My new dog broke out of his collar and injured another dog. Now what?
August 18, 2014 6:18 AM   Subscribe

YANML. What's next? Have I covered my bases? Do I need to lawyer up? The short version: My husband and I were walking our dogs. Our newly adopted dog broke free of his collar and ran across the street to attack another dog. My husband reacted fast and broke up the fight quickly. The other dog was not badly injured, as far as we could tell, just a bite on the hind leg. The dog's owner was understandably furious. We exchanged information, I promised we would pay any vet bills that resulted from the incident, and he left. More details inside.

After my husband broke up the fight, the dog's owner was yelling at us. We were completely sympathetic, suggested we exchange info, told him we'd cover any costs. He kept yelling, and told us "Your dog should die!" several times in a row. Again, I don't blame him at all for being furious—I would have been furious too if the tables had been turned. That said I don't think I'd ever suggest a dog should be put down for showing aggression to another dog. A human, potentially. A dog, no. (This part is probably less important but it really hit a nerve.)

I waited a few hours and then sent a text to the owner apologizing again, reiterating that we'll pay any vet bills, told him about the trainer that we're in the middle of starting up with, and said we'd like to donate some money to an animal charity of his choice.

It is probably important to note that our dog is not aggressive towards humans at all, and co-exists beautifully with our other dog. When the two of them met there was a lot of loud noises and posturing while they were on-leash. Ten minutes later they were off-leash and romping around together in a fenced backyard, and are now inseparable.

As I mentioned above, I have already called a trainer who specializes in "red zone cases" and does private training and has a live-in facility. Basically he does the whole Cesar Milan thing.

I do think that our dog can be rehabilitated. We do not want to give him away or have him euthanized.

More info on our dog: We just adopted this dog last week. Let's call him "Bob." He's an American Bully mix of some sort. He clearly had rough beginnings—someone cut his ears off with kitchen shears, and his teeth may have been ground down—but he somehow ran away and was picked up by animal control in March. Bob was adopted in May (not by us). We got Bob from a guy on craigslist who claimed his landlord wouldn't let him keep the dog due to breed prejudice. (I know, we should have gone through a rescue like we did with our other pittie, who's sweet as pie. We may have been taken for a ride—Bob's previous owner claimed that he had some leash aggression issues, but didn't make it sound serious. I suppose it's possible that he just had no idea.)

I've left the location bit out of this on the off chance that legal action is taken. I have briefly looked into state/local laws. Apparently a dog that is off-leash and attacks another domestic animal can be considered to be a "dangerous dog." I don't know if that applies to this situation given that he *was* on-leash and managed to break away. My mind is drifting the the word "negligence" on our part, given that our guard was down. We just had no idea that he was capable / inclined to do something of this nature.

So, MeFi—YANAL, YANML, etc. We've exchanged info, we said we'd pay the vet bill, we're starting training with a specialist. Is there anything else we need to do? I am concerned about legal action. Do I need to contact a lawyer now / is there any way to get out ahead of this situation? Or is this just a wait-and-see situation?

(I'm a bit shaken while writing this, so please forgive me if I've over-provided information or left something important out.)

Feel free to contact me privately at

Thank you so much in advance.
posted by anonymous to Law & Government (33 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
When you say "American Bully mix of some sort" do you mean pit bull? If so, you can call him whatever you want, but people are going to see a pit bull and react however they react to pit bulls. And though the standard response to negative reactions to pit bulls is that they're wonderful dogs if raised right, your dog was no raised right, your dog was abused. Bear in mind what what many others will see when they look at your dog may be "abused pit bull." and they will react based on this.

I'm not sure what this means for what you should do at this point. I'm not unsympathetic to your problem -- my recently deceased dog bit another dog the day I adopted him and never showed an ounce of aggression again after that -- but I confess I'm also one of those people with a reflexive aversion to pit bulls, so I can sort of imagine where the other dog owner and animal control authorities might not be sympathetic.

