Rehoming or Euthanizing Dogs with Serious Bite Histories
ehavioural Euthanasia is a difficult topic. The topic evokes strong emotional responses in many of us, and rightly so. Choosing to end an animal’s life when they are ‘perfectly healthy’ is never an easy decision, or rather it shouldn’t be.
There are four ideas I consider when discussing behavioural euthanasia.
1 – If management/training fails, what risk does this dog pose?
If the dog ends up loose on the street is a person or another dog likely to get bit for simply existing on the street? Only if the person/dog approaches? How serious is the bite likely to be? Is a person or dog likely to be nipped at or actually killed?
2 – While training, how much management is needed to prevent the dog from biting?
Does the dog live in a single person home in the middle of nowhere with a secure 6′ fenced run? Does the dog live in an apartment with a family with children, many people coming and going throughout the day? Does the dog have to navigate apartment hallways and elevators to potty several times a day?
3 – Is the owner physically, financially, and emotionally able to care for, manage, and train this dog?
The dog’s wellbeing and quality of life matter, but sometimes we forget that the owner matters as well. An owner should not face financial instability or have to choose between their family and the dog.
4 – What is the dog’s quality of life?
It is important to remember that a dog may be physically healthy, but in mental anguish. Is the dog able to have their needs of basic exercise, mental stimulation, and social contact met? For anxious dogs, are they generally anxious about life or just in certain scenarios? How much of the dog’s life is spent in a state of high anxiety?
Unfortunately, homes willing to take on dogs with bite histories are few and far between. There aren’t a lot of people on acreages in the middle of nowhere with secure fencing, no children, no other dogs, and no delivery people coming by.
Unless it is a very specific case of a mismatched home, I don’t usually recommend rehoming dogs with serious human directed aggression. Even with full disclosure to avoid liability, there is an ethical dilemma. Quite often, a person who would take on a dog as described likely does not have the experience to understand the full ramifications of owning a human-aggressive dog. People who have lived with dogs who bite people, typically never want to be in that boat again. Unfortunately, I have seen it far too often where a new owner does not understand the risk their new dog poses, doesn’t take the appropriate precautions, and another person or dog is injured by a dog with a known history.
Below are two helpful podcasts, a Facebook support group, and a blog post. These are the typical resources I share with clients considering behavioural euthanasia.
Losing Lulu Facebook Group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/losinglulu
Blog – The Perils of Placing Marginal Dogs: https://summer2016.iaabcjournal.org/the-perils-of-placing-marginal-dogs/