It came out of nowhere

A rescue in Virginia that specializes in rehabilitating questionable dogs, many being pits with behavior or bite histories, is currently being sued for an enormous amount of money by someone who adopted one of their dogs.  Upon the adoption, the dog came with his very own shock collar, which reportedly was used to train the dog out of some aggressive behavior he had demonstrated in the past. Within hours of being home, the dog’s collar was removed, and shortly thereafter the dog randomly attacked a family member and mauled her so badly she did not survive the injuries inflicted.

The obsession to fix dogs that are imbalanced, aggressive, or displaying less than desirable behaviors is nothing new, it’s just out of control now that the fallacy of No-kill has taken hold in the masses.  In the past 15 years or so, thanks to the internet and Animal Planet, the idea that any dog regardless of breed or temperament can and should be molded into the perfect companion that will tolerate absolutely anything and everything has seeped into the minds of millions. Allowing an animal to be an individual, to have it’s own emotions, thoughts, and feelings, and to make arrangements to keep such an animal is an undesirable approach for many dog owners. Much of society for whatever reason places a higher value on these animals, pouring money, time, and other resources into what they see as damaged dogs who must have been abused or not loved enough, while friendly flawless animals sit ignored in shelters daily.   The glory and story of fixing an animal grabs the keys and drives many adopter’s choices on where they decide to acquire their canine companions. The lure of adopting a troubled animal is incredibly strong, and most often the wrong people are sucked into it. We see more stories in the headlines of these organizations not making good on their promises to help these animals, but instead disappointing time and again with irresponsible placement, not being honest with adopters, not taking them back when things don’t work, and relinquishing responsibility by pleading ignorance or placing blame on the victims when the animal, who was set up to fail in the first place on many levels, fails.

Behavior is the physical manifestation of an emotion. The way an animal behaves, reacts in certain situations, and responds to certain stimuli is their attempt either consciously or subconsciously to illustrate their emotions. The emotions that lie at the base of the behaviors we see most often are fear and arousal.  It’s commonly overlooked that teaching an animal to react in a certain way that you have determined is more acceptable does not necessarily change the emotional response the animal experiences when faced with what is causing the reaction in the first place.  Forcing a behavior that a human has decided is more appropriate than what was previously presented is not training; it is tightening a lid down on a pot of simmering water without turning down the heat, all the while expecting it not to eventually boil.

Take for instance a growl. A growl is universally recognized as a sign that a dog in uncomfortable and asking for space. I know I know, I misspoke. It would be more accurate to say that a growl is unfortunately universally recognized as a precursor to a bite, that an animal is telling you it’s aggressive. Insert shaking my head sad face here.  Each animal we come across has different zones of comfort and tolerance that vary based on their location and circumstances.  Are they alone or in a group? On a leash, confined in a yard or room, or loose? At home or at a park? With or without their owner present? There is usually what many refer to as a ladder of aggression, displays of emotion that an animal will exhibit in a certain order from very subtle to in your face extreme, that communicate these zones and when you’ve crossed from one to another. That is if you are paying attention. More often than not, unless a dog is psychologically wired wrong, extremely unsocialized, or the behavior has been “trained” out of them, these various displays will escalate in a predictable fashion. When you punish a growl, it doesn’t magically make the dog comfortable with the stranger that’s reaching for his head. The root of the dog’s displayed behavior has not been addressed. The punishment teaches the dog to forgo that one behavior and move on to the next one instead; the dog goes straight to a bite. Combine that with the owner’s ignorance towards things like lip licking, whale eye, paw raising, look aways, urogenital checks, displacement sniffing, panting, and freezing, which normally come before the growl anyway, and suddenly you have a bite that “came out of nowhere”, and an owner surrendered or euthanized animal.

Despite popular belief, a healthy animal avoids aggression if at all possible. Dogs will send on average 5-10 different signals to communicate that they are uncomfortable before resorting to an actual bite. Some move faster through the sequence than others. Every behavior we “train” out of an animal without addressing the underlying emotion simply removes a wrung from the ladder, thereby putting many animals on the fast track to aggressive (more often what I would rather term defensive) behaviors. These animals don’t need to be trained. They need to be studied, understood, carefully adjusted and placed into educated homes by people with extensive experience and honest outlooks on both an animal’s right to be happy and healthy physically and psychologically and, more importantly in my opinion, public safety and owner sanity.

