Should a dog being held for a heinous crime be given compassionate and humane treatment?
Animal advocates in Nevada are fighting for this cause after learning that a mastiff-Rhodesian mix named Onion, has spent more than a year living in solitary confinement at a city shelter in Henderson, NV while lawyers and city officials battle over his fate for being vicious. For more than 365 days Onion has lived without human touch or the ability to take a walk.
Onion’s case will be heard on July 3 before the Nevada Supreme Court. Gina Greisen founder of Nevada Voters for Animals believes however the high court rules, “[t]he dog deserves compassion and afforded daily exercise, fresh air, and human contact.” The group worries Onion will become “cage crazy” if he continues to live in confinement.
The act committed by Onion in April 2012 was extremely tragic and tore apart his family. The dog fatally attacked Jeremiah Eskew-Shahan, the 1-year-old grandson of his owner, after the family celebrated the boy’s first birthday.
“The circumstances were the perfect storm for a horrific accident,” said Greisen.
Onion and little Jeremiah fell asleep together on the floor in the family’s home the evening of the party. When the boy woke up he grabbed hold of Onion’s fur to pull himself upright. Jeremiah had been taught to pull himself up that way, but it startled Onion that night and he reacted by attacking and killing the child. Animal control officers took Onion with the intent of euthanizing him, but the child’s grandmother signed over custody to the New York-based Lexus Project after they contacted her about sending Onion to a Colorado sanctuary for dangerous dogs. This set off a harsh yearlong legal clash between city officials and the animal rights group that made its way to the state Supreme Court.
It also garnered attention from Nevada Voters for Animals who have been keeping a watchful eye on Onion.
“Onion doesn’t understand why he has been shut away from the world and he doesn’t know that he committed a terrible crime,”¯ said Greisen. “Animals do not have the capability to intentionally commit evil deeds. He’s been placed in his current predicament due to human error, not because he is vicious. He should have been sent to a sanctuary long ago.”¯
Greisen has protested to the city attorney and the council many times about providing humane care for Onion, but hasn’t gotten much help. She said one city councilwoman who told Greisen she would look into the matter, but later replied that she was satisfied with Onion’s living conditions. Greisen was told, “He is well fed, interacts and is seen regularly by a vet tech and treated by a vet as needed.”
Dogs are social beings and Greisen knows human contact for Onion cannot be replaced by being “seen”¯ by a vet tech. He needs to be touched and exercised. Her group is asking authorities to reconsider their position and grant this small indulgence to Onion.
Greisen also knows that even with a July 3 hearing, it may take months for the state Supreme Court to make a ruling about Onion’s future. She said even people who think Onion should be euthanized are opposed to him languishing in a cage.
Ultimately Nevada Voters for Animals hopes Onion will be allowed to spend his life at a sanctuary where trained people can be with him. Until that time the group asks for support from animal lovers to help Onion spend a small amount of time each day outdoors in the secure, grassy area at the shelter where he can run and remember what it is like to be a dog.
Photo Credit: bobmarley753