented about how they hoped he would find a forever home.

Then this morning there were a couple of comments that expressed outrage that we would adopt out a dog with a bite history. Some guy that is vehemently pro-breeder shared it as an example of how our "kill shelter" is awful.

It does not help that this dog is a pit bull.

I could write a whole post about how infuriating it is when someone is WRONG on the internet, but I think we've all been there, done that.

So let's talk about dog bites.


I grew up with chocolate labs. The very idea of them biting anything other than a chew toy or shoe was incomprehensible. I would have readily said that any dog who bites should get put down immediately because that just isn't acceptable.

Then, within the past few years, both of my dogs have bitten other dogs. Those who know Finch and Hobbes can hopefully attest that both of them are incredibly sweet and loving dogs, and yet they both drew blood on other dogs.

Finch is an alpha female and does not back down. She bit another alpha female when they got into a tussle.

Hobbes has become pretty anti-social towards other dogs now that I live in the country and I don't take him to the dog park to socialize. He bit a Great Dane puppy.

Both incidents mortified me and I cried over each. But it was never an option in my mind to put them to sleep because of it.

If I had to rehome Hobbes, on paper he would be a pit bull who attacked another dog. Would he
deserve a chance to find another home, instead of being euthanized because of his bite history? I certainly think so.

It's okay if you don't. But if the shelter went with a policy of euthanizing every dog with a bite history, can you just imagine the number of small dogs we would have to put down? Maybe you'd argue that bigger dogs can do much more damage when they bite. Which is true, but little dogs can still do significant damage. Where would we draw the line of with what size dog is a bite history acceptable, and what size mandates an automatic euth?

I understand when people take the position that biting is unacceptable, period, because I thought that before I owned two dog-aggressive dogs. And I don't blame people for worrying about the safety of themselves and their own pets.

But it's a lose-lose situation for the shelter when it comes to dogs who bite. If we put down dogs who have a bite history, people would (and do) call us a kill shelter who doesn't give dogs second chances. If we adopt out dogs who have a bite history, people would (and do) call us terrible and irresponsible.

I fully realize that you can never please everyone. But that doesn't make it any less frustrating when reading and responding to comments online. That pro-breeder assclown (aside: I didn't realize there was a pro-breeder, anti-shelter movement) who in one breath called us a kill shelter and in the next breath criticized us for trying to adopt out a dog with a dog-dog* bite history? He would've found something to fuel his indignation no matter what I posted.

The best we can do is temperament test dogs who come into the shelter, and give full disclosure to possible adopters about the dog's bite history.  Dogs who fail the temperament test and are deemed dangerous are humanely put to sleep.  Adopters who are looking at dogs with bite histories are educated by us before they make a decision.

I wish I could have this conversation with every person who comments because they're upset with the shelter's decisions. It wouldn't change everyone's minds, but at least some people could see the thought process behind what we do. Obviously I can't, but I can at least subject my loyal blog followers to it. Mwuhaha.

*I'm focusing on dog-dog bites because dog-person bites are even murkier and my opinion depends entirely upon the situation.

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