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Should Dogs That Bite Be Saved?

Should Dogs That Bite Be Saved?

There’s a tough moral question in the news this week that has to do with dogs that bite.  Is it right to save a dog that has bitten, from being euthanized, when there are thousands of non-biting, healthy and friendly dogs being “put down” every day in overcrowded shelters around the country?

That’s the moral dilemma Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker James Harrison Jr. is currently facing for his beloved Pit bull dog named Patron. The dog attacked his 2-year-old son, the boy’s mother and another person in their home last week.

The dog is currently in quarantine for 10 days at the Animal Control of McKees Rocks, PA. He’s due to be euthanized at the end of the quarantine period, but Harrison is trying to find a way to save his dog from being “put down.” Here is the sequence of events that led to this tragedy.

Two-year-old James Harrison III was bitten on the thigh after his mother let the family dog out of its pen. She was also injured by the dog and a family friend in the home needed three stitches.

The child was taken to Children’s Hospital and stayed there for several days. Luckily the toddler didn’t sustain any permanent harm from his injuries. Doctors worried about muscle or nerve damage from the bite and possible infection.

According to Harrison, Patron attacked after he got upset because the boy was crying. He said, “This dog—it’s the first time in his life he ever did attack… It’s hard. I think what happens, when you try to get away from emotion, which is almost impossible, you have to weigh your responsibilities.”

At first Harrison didn’t protest the idea of euthanizing his dog, but now that it looks like the baby will be fine, the NFL player has turned his attention to saving the animal. He is looking at alternative to save Patron’s life. Ideally he would like to see the dog placed in a “home that would provide maximum security.”

This is an excruciating situation for any animal lover because any pet is a capable of biting, but it seems much worse because of all the bad press pit bulls receive. Even if individuals come forward on behalf of Patron, it’s doubtful that the dog will be released directly to another family.

That’s why Harrison’s agent, William Parise, has turned to animal rescue organizations for help, but he isn’t having much luck.

Daisy Balawejder of Hello Buddy a Pittsburgh group that rehabilitates and places pit bulls says, “No reputable rescue organization will take a dog that has bitten a person.” Her group is already overflowing with abandoned pits that don’t have a history of problems with humans and she is having a hard time placing them.

Best Friends Animal Society, the organization that rescued Michael Vick’s fighting pit bulls was also contacted but said space is severely limited.

“Some dogs can be rehabilitated with training,” said Ledy VanKavage, legislative analyst for Best Friends. “But so many healthy dogs are being put down. If we had room, we would [take dogs that bite people], but we’re pretty full. Unfortunately there aren’t enough sanctuaries out there.”

This situation is such a tragedy, but is Harrison shirking his duties as a responsible pet owner? He isn’t asking for help to rehabilitate Patron and have the dog returned to him. He’s looking for someone else, like a rescue group to take responsibility for the dog’s future and unfortunately most organizations are not ready to assume that liability.

It looks like lady luck is looking down on Harrison and Patron because just as I was posting this story a press release was issued that the dog has found a new home with “an unnamed woman who rehabilites pit bull dogs.” 

So the crisis has been averted until the next time a celebrity’s dog bites or attacks. But the question still hangs over us: Should dogs that bite be saved, especially if it means that friendly, socialized dogs risk losing their lives instead?

What would you have done if you were in the same situation as NFL player James Harrison Jr.?

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231 comments

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1:20AM PDT on Sep 10, 2013

No

7:29PM PDT on Sep 9, 2013

Looking for someone to adopt an abused dog that bites

We adopted a beautiful white Terrier about 4 years ago from the streets where we found him. Without any identification (we asked around the neighborhood and no one had seen him before) but with signs of malnourishment, we brought him into our home and cared for him. He is an amazing and healthy dog, but unfortunately we believe that as a puppy he was severely abused. Although he is incredibly loyal and playful, it seems that the abusive experience he had to go through is still having an impact on him and sometimes he bites or in occasions he losses it for about 30 seconds and starts barking and attacking until he calms down. Usually from this episodes nothing happens, the times he has bitten have been either when we were putting his collar on, or when we were playing with him. We can no longer care for him, we now have babies on the house (our granddaughters) over the weekends and because we no longer trust him around strangers or kids/babies, we leave him in the yard or in one of the rooms while they are in the house. Even though we love him and he sleeps in our room next to our bed, we walk him around the neighborhood several times a day, he also loves playing and running for balls, and is fully trained to go to the bathroom (he never has gone inside the house) we however no longer trust him so we no longer pet him, afraid that he would bite us again.