These organizations that take it upon themselves to make excuse after excuse for why the animal reacts the way it does, use aversive training methods to mask the problem, and then sucker caring individuals to take them into their homes without honest disclosure of what they are getting into, do nothing to further the plight of these animals or the animal welfare community in general.   I’m sure this lawsuit will shed some much needed light on this practice, and open some eyes about what it is we are actually trying to accomplish for animals and the people who love them.

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65 thoughts on “It came out of nowhere

  1. Well stated. There are not enough experienced people who want these difficult dogs to make it reasonable to spend so many resources on them. I *can* handle a difficult dog. I don’t *want* to. I don’t want the extra effort. I don’t want the responsibility. There are TONS of more safe, more enjoyable pets being passed over by glory seekers who want to brag how they “saved a death row dog”. I just don’t get it.

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    • Experienced people know better ….:) I could but I don’t want to put my life through that trauma…or my kids(grown bringing their own dogs over and in time maybe babies) or my dogs. There is no allure for me in that…The allure for me is to create a harmonious home with stable, well trained dogs where people and animals alike get along more or less fairly peaceably and happily and we work and play as a well tuned pack.

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    • Actually, I’ve been in rescue many years, and I’ve seen people line up to adopt a purebred, aggressive dog. While a friendly, easy tempered mutt sits in the shelter on the euthanasia list.
      Is it a savior complex if it only applies to a dog’s genes?

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      • I have seen this too. However, it the responsibility of the rescue to not adopt out such dogs for public safety. I myself rescue, and no matter how much I love a dog, or want to see a dog have a new life, I would never jeopardize the safety or life of another person by adopting out aggressive dogs.

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      • Each dog should be judged individually. There are dogs that are just wired with dangerous tendencies. A friend had to put a dog to sleep because you could never tell when he would attack. He bit me and went after a toddler in her stroller. She had no choice or would have gotten thrown out of her co-op.

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      • I know there many reasons to euthanasia a dog and some of the reasons have nothing to do wtem being aggressive . So they may be saved by the right person. However not all are saveable.

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    • Death row dogs (Kill shelter dogs) have nothing to do with this story, (that I agree with completely) there are thousands and thousands of wonderful dogs on death row, that their lives depend on someone “saving a death row dog” that yes, get over looked in favor of aggressive dogs in shelters or up for adoption through rescue. Glory seeker? There was no ticker tape parade when I went to the shelter(s) and adopted my dogs, it was for love not glory.

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  2. Don’t blame Animal Planet, Tia Torress of pit bull and paroles will not adopt out a dog that doesn’t display proper behavior and or is unbalanced. She does not destroy the dog but she knows the dogs that she has!

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    • Tia Torres says no to those dogs. And when they discover they have one, they keep it in a cage at a ‘sanctuary’ for the rest of its life. Everything you see on TV is only about 25% of what actually goes on. When people make please to these no-kill organizations for animals that are behaviorally challenged or aggressive, most of the time these rescues simply turn the animals down or they simply won’t answer the emailed pleas for help.

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      • Is it better to put the dog down or make the dog be kept in a cage for the rest of it’s life. The dog would die of depression.

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    • The article should have condemned Nat Geo and certain “dog whisperer” for his barbaric methods instead of Animal Planet. Tia is probably one of the most responsible resciers out there, and uses positive training methods to boot.

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    • I also want to point out Animal Planet also had Victoria Stillwell on the show and she actually had an episode with a dog that was so aggressive she recommended euthanasia. It was very controversial and unpopular at the time but she stuck to it. I think Animal Planet mostly does a decent job. I would definitely come down much harder on Nat Geo and their support of Milan. Not only do his methods suck, he prides himself on “rehabilitating” dogs that were “unsavable”. If people are going to watch an animal show I’d rather they choose Animal Planet hands down.

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  3. Pain is the other, over overlooked, cause of aggression. My dog has taught me that when he’s aggressive, he’s in pain. Period. Sometimes it takes a while to figure it out but eventually the vet uncovers something significant.

