"Euthanize the parents, not Neville." "The parents brought this upon themselves. I have no respect for them."
- On the part of the parents who put a kid in a pen with multiple dogs, but maybe they didn’t know better - and knowing that “hugging” dogs is bad is just now getting iton the zeitgeist. Not everyone knows this, so that’s not fair to put on the parents. We are all still learning. Also, not every person is a dog expert, and we’re learning more every day. Yet, if they ignored shelter staff, then this is on them, too.
- On the part of the shelter for having a family with a young child meet more than one dog in a pen.
- On the part of the shelter for not knowing subtle stress signals in dogs if any were given, or likely triggers in dogs (for instance: 5 dogs zipping around and a toddler reaching for one of them).
- On the part of the shelter for not immediately intervening when the toddler moved towards Neville. The parents might not be experts, but the shelter staff should know better...but maybe they don’t. Again, we are all still learning, and many shelters don’t have access to the tools they need. Their good intentions are there, and needed to save dogs, but they need more tools to make better decisions when introducing families to pets.
- On the part of the shelter for not removing the family if an employee did say, “Hey, I don’t advise you putting your child on the ground.” That would be a great time to reassess the situation if there were warnings about putting the toddler on the ground. Maybe then pick a suitable match and bring the family into a single room to meet the dog - a room with a poster on “how not to say hi to dogs.”
- The way to truly save Neville is to have a Certified Behavior Consultant, Applied Animal Behaviorist who works with dogs or a Veterinary Behaviorist assess the dog. They might say that he needs to be euthanized, or they might say he just can't be in a home with kids or loud noises.Regardless, someone with the, knowledge, experience and authority to make this sort of call should be involved. Qualified professionals should have a bigger say as to what happens to Neville than a mob on an online petition . These findings should be presented to the court.
- There needs to be a management plan and a behavior plan in place if he is saved.
- The shelter needs to look over their policies of how families meet dogs (and maybe provide education to their shelter staff, volunteers and community about how to interact with dogs safely.)
- They need to learn about, and teach, stress signals in dogs.
- Investigate using a behavior assessment protocol, like Matchup II and employ programs like Open Paw to make each shelter an educational hub for human/dog safety.
- The shelter needs to be ok if this dog gets euthanized. They also need to make sure they take the proper steps to make sure this never happens again.
- The shelter can ask a qualified, certified animal behaviorist (someone with a PhD in the field and a certification stating they have completed a program in animal science - not just any ol’ person who says they are a behaviorist. They need to back up their profession with actual credentials) to come in and work with them on proper assessment practices and how to manage the dogs and the people who want to adopt these dogs safely.
Living with Kids and Dogs is useful for all parents, even if you don't have dogs. Your kid might come in contact with dogs on walks, or get chased by a dog off leash - the information in these websites is invaluable and can prepare families for the unexpected.
----- Update!!! Neville was eventually placed in a home and evaluated by an orthopedic veterinarian who discovered he had a case of hip dysplasia. This could have been a contributing factor, or even the primary factor, in biting this young boy. That said, even with his medical condition, preventative measures would have gone a long way in ensuring Neville wasn't in a position where he needed to protect himself, and the young boy wouldn't have been in a position where he needed 16 stitches.
I love rescue. Every pet we have in our home is adopted and that will be the most likely case case for the rest of our days. With that said, it's imporant to note that everything listed above can certainly help change rescue from a place of simply moving animals into homes that may or may not be appropriate for a particular pet, but change the conversation to one of taking responsible measures to prevent another Neville situation from happening again. Remember, I'm not there, so I don't know first-hand how many, if any of the steps above have been adopted by the shelter to prevent these things from occuring again.
Neville was instead court ordered to register as a dangerous dog, which doesn't really mean much. Registering as a dangerous dog means different things through the country so while this looks like a lot was done, the onus after all of this is still put on Neville. The very thing this rescue was trying to prevent with a court case was to, yes, save his life, but also a major part of their argument was that this wasn't Neville's fault. I still firmly believe after all these years that in order to truly save Neville and dogs like him, steps need to be taken at the facility levely. If a case like Neville occurs at a facility and steps aren't taken to properly introduce kids and dogs, or if steps are not taken to educate the volunteers and staff to prevent this occurance from happening again, then the onus is solidly on the rescue in future cases. *Due to hateful language in the comments section, the comments might have to get shut down. That said, I have reported comments that call me an asshole, or call the parents terrible things. I won't stand for it and will report all comments that are hateful and not helpful to the conversation. If they continue the post will remain up but comments will be disabled. We are all adults, so keep it civil. We can agree to disagree, but any and all personal attacks will be removed and reported immediately. I find it telling that the comments removed were exactly the speech I'm aiming to change. Clearly, there is more work to do.*