Good luck. Get a harness. Google leash aggression.
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 6:34 AM on August 18, 2014 [12 favorites]

Personally, yes, I would get a lawyer, both in the event that the person sues you, and in the event they try to the police/animal control involved. Just spitballing here, but I'd guess $200-$250 for an hour of a competent lawyer's time to have them walk you through the law in your jurisdiction and your potential liabilities. This way, you know you have someone on your side when animal control comes to your door, or you get served at 7 pm on a Saturday. I'm assuming you'd use that lawyer if you end up getting sued; they may even give you a "credit" for that consultation hour if you end up needing them for a live matter.

Good luck.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 6:42 AM on August 18, 2014 [1 favorite]

Is there a vet involved in all this? In my state, every vet I've had has a zero tolerance policy for even demonstrated aggression, regardless of actual injuries. Even if you find another home for such a dog, here you will be held liable for any aggressive injuries it inflicts in its new home. I had to face this with a young, very sweet dog, and the vet would not even discuss tranquilizers, or other options. It's a truly painful situation, and I wish you strength in dealing with it - including exploring options such as Best Friends sanctuary in Utah.
posted by mmiddle at 6:49 AM on August 18, 2014 [1 favorite]

It will probably depend entirely upon your jurisdiction, so consulting a lawyer or even your local animal control department is your best bet.

Is the dangerous dog law the bulk of what you are worried about when you say "legal action," or are you concerned about a civil suit? This may not be your jurisdiction, but for example, Texas's dangerous dog law would not result in your dog being put down. If the result of a hearing is that your dog is found to meet the legal definition of "dangerous," you would be required to get a certain amount of liability insurance, pay a yearly dangerous dog registration fee, maintain rabies vaccinations (which you should be doing anyway), and submit to yearly inspections to make sure that you are maintaining a secure enclosure for your dog. Those are all pretty reasonable safety precautions anyway. Our dangerous dog law would not force you to surrender your dog nor would it allow anyone to euthanize your dog. YMMV based on jurisdiction.

An actual animal control officer in your city/state would have to advise you about the matter that your dog was on leash but broke away, but in our city it wouldn't matter - you still failed to properly restrain your dog and it was off leash at the time of the attack. I am not an ACO but I am the girlfriend of one in Texas and have heard these stories many, many times. Again, talk to an expert in your area.
posted by marshmallow peep at 6:56 AM on August 18, 2014 [1 favorite]

Anecdata: Currently in San Francisco, there's a public hearing scheduled for a pit mix who attacked and killed a small dog (who was on-leash) a couple of months ago (for SF residents, at Rossi Park).

After the attack, the dog spent three days with Animal Care and Control, but has been with its owner since then. Its fate will be decided at the hearing, and I know many neighborhood residents who plan to attend.

I'd find out if your dog was reported to the city, and perhaps then consult with a lawyer. I think learning if the dog will be under investigation is going to be a big part of talking to a lawyer.

I'm so sorry this happened for everyone and wish you the very best of luck. Please get a super strong collar/harness!
posted by mamabear at 6:58 AM on August 18, 2014

In my state, every vet I've had has a zero tolerance policy for even demonstrated aggression, regardless of actual injuries.

While this is often so with a dog that demonstrates human aggression, it does not always hold true for a dog that is reactive to other animals. It is important to make it clear to your vet that the dog has animal aggression tendencies so that it can be handled safely.

Is there anything else we need to do?

Be extremely and excessively vigilant. I have a pit bull who does not enjoy the company of other dogs. We don't go to dog parks, we walk early in the morning or late at night to avoid the prime time dog parade, we walk in known areas where we don't expect to encounter unleashed dogs. I carry a small can of mace if we venture out for a leashed walk on a trail.

Have a backup collar on your dog at all times. Make sure your backyard is tight as a drum, without any spots the dog might jump or dig out. Maintain the mindset that if your dog is involved in a scuffle, his size and breed will factor largely in the outcome, whether or not he is at fault.