    And when his UTI or ulcer is cured, he’s the most tolerant dog in the world. Just don’t jump on him or lick his face when he’s hurting!

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    • It’s amazing how many animals lose their tendency towards aggression when we give them something as simple as a flea bath. I agree completely that physical discomfort has a huge impact on an animal’s disposition. Thank you for raising that point!

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    • my 13 year old beagle bit me on more than one occasion after he screamed out and became paralyzed momentarily. He had slipped discs in his neck and although i was there to help him he reacted. Yes he was just like the “viscious pit bull”. its the human not the bread. i have been bitten by 4 different types of dogs and only one was pit mix

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      • I was bitten by a dog I picked up off the highway after it had been hit by a car. It bit me on the hand, right through the web between my thumb and forefinger. I bit me three times but I held onto it until I got it off the road and wrapped in a blanket. It was badly hurt and lashed out in pain, I don’t blame it for a moment. It was a little Fox Terrier cross

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    • Knew a rescuer who had a great dane pointer mix and she was a total bitch in the leash free wanting to be left alone by other dogs, one day laying on her “mom’s” bed her mom pushed her over to make room and the dog snapped at her never having done that before she took her in to the vet!
      Low and behold –
      The dog had “CANCER” in her leg the vet amputated the leg to the scapula and in a short time the dog was fully recovered and playing with other dogs in the leash free!
      Unfortunately the cancer had spread and she was lost some 9 months later but she was a pup again for a short time
      So couldn’t agree more about pain being a strong mitigating factor to bite incidences

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  4. I couldn’t agree with you more.

    I have been bitten twice by dogs who, as you say, had been inadvertently trained to escalate to biting sooner rather than later. In the first instance, my business partner insisted on leaving her dog leashed to the desk of the studio. She wanted to have it be a ‘dog friendly’ environment! All well and good….I argued about the dog being tied up like that, I felt that after observing his body language and signals that he was very uneasy – or at the very least, he felt trapped with no place to escape to…I always moved around him warily, even though I knew the dog well. One day I incautiously reached for a letter on the desk without thinking and ‘ snap’ – incisors deep into the fleshy part at the base of my thumb! Whammo! I blame myself for lack of caution, but I still blame my business partner for her lack of insight about the dog.

    Our employee then told me she had just pulled her hand away in time from the dog biting her a couple of days before. She was a dog lover who had her own large dog, so then I knew that it was not just me. ( I am a cat lover, but goddamnit, you have to watch cats with people too, especially toddlers.)

    Unfortunately, this became a nasty fight between us. We shared a public access craft studio and my contention was that this dog could not be a part of that as the public liability was far too great ( I mean, we had kindergarten classes visiting on a regular basis. I shudder to think of kids coming in contact with that dog…) Her firm contention was that I had ‘ done something to the dog to deserve the bite – touched his butt where he was sensitive etc etc’ . My reply was that no one deserved to be bitten.

    Shortly after this she and her partner adopted a baby and even more shortly after that, they rehomed the dog. They absolutely could not trust the dog around the baby and had a couple of near misses before they were able to admit this to themselves!

    My observation is that many dog owners seem unwilling or unable to read the signals that their animals manifest and this terrifies me. What’s with that? I am a cat-owner and I can read the dog signals loud and clear. NO matter what the owner says…

    Can you tell I feel strongly about this???

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    • And that’s what’s so scary, people rehome animals like that on a regular basis, usually the people they have no direct affiliation with and without disclosing the real reasons there rehoming the animal. Setting others and the animal up to fail is a huge disservice to these creatures. I absolutely understand why you feel so strongly!

