As you know, there was an incident at one of our adoption events earlier this month where a rescue dog bit a child. After taking the time to perform a thorough investigation into the circumstances surrounding the incident, we have come to the conclusion that Rusty (the rescue dog), who has no history of aggressive behavior or biting, most likely bit the child out of fear.

While the child had been in the area prior to the incident with his mother, at the time of the incident he had approached Rusty on his own. Rusty was on a leash and in a seated position and had shown no signs of aggression at the event. This leads us to conclude that when the unattended child approached Rusty, the dog likely reacted in fear. Unfortunately, although Rusty was on a leash, he bit the child once in the upper arm and chest area.

The American Veterinary Medical Association states that dogs bite as a reaction to something (stress, fear, protection, etc.) and in Rusty’s case we believe it was an isolated incident given the exciting, but still stressful, environment of a busy park with strange noises/smells and an unknown person on his level reaching for him. Medical providers, park personnel and the police were immediately contacted and have completed reports as well. Although Rusty was current on all vaccinations, Dallas Animal Services was also contacted to initiate the mandatory 10-day quarantine after such an incident.

We have now been notified by Dallas Animal Services and the City of Dallas that Rusty is being seized for having caused “serious bodily injury” under Texas Health & Safety Code 822.001 – 822.004. This would allow a court to order Rusty be killed. While we agree that all dog bites need to be taken seriously, we firmly believe that the death of an animal should never be a first step. Given the lack of any prior aggression or bite history (either at Dallas Animal Services or since Rusty has been in the care of Dallas Pets Alive) we believe that rehabilitation offers a positive solution to ensure that our community remains safe and that Rusty is given a chance at life.

While we are committed to putting an end to the killing of companion animals in Dallas, we would never intentionally sacrifice the safety of our community in favor of a knowingly aggressive animal. We strongly believe that there is a positive outcome available that ensures both the safety of our community and Rusty’s well-being. We hope that the City of Dallas will work with us toward an agreement that addresses the concerns of all involved parties.

Our first priority always is the safety of potential adopters and children who attend our events and this is the first time we have experienced an incident such as this. In the course of our investigation we reviewed our existing policies and procedures for adoption events and have implemented additional policies regarding children and our rescue animals in an effort to even further minimize the likelihood of this happening again. We are very glad that Luca (the child who was bitten by Rusty) is doing well and recovering quickly.

Finally, we want to clarify that Rusty’s true breed is unknown and without a DNA test there is no way to definitively confirm his breed mix. It would be irresponsible to guess at his breed mix or claim he is a specific breed without confirmation especially given that breed is not an accurate predictor of whether or not a dog will bite. More than 30 breeds of dogs and mixes are incorrectly identified as “pit bulls” in dog bite incidents, attributing the pit bull with an unfair and overstated number of incidents.