An 83 year old man in AL, Donald Thomas, was killed while checking his mail when 2 of his neighbor’s dogs attacked him on September 20. Another neighbor, Justin Wallace, expressed his shock to the local TV news:
“I would have never thought in the world they would have done that. My dog has chased them out of this yard. They have never acted vicious to anybody,” Wallace said.
The 2 dogs responsible for the killing were shot to death by police at the scene when they behaved in a manner a police officer deemed threatening. The owners’ other 33 dogs were hauled away on chokepoles by Birmingham Jefferson County Animal Control.
“We are in the process of evaluation of all 33 of the dogs. We have to do a mental and physical evaluation for the court system. We will have determination for each dog for investigators,” Richard Burgess with BJCAC said.
Burgess says the dogs are mostly Rottweilers or Rottweiler mixes. The evaluations will determine if the dogs are a threat to a community.
“We are looking for things as far as aggression goes. If the dogs remaining are aggressive if they are shutdown or socialized things of that sort,” Burgess said.
Burgess says some of the dogs appear to be socialized but a few appear to be aggressive. The evaluations will be turned over to Leeds investigators.
Fair enough. Except I could find no reporting indicating that the evaluations, assuming they were conducted, were offered at the hearing to determine disposition of the 33 dogs on Tuesday. The dogs’ owners did not attend the proceeding and have signed over the dogs to the county. The only witness at the hearing was a local police detective named A.R. Holman who testified about the behavior of the dogs during the seizure:
“The dogs were constantly barking, lunging at the bars and trying to get out of the cages,” Holman said. She said they growled, snarled and bit at catch poles during the seizure, which she said took a total of about three hours.
Based upon the testimony of the sole witness, who is not a canine behaviorist, the judge agreed with the prosecutor’s request to have all 33 dogs killed.
Every dog deserves a fair evaluation, conducted by at least one qualified individual. The judge was satisfied in this case to order that every dog be killed, despite any presentation of evidence that any of the dogs had ever bitten a person and apparently without consideration of individual behavioral evaluations.
The killing of 33 dogs not involved in the attack on Mr. Thomas seems like a knee-jerk reaction in the face of tragedy. We’ve seen this scenario played out many times. These dogs had no one advocating for their right to live or to be treated as individuals. None of the 33 are accused of biting any person or animal, even when strangers came onto their property and spent 3 hours dragging them to cages with chokepoles. The county says it spent $4000 caring for the dogs and there is no mention of anyone providing that care being bitten.
Is the community truly safer by putting all 33 of these dogs into the landfill? With the owners, county animal control, police and the prosecutor all refusing to advocate for the dogs’ right to live, should that job have fallen to someone else? Or do we need to clearly define within the law that every pet has a right to live, to be judged as an individual and not to be condemned solely by association with pets determined to be dangerous?
(Thanks Samantha for alerting me to this story.)