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      • I had adopted a blue nose from a shelter and had him almost a year. We have 4 other rescues. After almost a year at 4am, my husband had just left for work. The dog came back to bed and viciously attacked one of our other sleeping dogs, completly unprovoked. I started screaming for help as I tried pulling the dog off the one being attacked, he had made it under the bed. Thank God my kids heard me, they are 23, 17, 15, 15. And came running. It took 4 of us to get the dog off the first and down the hallway and into his crate. I know the warning signs to watch for and am very proactive when it comes to my dogs. Brody had displayed no warning signs. I thought perhaps it was a fluke thing. I was asleep when it happened so I couldn’t be sure it was just brody. 2 days later he attacked our rat terrier as she slept with my son. That one I did watch and there were no signs prior to the attack. She got away from him and my son and I were able to grab him.
        I talked to my kids and told them with his unpredictable behavior we can’t safely adopt him out. If we give him to a shelter they will put him down and he will be alone and scared. We can’t keep him because if one of us were home alone and he attacked we would have to stab him to death to make him stop. I’m not putting my kids or the dog through that. So we called our vet and went in as a family to have him put down as we loved on him. Hardest thing I’ve ever had to do.
        Reading this article his behavior makes sense now. All his warning signs must have been trained out of him.
        Thank you for writing this.

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      • So Michelle, you adopted a “pit bull” that ended up having severe dog aggression which is what these dogs were bred for and you put him down because he was “unpredictable”? That is the problem with fur-mommies claiming aggression is all based off of fear and of course putting all forms of aggression into one category. Dog to dog aggression can be and usually is completely different than dog to human aggression. It sounds like your dog could have lived a very happy life as a dog in a only pet household. But instead he was punished for doing what he was bred to do.

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      • Michelle we had the same thing happen with a sheltie cross recuse we adopted. That poor dog was just crazy, wired wrong. It attacked for no reason with no warning. It would start to attack other dogs, kids walking by, the person in a vehicle next to it, the cat. Because she was physically small and we were very careful about restraining her and kenneling her, she never hurt anyone but it wasn’t for lack of trying. One day, when we had had her for a full month and nothing was changing no matter what we did, she attacked me as I put her food dish down and sliced open my hand. I took her to the vet that day and had her put down. It was a horrible experience. The vet said I had done the right thing and prevented a tragedy.

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    • THANK YOU FOR THIS. This is exactly what I have been needing so I can get over my fear of adopting another dog. We recently lost our amazingly awesome & gentle german shepherd, but would like another dog soon. In the past, we have unknowingly adopted 2 aggressive, dominant, red flag dogs that bite. The first, we tried to rehabilitate for 3 years before she tried to kill our german shepherd after becoming increasingly aggressive with family. The second died very young from parvo that she contracted before she came to us, but she displayed all the wrong behaviors. She would’ve been the same or worse as the one we worked with so hard to help, but to no avail. I had no idea either would be like this when adopting. Now I have a guide to help me find a good dog for my autistic son. The info is easy to understand, very informative, yet concise. I appreciate this resource so much.

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      • Good rescue groups truly want to find a good fit for everyone and will disclose everything they know about a dog, good and bad.

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    • Julie, your website has great information! However, your claims about inaccurate breed labeling can be disputed. Studies show that visual identification of predominant breeds is often inaccurate. https://www.nationalcanineresearchcouncil.com/ineffective-policies/visual-breed-identification
      The only way to accurately determine breed is through DNA testing, and as far as I know, the results will never indicate whether a dog is a “pit bull” because it is not an AKC breed.
      BSL has been proven ineffective and rather than focusing on a dog’s breed, adopters should focus on adopting animals with personalities and energy levels compatible with their own.

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      • Breed DNA can determine a dogs’ breed. For Pittbulls, it will determine it is a pittbull as a group that also includes American staffy (with Embark, which is the most comprehensive breed DNA test). That is because Pitt bull and American staffy is essentially the same breed, which can not be told apart genetically. In countries and states that ban Pittbulls but not American staffies, a breed DNA test won’t work, but some countries do acknowledge they are one breed, and ban both… and in that case it would work to use the breed DNA test to determine the breed or breed mix (nevertheless, they currently still use visual ID because they don’t want to ban only the actual breeds, but any dog of similar type)

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  5. It takes a “more than usual” sensitivity to be good enough at reading animal behaviors to be an effective trainer. Not all professed trainers have this and really few pet owners bother learning about it. I am frequently frustrated with the conflicts I see going on between pets and their owners. The owners are oblivious to so many signs of stress, etc., that their animals show clearly. Also many of today’s rescues are based on a landowners desire to make money on available land and save on taxes, not solely to help the animals. Rescuing any previously owned animal should be treated as a risk.