And consider seriously if you are up to the challenge that will persist for as long as you own Bob.

Who I notice does not have a photograph in your original question, which is too bad, because I'm sure he is very handsome despite his rough origins.
posted by Seppaku at 7:08 AM on August 18, 2014 [1 favorite]

I'd say it's worth a consultation with a lawyer. In many areas, one non-fatal incident does not require that the dog be put down, but will label him a dangerous dog (with zero tolerance for any future attack).

Cesar Milan-style training is not really the best method (feel free to google this). I'd call someone from Best Friends and ask for a recommendation for a trainer in your area.

Have your dog wear a muzzle for all future walks. I would have him wear a muzzle until he's done something like pass the canine good citizen test.

I wouldn't worry about what the guy said in the moment. My dog (chihuahua) was attacked by another dog (Bernese mountain dog) several years ago, he lived but was severely injured. It was extremely traumatic to witness. I honestly have no idea what I said or did when it happened. Even thinking about it years later (knowing that my dog is completely fine now with no lingering issues) is traumatic. Give the guy some time, wait for him to contact you.
posted by melissasaurus at 7:11 AM on August 18, 2014 [1 favorite]

Speaking as a victim of a dog attack myself, in which two "American Bully" type dogs "got loose" and set upon my lovely gentle Chocolate Lab with no warning and no provocation in a public park, I'm going to agree wholeheartedly with your victim.

Your dog should die.

He's clearly incredibly dangerous and obviously unfit for life in your community. Do not take him out, even with a strong leash. Until you do what needs to be done for the safety of your community you need to keep him in maximum secure conditions and work diligently to ensure he never comes in contact with any other dogs again. To walk him again is to be incredibly irresponsible towards your neighbors and fellow citizens. How he treats you and your other pets has no bearing on this discussion.

It would be irresponsible of you to protect this vicious dog from the natural consequences of the danger he has been proven to pose. I love dogs, but this one is beyond your help and must go.

Also, you have no idea how traumatizing it is to have your own beloved friend set upon by a strange animal. My wife and I suffered flashbacks for months afterwards, even though our dog was not seriously hurt before I could drive his monstrous attackers off with a club. The attackers ran off and we never found out where they came from or who owned them, so, years later, we are still too frightened to bring our aging friend to his favorite park for a walk because we're afraid the same thing will happen. Don't be the irresponsible reckless owners who maximize the victimization by protecting the perpetrator.
posted by BigLankyBastard at 7:22 AM on August 18, 2014 [45 favorites]

I know everyone is going to hate me for saying this but, I think you should put the dog down. He's been through enough in his life. His ears have been cut off. That is crazy. Animals are not people. You can't sit them down and explain to them that life sucks sometimes but it will hopefully get better. Give the poor animal some rest before he hurts another dog or, even worse, a person. And give yourself a rest too. A little over a year ago we rescued two dogs, a brother and a sister. The boy dog was wonderful, the girl dog a living nightmare. She was expensive, stressful, and not any fun to own. Trying to train her was so frustrating that even her brother realized it and helped. The boy dog would hold her leash or line in his teeth so that I could switch her off and he would get between her and the street when she got away. It was such a bad situation that I nearly gave up both dogs. We ended up just giving her up and everyone is so much happier, including her brother. We are now happy dog owners. It's okay to put your needs and the needs of your family before an animal. Do you really want to spend money on a lawyer and have your neighbor live in fear because you kept this dog? I wouldn't.
posted by myselfasme at 7:25 AM on August 18, 2014 [15 favorites]

I don't think I'd ever suggest a dog should be put down for showing aggression to another dog. A human, potentially. A dog, no.

You might wish to reconsider this thought. Aren't dogs considered part of the family? What if your dog had injured the other dog to the point that it was permanently crippled or had to be put down itself?

It is probably important to note that our dog is not aggressive towards humans at all, and co-exists beautifully with our other dog.

