You Can’t Save Them All, and You Shouldn’t Want To

Trigger warning for animal attacks resulting in death and child death.

I blame people for the vast majority of dog bites. People are the ones who don’t supervise their dogs. People are the ones who allow their dogs to develop dangerous behaviors. People are the ones who don’t supervise their children.

I’ve rehomed dogs who have had biting incidents in the past. One that comes to mind is a cocker spaniel who would bite children if they were even remotely rough with him. His owners failed to manage the situation over and over, and by the time they came to us, they were just looking for an OK to euthanize him because he was a repeat biter. Based on what they had told us, including the fact that no adult was never present for these incidents,which typically involved the dog being left alone with a crowd of children, we figured he could be rehomed, but that he needed a responsible owner. There was a gray area. We found a home with an experienced couple who lived in the country and who had dealt with biting cocker spaniels before. They did not have children visit, and if it did come up, they would put their dog in another room until the children left. The placement went well, and the cocker is beautifully behaved in his adult-only household where he is well-supervised.

So please, don’t get me wrong. I don’t believe that a biting dog is automatically a risk. Dogs that nip, for example, can often be trained out of it.

But there are some cases when the dog deserves no second chance. For example, a decade or so ago in Maryland there was a case where a dachshund killed an infant. The dog had been agitated by the cries of the child, and when no one was around, tragedy occurred. The dog was taken into animal control’s custody and euthanized, as he should have been.

More recently, there was a case where a dog stalked and attacked a four-year-old boy, resulting in a severe bite. Only the heroic and surprising action of the family cat, who scared the dog away, prevented the child from being even more severely injured. It’s on video out there, and it’s chilling.

These cases are terrible, tragic, horrific, nightmarish — there are no words too strong for what happened.

And in both of these cases, as in many, many others where there was no gray area, people purporting to be animal rescuers from around the country contacted animal control to see if they could take the dog and rehabilitate it.

I don’t even know where to start, but here we go: those people are idiots, and their motives are highly suspect. Sometimes these people enjoy having a famous or infamous dog, because it makes them feel important and it raises money for their rescues. Other times, it’s because they are just soooooooooo sentimental and feel so very, very sorry for the poor dog who was just acting like a dog, after all. Then there are people who have a Messiah complex and want to save the dog through their magical healing love and unrivaled ability to bond with animals.

Even if their arguments are convincing to some, nothing counters the fact that if they really wanted to help animals, there are hundreds in their community who haven’t seriously injured children. But for some reason, those dogs don’t merit their attention.

You know who else doesn’t merit their attention? The human beings who were affected by these animal attacks. Such rescuers will give lip service, at best, about their grief for the victims. They barely acknowledge them and even subtly victim blame.

Those people don’t represent me or the kind of animal rescue I support. Their efforts damage the credibility of  legitimate animal welfare organizations and to people who attempt to rehabilitate “gray area” dogs. Their behavior is disgraceful, and inhuman.



By Moretta

Moretta will take that applause. Her Twitter is

3 replies on “You Can’t Save Them All, and You Shouldn’t Want To”

I remember training to be a volunteer, and the first thing we were drilled on was what to say if we were asked if we were a “no kill” shelter. That we rehabilitated any medical or behavioral problem we could, but if there was no way to rehab that animal, we would euthanize it. Any animal with a chance could stay as long as it took. I had potential adopters walk out the door, but I had way more nod and say that they understood that.

What kills me about these situations is that average people want to rehabilitate dogs like the one who stalked the child. I was at a huge animal shelter and we had access to some of the best vets in the Chicago area and amazing behavioral specialists and even we knew that sometimes you just can’t let an animal live in the kind of world that causes them to want to cause pain.

That video gave me chills – who on earth looks at that and thinks “that dog could totally be a safe pet”?!
It’s one thing if a dog is defending itself (as in your example of the cocker spaniel) and another if it’s predatory.

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