Should a dog that killed a 1-year-old little boy be euthanized or allowed to live out its life at a sanctuary? It’s a question that will be debated in Las Vegas, NV on Friday after a tragic attack left Jeremiah Eskew-Shahan dead on his first birthday.
Jeremiah’s grandmother, Elizabeth Keller was exhausted when she gave the toddler his bottle and laid him down on the living room floor at 10p.m. on April 27. The family had finished celebrating the boy’s first birthday and was ready to relax. Their dog Onion, a 6 year-old Mastiff-Rhodesian ridgeback mix, was already asleep on the floor. Jeremiah crawled over to Onion, as he had done many times before, and grabbed onto the 120-pound dog to pull himself up. As his grandmother reached down to pick him up, Onion acted out of character and latched onto the boy’s head. Jeremiah’s father immediately rushed into the room, but the damage had been done. Jeremiah’s neck was broken and his face was mutilated. The baby was airlifted to a trauma unit where he died the next morning.
The boy’s father, Christopher Shahan, told the Las Vegas Review-Journal he lost two family members on April 27, his cherished son and his beloved pet. He voluntarily surrendered Onion to Animal Control for the dog to be euthanized after a 10 day quarantine period.
“For what he did to my son, he deserves to be punished,” said Christopher Shahan. “I’ve already accepted the fact that he’s dead.”
Onion was scheduled to be euthanized on May 8, but was given a reprieve by a local judge after lawyers working for the Lexus Project, a dog advocacy group, filed a temporary restraining order. The Lexus Project wants to send Onion to a Colorado sanctuary that specializes in handling large and aggressive dogs.
“We’re happy about the judge’s decision,” Lexus Project president Robin Mittasch said. “Now Onion will have his day in court.”
“It’s a tragedy what happened, believe me, I’m a mother and grandmother,” Mittasch said. “But on the other hand, the dog didn’t do anything wrong. He doesn’t know what he did.”
Les Golden, a Chicago-area dog rescuer said, “The dog deserves to be saved.” Based on news reports Golden believes Onion is not dangerous and acted “instinctively after being spooked by the child” while he slept.
Lisa Kavanaugh, owner of Blue Lion Rescue where Onion would be sent if he gets his reprieve, said she would welcome the dog to her 35-acre ranch. She said, “Any dog from any breed can bite under certain conditions.”
“If it’s an accident, why not give him a chance?” said Kavanaugh. “He’s never, ever going to get a chance to hurt anybody else.”
Animal Control officers feel differently. They declared Onion a vicious dog and the state mandates that he be euthanized.
“The dog attacked and killed a child,” said Keith Paul Animal Control spokesperson. “It would be irresponsible for us to allow this dog to be adopted out.”
Onion has been with the Shahan family since he was a puppy. The family credits the dog with helping Jeremiah’s grandmother battle lung cancer and say he never showed aggression toward anyone including the 1-year-old prior to the mauling.
Should Onion be given a second chance to live at a sanctuary or should he be euthanized? And if Onion is allowed this special consideration, shouldn’t every dog sitting in an animal shelter waiting to be euthanized, be given a second chance too?
Photo Credit: DallasKrentzel
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