So you think after one week with this dog. I bet before this, you would have said it would never break leash to attack without provocation.

Whenever a dog acts violently, "I am so surprised because this teddy bear has never done this before" is the usual response from the owner. It doesn't help. The injured person care if the dog is a "sweetie pie". The injured person only cares that they (or their dog) have been attacked.

I don't know if that applies to this situation given that he *was* on-leash and managed to break away.

Your dog was off-leash when he attacked the other dog. It doesn't matter that he was off-leash by his own will rather than your own will. I don't know what state you are in, but damages caused by dogs generally fall under a strict liability standard. That means being liable even if you did nothing to be "at fault". For example, if a lion somehow escapes from the zoo and mauls someone, the zoo is going to be liable no matter how strong the bars of the lion cage were and they had seven levels of security to keep people safe from the lion. That is similar to the case here - no matter how strong the leash might have been, it failed and your dog caused injury.

I agree that you need a lawyer to advise you because dog-bite statutes vary by state. Good luck to you if it comes out that you had notice from the previous owner that this dog had leash aggression issues.

And now, you are on actual notice that your new dog is so aggressive that it will break free of a leash in order to cross a street to attack without provocation. I'd put that dog down before it happens again and count my blessings that this time was minor injuries to another dog and not serious injuries to a person.
posted by Tanizaki at 7:31 AM on August 18, 2014 [27 favorites]

Right, ditto to what was said above, a lot of this depends on jurisdiction and what the current feeling to bully-type breeds, in particular, has been. If I were you, I would get a lawyer now. Badrap has some advice, CA-specific, here.

Dog aggression is very, very different from human aggression, yes. Harnesses are probably not a good idea - I would do a double collar, attached by a carabiner. We used to use prong or choke, with a flat or another choke carabinered to it, and then the leash attached to the carabiner, when we walked the dog aggressive bully/pit type breeds at the shelter, just to be safe. (Make sure it's a real mountaineering carabiner, not the craft store kinds.) Maybe consider the kinds of leashes that attach to your waist, and also have handles. I might also onsider walking your dog in a new area, just to give the other dog owner time to breathe. Consider a muzzle.

And, since your dog has shown dog aggression, you need to be hyper-vigilant with your current dog. Keep them in separate rooms, separated by a door, while you are gone or otherwise distracted. Don't leave them alone for a minute, even once. Be careful with things like chews or toys that could spark a fight.

A quick word of caution - be careful with the "cesar milan" thing - he has fallen out of favor with most behaviorists, if he was ever in favor in the first place. If your trainer works using physical means, such as rolling, poking, etc - this can actually make the dog worse. Ditto on shock collars, etc. If by cesar milan, you mean more as in tight boundaries, controlled situations - then this is fine.

As I'm sure you know, since you already had one before, there are strong feeling around pit bulls, especially ones with severe ear crops. And, I hate to say it, but walking two bully-types, and one gets loose and attacks another dog, will make the other dog owner have much stronger reactions, than say, if your dog were a lab, which also happens often. You will always have to be hyper-vigilant on outings with your new dog, even if the training works. For some people, that is too much, which is understandable. I am definitely not in the camp of this dog should be killed now and always, but you will encounter this for the rest of your dog's life. Can you give him a good quality of life; can you ever walk him without fear? If your dog is seized for a bite hold and will be kept in solitary for weeks or months while you wait for a verdict - is that a good quality of life for a dog? Ask your lawyer - if the dog bites another dog, what will the penalty be?