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  6. a local woman (ex police woman) who has many incidents with the inability to train her dogs, put her face in into a dog’s face she just rescued while it was sleeping. startled, it bit her lip and she threw it out on the front lawn in the snow, where it was later euthanized b/c she did not make the effort to get it’s rabies shots. many incidents can be avoided with common sense. (unfortunately this woman has none and tries to derail anyone she hires for her belated training issues) . it is common sense if you get a new dog , to not stick your face in the dogs face delivering a death sentence to a poor rescued animal, as it is to adopt a dog with a shock collar and expect everything to be okay without precautions.

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  7. Everybody wants to give a dog a fair shake. Many dogs in shelters are so afraid of the chaotic, stressful environment. Behavior evaluations also don’t always tell you how a dog will act in a certain environment. Many rescuers end up keeping unadoptable dogs as well due to different ‘quirks’. I have a dog (gsd x boxer) that I think would be unadoptable but I guess in the shelter environment I suspect she would be put on deathrow rather quickly. In her first home she bit a stranger who broke into the house. She is fear aggressive so is only a danger when someone tries to grab her or corner her. She shows teeth when she is uncomfortable. BUT, her head and butt is usually lowered when she shows the teeth and her tail is tucked and wagging profusely, even peeing a bit. That said, she gets along great with my cats and dogs and is very affectionate and has a loving personality. When visitors come over I do not trust them even when I say DO NOT INTERACT. Instead she is kenneled or on leash behind me for the first 48 hours. after that the stranger is her best buddy. If I had little kids or if I had a lot of visitors I probably would not be willing to do this over and over, but since I don’t and I love her, she fits in my life very well. I do think that knowing her past has really helped me figure out how to manage her and that bite history should be given to new dog owners. Another article I read about this adoption though said she brought the dog home and immediately introduced to her two dogs and let them play exuberantly together. That is a BIG NO NO in my book so she can’t have been very experienced. The first two weeks a dog is in a new home is very critical to figuring out how they tick and keeping excitement down to near zero level and any dogs that have e-collar I ever encountered only use the vibrate setting as a tap on the shoulder to a dog that has a problem keeping focused.

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    • thats bullshit. the OLD owner of the dog BLUE actually warned the rescue center about Blues aggression issues before she surrendered him

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      • That’s normally the case. Many of these rescues are well aware of the animals issues when they take them into their program, they’ve just convinced themselves and the world that they have magically fixed them and therefore don’t need to disclose the full details to the new adopters. This practice is a daily occurrence in rescue.

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      • IF you are talking about the owner where Blue “attacked” her 27 year old nephew, the dog was “attacking” this man for two minutes, the woman/owner was able to get the dog away with a treat and the man walked away with injuries equaled to an insect bite on his abdomen 😀 HA! The rescue did disclose to this owner that the dog was rehomed for “erratic behavior”. Now of course, a dog with erratic behavior should not go to a home with an elderly person living in it. Was the dog aggressive? Meh, it showed signs of a very poor impulse control and according to another source the dog attacked when the elderly woman fell. A story I have heard multiple times with people working with or around large predators. One second of weakness, the predatory response snaps into full mode and that is what it sounded like what happened with this dog. Aggression is not always based off of fear like the fur mommies would want you to believe. Predatory aggression is an aggression any healthy carnivore will willingly and take joy in participating in.

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    • This dog was not only aggressive, but was adopted out and returned at least 2 other times for aggression from FHRC in the month or 2 before he attacked and killed a woman within hours of being placed. There were at least 3 recorded instances of his aggression before he ever got to Virginia. You must be an FHRC rep. Is that you Lydia? Additionally, if the dog were not aggressive, please give a reason why he was wearing a shock collar?

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      • my dog wears an “electric training collar” for off leash control, was just at the dog beach and there was a very docile calm dog with one. Since I am familiar with them I can usually spot them on dogs way before other people. There are a variety of reasons to train with one, the primary reason being, if they are properly used, they are amazing training tools. I would never trust an armature to use one, so I would like to think this adopter was schooled on how to use. Does not sound like it, but then again, news articles only tell a sliver of the story.