We do not want to euthanize him nor do we want to bring him to

4:26PM PST on Jan 9, 2012

Unfortunately I am out of the main stream of this sort of issue, while a US Citizen, I have lived on Luzon Island Philippines for the past 34 years.

Dogs watch people's eyes and interpret eye movement. My dog has bitten me, my medical attendant, and a couple of friends, just barely breaking the skin to let us know he feels threatened.

"Kirby," who appears as my signature photo has also trashed a would be home invader, rendering it unnecessary for me to shoot the armed intruder. In this case the worst part of the situation was cleaning up all that blood.

In the case of Bronks, as in this JR I love, they are not pets, they are predators. Since Bronks apparently is up to date on shots, I advise to observe behaviour, try to analyse the situation he reacted to and continue his life with you as is, but observe his moods.

There are rescue and adoption organisations available through "Care 2." I can't name them right off as I have never felt need to contact one from here. If Bronks must go, I suggest you put it out in forum, and request assistance from the editors in locating a home.

12:59AM PST on Jan 8, 2012

I have a situation - My son owes a American pit bull. he has had the dog for two years with out any kind of agression. Tonight the dog (Bronks) bite the girlfriend then bite his owner, my son. this dog was recued by my son, found tide to a fence. Bronks has no heath issues and is a very Loved animal by my son. We need someone to take this dog in,we feel this dog should not be put down. Bronks has never showed aggression to anyone and we feel it is not right to kill an animal. Please help us in getting this dog (Bronks ) to a place to live out his life.
My son lives in Philadelphia.

8:47AM PST on Nov 13, 2009

I adopt,rescue, and raise pit bull dogs. People that fight digs are idiots(Michael Vick most notably). They should be given a chance to be rehabilitated. My dream is to one day open a "No Kill" facility where even dogs that cannot be rehabilitated can at least live out their life in peace.

4:55AM PDT on Aug 5, 2009

I worked with "problem dogs" (pedigreed) for a number of years.
With very rare exception (at least, I assume there are exceptions; inter-breeding via puppy mills can produce dogs with genetic/brain abnormalities), they can be rehabilitated. Most "biters" bite out of fear, and it does take time to teach trust, which is vital to rehabilitation. I would advise against bringing a rehabilitated dog into a home with children, and I recommend adoption by a one or two adult household.

That said, rehabilitated dogs tend to be outstanding companions for adults. Once trust is gained, they are deeply loyal, loving companions, very protective. In my observation, they tend to have above-average intelligence, with well-developed individual personalities.

10:40AM PDT on Jul 15, 2009

When a dog bite must have a reason to do that. First we must know the reason second we must give a chance to train the dog to be more social.
I ask you another when a person beat another person should be saved?
Why the animals don't have chances to show.

4:26PM PDT on Jul 13, 2009

That's a hard question it depends on the circumstances and each case. It's real up to those involved.

4:27PM PDT on Jul 11, 2009

It is NOT the dogs' fault, it's the stupid human guardian's fault! Punish the deed, not the breed! I have been bitten dozens of times in my rescue work. These dogs are afraid and/or protective. They are FINE once they're in a loving home!

7:25PM PDT on Jul 6, 2009

Humans are invariably responsible for a dog's actions and reactions to certain events. Dogs should not be kept in pens/cages. If this type of restraint is necessary ~ then I don't feel the dog should be in a family situation under any circumstances. Some humans aggravate dogs and cause them to become aggressive! In this instance I feel that the owners should be euthanased and the dogs should be rescued!!

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Kristina Chew Kristina Chew teaches and writes about ancient Greek and Latin and is Online Advocacy and Marketing... more
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