Best of luck. You've got a lot of tough decisions ahead.
posted by umwhat at 7:38 AM on August 18, 2014 [3 favorites]

You can't say "Oh, he's fine with people and not a danger to them!" You just can't. You have had this dog for a week and have already had a major incident that could very well lead to your dog being put down. The leash was not strong enough to hold the dog, which leads me to believe you had no idea what he was capable of. Yet you keep insisting he can be rehabilitated. That's a dangerous combination. Yeah, you could get a lawyer and fight this if it comes to that, but is that really the right thing to do here?
posted by futureisunwritten at 8:03 AM on August 18, 2014 [26 favorites]

I got some helpful answers when I asked this question about dog aggression previously. The end result is that the dog is not allowed to leave their own fenced yard other than for vet appointments, it has a shock collar for those times, and it works for them.
posted by ldthomps at 8:14 AM on August 18, 2014

I would seriously consider putting the dog down. You say he's not a danger to people, but as you've already stated, you had no idea that he was capable or inclined to attack other dogs, and within a week of owning him, he's done that already, so what else is he capable of doing that you're not aware of. Let's face it, you don't know this dog at all, how can you, you've only just got him.

I feel for this animal, I really do, he's clearly had a rough life and I admire your intentions behind trying to rehabilitate him but right now the most dangerous thing here is not the dog, it's you because you have an animal you can't control and yet still insist on defending and protecting regardless, which puts your other dog and everyone around it in continued danger.

Absolutely look into all the avenues you've already suggested but consider whether the constant vigilance you'll have to maintain for the rest of it's life is worth it, for both you and the dog, and the price that another dog, or god forbid, a small child, should pay, if you ever, ever, slip and let your guard down. Then imagine it was your dog. Or your child.
posted by Jubey at 8:30 AM on August 18, 2014 [14 favorites]

Cesar Millan-style training is by far the worst type of training approach for a leash-reactive, newly adopted dog who has had a rough life. His negative reinforcement approaches cause dogs to "shut down" so on TV the dogs look like they are "cured" but in fact the outcomes are quite different.

Please, please, please reference resources/blogs/videos/podcasts/books/trainer links by Patricia McConnell, Jean Donaldson, Dr. Sophia Yin, Karen Pryor, Patricia Miller, Grisha Stewart, Dr. Ian Dunbar, Victoria Stillwell, Emily Larlham (aka Kikopup), Jolanta Benal, and the American College of Veterinary Behaviorists. This is not a comprehensive list - I've left out many other outstanding resources.

For a step-by-step discussion of the laws regarding "Dangerous Dog" categorizations, Whole Dog Journal wrote a great in-depth article about US laws, owners' responses, etc.

Regarding what you should do *right now*: please get a muzzle for your dog for anytime that your dog is outdoors. You can teach your dog to get used to a muzzle following Chirag Patel's video (another great trainer).

Best of luck as you work to give this dog with a tough start in life a new home.
posted by apennington at 8:36 AM on August 18, 2014 [15 favorites]

Just popped back to say that my neighbour has been bitten twice by two separate dogs in separate incidences as they attacked her dog. All dogs in these cases were leashed and the owners still couldn't control them. She got bitten trying to haul her dog (a Weimaraner) away, and the other dog just kept coming at them. Just because your dog isn't trying to bite a person, doesn't mean it still can't happen.
posted by Jubey at 8:37 AM on August 18, 2014 [3 favorites]

I'm so sorry that your this happened -- it must have been so traumatic for you. But I have to agree that it may be wise to look at having him euthanized. He was so severely abused and stuff like that breaks my heart -- but you never know what could trigger him to attack again. I think that a dog that attacks another dog without provocation could possibly attack a human. You can't fix the fact that he suffered some horrible abuse. Unfortunately, abuse affects brain development. (I don't know if there have been any dog studies done on brain development, but the affects of abuse on human brains is well-documented. ) You cannot re-structure your dog's brain. It is what it is.

But, I understand that you don't want to euthanize him. In this case, the responsible thing to do is muzzle him when he's outside. Make sure that you have a strong fence. Maybe sign the injured dog up for a BarkBox subscription to enjoy while he recovers?
posted by Ostara at 8:39 AM on August 18, 2014 [8 favorites]

Please don't let the people who are suggesting you put the dog down get to you. They are being ridiculous.

It seems like your dog gets along very well at home, but you may well have to limit where you take and to whom you introduce your dog.