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      • Justonemore..If you live in Virginia please contact me. Our animal laws do not support human victims of dog attacks, the one free bite is not free. We have people willing to ask for needed changes in our legislature most of whom are dog owners themselves. Bonny Thomas Lee RN

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  8. If the ignorant people would quit breeding these dogs for $ and to fight then there would not be so many that need homes. It’s always the dogs who suffer from the ignorant human.

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  9. I fostered a dog that I knew some of his back story. It was not positive and he was not trusting of humans, resourced guarded. After a full vet exam and the finding a grade heart 6 murmur he was immediately put on a diet and we started the daily dose of multiple medications. 6 months later he was in better physical shape and had learned to trust me somewhat, although he seemed like he was always ready for me to hit him or throw something at him. I knew he could never be adopted, never be trusted. He lived with me 2 years till the day he died from heart failure. He would lay in a chair next to me as I watched TV, never in reach. He would follow me from room to room, but if I stopped and looked at him he would run. I learned to love him on his terms, I accepted that he needed to be loved from a far. I let him share my home till the day he past away. Even in death, he choose to die alone.

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  10. I no longer feel guilty about putting our dog down. He became increasingly aggressive and fought with one of our dogs. The fights became more vicious as the attacked dog became more defensive. The vet who put the dog down assured us that we were doing the best thing for the dog. He had a peaceful passing in our arms instead of being rehomed again. We were his fourth home. This article was very reassuring to me.

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  11. With so many animals being destroyed it makes no sense for rescues to waste precious resources on trying to rehab aggressive dogs. Puppies are dying in shelters while bleeding hearts try to save dogs that attack people. It’s stupid and short sighted.Sorry but it is what it is.
    If dogs can be honestly evaluated by skilled and knowledgeable people then by all means help them. But this thing we got goin’ on to save them all isn’t working.
    These are companion animals, Once they have crossed the line to attacking humans, barring pain or illness, I believe the kindest thing for all involved is to end the suffering.

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  12. I’ve been grooming dogs for 35 yrs. I “read” dogs very fast. I rent space in a non corporate pet store. I can’t even tell you how many times a day I see dogs that have no business in public, most with a proud owner telling the story about how they rescued the dog. Unbalanced dogs should not be in public places. I’m appalled at how many first time dog owners are paired with a nut case that that will hurt some unsuspecting kind person wanting to fawn over the poor abused rescue dog. Thank you for writing this very black and white article. May I share it?

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  13. I have a Jack Russell mix who is the sweetest dog in the world, but when he growls or shows his teeth, I don’t hit him. I move back as I know he is communicating that he feels uneasy about something. I have friends who are like “you need to train that dog”. I know my dog’s temperament and I know it is his way of telling me that he is not comfortable. He has never bitten me, but I am positive he would if I don’t heed to his signals. Animals are challenging and we have to learn to respect them as well. It’s not all fairydust people!

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  14. Amen. I completely agree. This obsession with saving the aggressive dogs is disturbing. I know of one dog that killed the family dog in a foster home. Rather than euthanize him, the rescue sent it to a shelter south of us. God knows if they even told the shelter his history. It terrifies me that rescues do this.

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  15. The life of a “behaviorally normal” dog doesn’t matter more or less than a dog who needs extensive training and/or rehabilitation. I think the issue is more complex. A rescue that specializes in boarding dogs and using shock collars on them is at the remote range of the spectrum and I would think any adopter would have to be prepared to rehabilitate the dog from that, let alone deal with their prior training needs. Some rescue’s hoard. Some abuse. The difference you don’t address is the size of the dog. An unsocialized yorkie who bites at strangers is sad. An unsocialized mixed breed is “ATTACK OF THE PITBULL!!!!” Call the news. If we restricted adoptions to only non-stupid people, very few dogs would be placed. But Americans loooooooooooove breeding and buying dogs.

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  16. You fail to mention the many responsible shelters and rescue groups who truly try to find a good fit for everyone with each adoption and disclose everything they know about the dog, good and bad, in order to set up every family and dog for success. I am involved with 3 rescue groups in Virginia and all of them do these things. We know that not doing this is not good for anyone and we don’t want any adoptions to end with the dog being returned or worse.

