UPAWS Statement on Able Dog Case April 10, 2018

UPDATED UPAWS Statement on Able Dog Case April 10, 2018

UPAWS has undertaken the responsibility to not only advocate for animals, but also the safety of our community. The Board of Directors believes that UPAWS must look at each animal as an individual and make the proper decisions for THAT animal. Over the last few weeks, the staff at UPAWS received numerous false accusations, harassments, social media threats, and non-stop calls to our shelter regarding a recent case. This has made it difficult to work with our adopters, veterinarians, or people interested in surrendering an animal. If you have tried to contact us during this time, either by social media or phone call, we appreciate your patience. We continue to be proud of the care we provide the animals while they stay with us and the support we have received from the community.

With regard to this case, our decision was made in the best interest of public safety after professionally assessing the level of bite and increasing level of aggression. We believe the question is not IF this dog will bite again, it simply is when. However, due to legal proceedings UPAWS has been unable to continue our chosen course of action. As such, an agreement has now presented itself for a shelter-to-shelter transfer for the safety of our staff and our community, and to provide closure.

As part of this transfer to the Detroit Animal Welfare Group (DAWG) -they agree:

  • That UPAWS has evaluated Abel to be a dangerous animal who has bitten a person causing serious and severe injury and is not appropriate for adoption by a member of the public.
  • That the bite in question was classified as a Level 4 bite using Dr. Ian Dunbar’s Dog Bite Scale.
  • That DAWG accepts ownership and responsibility of Abel with the knowledge and understanding that they follow Level 4 bite protocol as defined: “The dog has insufficient bite inhibition and is very dangerous. Prognosis is poor because of the difficulty and danger of trying to teach bite inhibition to an adult hard-biting dog and because absolute owner-compliance is rare. Only work with the dog in exceptional circumstances, e.g. the owner is a dog professional and has sworn 100% compliance. Make sure the owner signs a form in triplicate stating that they understand and take full responsibility that: 1. The dog is a Level 4 biter and is likely to cause an equivalent amount of damage WHEN it bites again (which it most probably will) and should therefore, be confined to a home at all times and only allowed contact with adult owners. 2. Whenever, children or guests visit the house, the dog should be confined to a single locked-room or roofed, chain-link run with the only keys kept on a chain around the neck of each adult owner (to prevent children or guests entering the dog’s confinement area.) 3. The dog is muzzled before leaving the house and only leaves the house for visits to a veterinary clinic. 4. The incidents have all been reported to the relevant authorities—animal control or police.”
  • DAWG agrees to handle Abel in accordance with the recommendations set forth above

Original Statement from UPAWS on 3/10/18

UPAWS promotes transparency, responsibility and respect in all difficult situations. We know that not all are in agreement with our decision and while UPAWS did not seek the court’s involvement, we must place the safety of our staff and community above all else. Due to the delays in following our preferred course of action, we believe this compromise protects the bite victim, UPAWS, our staff, and the community. We will continue to not only advocate for animals, but for the safety of our community based upon our professional experience and commitment to ensuring a high quality of life for animals in our care. We are grateful for the outpouring of support from our community during this difficult time and hold the trust you place in us in the highest regard. We will continue to exhaust all resources possible and work extremely hard to rehabilitate sick and behaviorally challenged animals. Thank you for your support and patience during this process. We ask that you continue to respect the privacy of all individuals involved.

At the Upper Peninsula Animal Welfare Shelter our mission is to improve the quality of life and welfare for domestic animals, and to provide a safe haven while finding lifelong homes for the animals in our care. We embrace the No Kill philosophy, seeking to end euthanasia of healthy and treatable animals. We do not euthanize simply for time or space. We save consistently 98% of the animals who come to us-which is an award-winning success story. We have the best save rate in the State of Michigan for a shelter of our size.

We are proud to be a no kill shelter, where animals can stay until they find the perfect home and are never euthanized for time or space. We exhaust all resources possible and work extremely hard to rehabilitate sick and behaviorally challenged animals. Euthanasia is reserved only for terminally ill animals, or those considered dangerous to public safety. Euthanasia is a very difficult decision that our No Kill shelter must make in circumstances where the humane thing is to end an animal’s suffering or when an animal with aggressive behavior has reached a level where we cannot safely interact with the animal.

We have received a lot of inquiries regarding a dog that was recently surrendered to us at no fault of his own. UPAWS obtained as much information about his history during intake as possible, from a family that loved him very much but due to circumstances needed to rehome him. This dog went through routine behavioral assessments and was found to have no history or knowledge of aggression through all interactions with staff and volunteers at the shelter and documented history from the previous owners. The dog was put up for adoption and happily adopted.

An unfortunate situation occurred on his first day in the home, where he attacked a person in the face causing serious injury. This attack was unprovoked and unanticipated. The severe attack caused serious injury and will require major reconstructive surgery. Local authorities were contacted as a result of the attack, the Marquette County Health Department placed this dog on a 10 day bite hold, and the adopter surrendered the dog back to UPAWS care and ownership.

As professionals, we sought additional medical evaluations and behavioral assessments to determine if this behavior was a serious threat leading to a decision to euthanize the pet, or if the behavior could be rehabilitated. A decision to euthanize a pet is only considered as a LAST resort after all other options have been explored. After seeking all other options, it has been decided that the animal’s behavior has deteriorated to aggression that cannot be rehabilitated, labeling the dog as dangerous.

At UPAWS we care for our animals with a level of compassion and love as if they were part of our very own family. We are happy to be part of their happy tail journey in finding their forever home. We are deeply saddened in the rare situations that require us to make the most difficult decision of all. We understand how difficult this situation is, especially because this dog did not have a history of aggression. To our knowledge, this was his first time ever biting. This attack resulted in such severe injury, we can no longer confidently re-home him and guarantee this will not happen again. Our hearts ache for the victim of the attack, the previous owners who were shocked at this behavior, and for having to say goodbye to one of our UPAWS family members to ensure public safety. We thank you for your compassion and understanding at this very difficult time.