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.?