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  17. I just have a few things to say first off if you know the dog has a history of biting and has behavior issues and you want the dog and he has a collar that shocks him to stop the behavior why in heavens name do you take the collar off danger is one thing dog with issue another but whos fault is it really seriously don’t take the collar off however personally i would not try to own a dog that has this type of issue but that is just me and so suing her for lack of control on a dog um again why did the owner take the shock collar off did they think it was in humane treatment on a dog known for having biting issues … that he is trained with the collar on … doesn’t mean he won’t ever do it again the collar was for their protection and you knew what you were getting into when you got the dog … so many want to sue someone for whatever i am sorry for my view but i don’t see any good situation there. I don’t believe in killing dogs either but hello if you know you are getting a so called retrained dog that has to have a shock collar for his issues don’t take the bloody thing off it!
    just saying!!!

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  18. I appreciate your thorough article. I am currently volunteering in the rescue community in Virginia and rescue groups widely vary in their own knowledge about dog behavior, proper dog handling and the role of a good positive trainer. Most are run by “well meaning dog lovers” who ascribe to outdated or misguided information about dog behavior. I think rescues need to be better educated and should have a qualified positive trainer that they engage with dogs with any behavior issues. I also think that dog charities need to step up funding opportunities for training and behavior therapy. While there are many sources of grants to help with medical costs for rescue dogs, there are few grants for behavior issues.
    I will give a few examples. One dog I advocated for pulling had a known issue with cage aggression. I told the rescue this before we pulled him. Instead of finding him a foster home, they put him in a boarding facility they routinely use that has small cramped caged areas (think a shelter but noisier and more crowded). When I heard about this, I engaged a positive trainer I know, we evaluated the dog as he had already been noted to be snapping and growling at people on the other side of the run. She showed me simple training steps to help him. He did very well and would enjoy his trips out of the boarding place with me to parks, training class, and pet stores where we worked on his manners. He is now living at the home of one of the rescue board members and is described as a “sweetheart without an aggressive bone in his body”. With the same rescue, I took in a dog that had been boarding at that facility for over a year. At the time I took him in, I had no idea how bad the facility was. He came to me with clear signs of boarding stress and severe anxiety. I have engaged trainers, used medication like Prozac, T touch and music therapy. He is not ever going to be a normal dog. I have now had him 3 years as a foster. I have asked the rescue if he could be placed elsewhere and their answer is they would put him back in boarding. This, of course, would only make his anxiety worse. My thought is I would rather see him put down than live in that facility and the rescue is strictly no kill. They keep dogs in that facility that they consider “unadoptable”. I no longer volunteer with this rescue

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  19. First of all, i hate shock collars as training. It is clearly recommended that shock collars NOT be used on any dog that has current or a history of aggressive tendencies. It even says it in the instructions when it is purchased. It just shows that these people claiming to be rescues and rehabilitate problem dogs have no idea what they are doing. Adopting out a dog with an aggressive history saying its been rehabilitated and providing a shock collar is beyond incompetence. Secondly, i don’t feel an animal should be killed for aggressive behavior. It is possible for that animal to be rehabilitated….properly. However i do believe that NOT every animal is meant to be a companion/pet.

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  20. It usually doesn’t come out of nowhere, but we humans have lost our good sense when it comes to pets. When I was a child, my parents would say, “Don’t bother that dog while he’s eating. He will bite you.” And if I had ignored them and got bitten, they would have said, “I told you so.” I, fortunately, had better sense than to ignore their warnings. Dogs are no longer allowed to be dogs in too many cases. Not all dogs can be saved. Do I want to save them all? YES! Can I save them all? Sadly, no. I have one at home who is a foster fail because she has a fear of people. I could not, in good conscience, have allowed her to be adopted. She is my little love bug, but I know not to put her in situations where she feels afraid and defensive. Going to the vet is a huge ordeal. She has to be muzzled, sedated, and I have to hold her, even for routine stuff like exams and shots. My biggest fear is that she might get really sick or hurt. Once she knows you and accepts you, she loves you with all her heart, but it takes a while. I fight breed bans all the time, but I fully support dangerous dog laws and more importantly, responsible owner laws. I only wish that common sense was an enforceable law.

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