Thursday, November 17, 2011

Tough Decisions

Being in animal rescue has it’s emotional ups and downs.  Working with Mostly Mutts is mostly ‘up’ because we don’t deal with the families who abuse and neglect the dogs we rescue.  Unlike animal control officers, we don’t meet the families who surrender personal animals because they are an ‘inconvenience’.  We meet the dogs when they come to us, many scared and nervous, but most of them greet us with wagging tails and kisses.  They don’t know us but they accept our help and trust us to do the best for them.  Most of these dogs recover from their emotional or physical issues while with Mostly Mutts and then go on to live happily ever after in their new adopted homes. 

Not all dogs find forever homes though.  Mostly Mutts contract reads that we adopt dogs known to have no aggression toward people, food or other animals, or we disclose the behaviors.   We cannot, and will not,  place a dog into a home if we consider it to be “dangerous”.    

Take the story of Tucker, a Border Collie mix.  Tucker was adopted as a puppy and was returned after one year by his family because he was snapping at people and showing aggressive behaviors. Tucker was about 60 pounds, so when returned he was immediately taken to a trainer who assesses dogs for Mostly Mutts and she agreed that Tucker should be put to sleep after he bit her (fortunately on her boot).  Tucker was picked up from her facility by Mostly Mutts and brought back to the MM shelter.  He was to be taken to a vet clinic to be put down.  However, as he met each volunteer, he showed no aggressive behaviors and actually was a fun, happy and highly likable dog.  We made an assumption that he was not treated well by his former family and now was relaxed and happy.  We gave him the benefit of the doubt.

Even though he now had one ‘bite case’ Tucker went to adoptions every weekend and some of the volunteers grew very close to him.   He did well at the shelter and then found a foster home with a young college kid who adored Tucker.  He told us what a great dog Tucker was and even though Tucker was cautious around strangers, the foster dad had not witnessed any aggressive behaviors. 

As weeks passed and he was not adopted, he started to get a little unpredictable and did bite three people at adoptions.  None of these bites were serious and none needed medical attention, but they were unprovoked and unexpected.  A volunteer was assigned to him at adoptions to supervise him. 

One night the foster dad called me in a panic and told me that Tucker got out the front door and ran over to a lady talking on her phone and bit her on the leg.  At first the woman panicked but once she knew she was okay, she calmed down.  She was extremely frightened, the foster dad was very upset, and I knew MM had to make a very tough decision about Tucker.  That was his 5th bite case and this one was totally unprovoked. 

In order for a Mostly Mutts dog to be put down, two board members and a veterinarian must agree.  In Tucker’s case, it was unanimous for many reasons.  He’s a large dog, he was unpredictable, he certainly would have bitten again and MM could be held liable if anyone was to get hurt.  If he were a Chihuahua, things would have been different.   We had no choice but to put him down.    

Euthanizing a physically healthy dog hurts deep, deep inside.  Even though the volunteers agreed, it didn’t make it any easier for anyone.  Tucker won his way into many hearts and he is missed very much. 

Mostly Mutts has its highs and lows, and losing Tucker was certainly a low point.  

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