We had some animal and human aggression issues with our abused 3-year-old rescue, but to avoid problems he was crate trained at home and always on a quality harness outside so he cannot pull.

Go to your independent pet store to find higher quality items that the chain stores may not carry. Get a strong leash, a martingale collar, and for outdoors a harness like the Wonder Walker which is hooked to the leash at the dog's chest.

About the incident, wait and see. It is your responsibility to secure your dog at all times, but fortunately the incident wasn't serious. The other guy seems unstable and you've offered what you can.
posted by pants tent at 9:23 AM on August 18, 2014 [6 favorites]

So my dog has been attacked by other dogs, and he has bitten a dog (he mostly just snaps at them though, the bite was under particular circumstances). For a first bite, I wouldn't want a dog that attacked mine (and didn't do serious harm/kill mine) to be put to sleep, at least not if the owners seemed as responsible as you are coming across. Some dogs are dog aggressive, and some are leash aggressive. These dogs don't necessarily need to be put to sleep, but they do need to be owned by someone who is going to take the steps necessary to keep everyone safe. Once my dog started showing dog aggression (he used to LOVE other dogs and would play happily with everyone, but as he got older he got much less happy with other dogs), I stopped letting him go up to other dogs, I kept him heeled next to me whenever we saw other dogs, and I would cross the street if another dog was on the sidewalk with us. I also never take him off leash anywhere any more and we don't go near a dog park. That said, we still have a lot of people around where I live who pay no attention to me corraling my dog and try to bring their dog over to me. These people I yell to, letting them know he isn't friendly. Walks are a bit more stressful than before, but I spent a lot of time when I first got my dog training him not to pull and to walk well on the leash, so it is only an issue if I run across people who are actively trying to get my dog and their dog together.

However, that said, I would be extremely wary of leaving my dog alone with another dog unsupervised*, which I'm sure happens with your two when you go out. While the two dogs seem to get along now, you don't know your new dog well enough, especially given the dog aggression he's now shown, to leave them unsupervised. I wouldn't put your dog to sleep yet, I would work with a good trainer (others have covered this), get a much better collar/leash system in place (possible a muzzle too), and keep the dogs separate any time you are not there to supervise.

Good luck. It's not the best situation, but it can be dealt with if you are willing to do the hard work. If you are not, then you need to surrender this dog to people who can give him what he needs, or let him go peacefully.

*my dog has a select number of dogs he does still like. He will go on walks with these dogs, play with them, and be a wonderful pooch around them. Our previous dog walker (who moved away, sob!) had a dog like him and the two of them got along famously and would walk and play great together. He also loves the new puppy down the street that is owned by friends of ours. While I let my dog play with these, even off leash, I would never leave him alone with them. His one actual dog bite was with his best doggy friend when she took something that he thought was his. I'd like to think it would have ended there if we weren't there, but it's not a risk I'd ever want to take.
posted by katers890 at 9:28 AM on August 18, 2014 [4 favorites]

When your dog attacked that other dog, the concerns about the potential consequences changed from the theoretical to the practical. It's no longer a question of "if", but "when".

Unless you can realistically say that the dog will never be able to get out of your fence or off his leash (which isn't realistic), you'd be doing the dog and your community a service by having him humanely euthanized.

Not every dog can be rehabilitated, and sometimes certain dogs are not compatible with certain living circumstances. It's not a failure on anyone's part. Sometimes, that's just the way it is.
posted by DWRoelands at 9:29 AM on August 18, 2014 [3 favorites]

If my pet had been attacked by a dog who had signs of being used in a fighting ring (cut ears, teeth ground down), I would be livid. I think you may need to consider that this dog's past may make him unsuitable as a pet.
posted by KathrynT at 9:30 AM on August 18, 2014 [26 favorites]

People are being ridiculous and making a lot of assumptions about your dog. Of course he shouldn't be put down! And dog aggression is completely different from human aggression. One in no way predicts the other. By some of these people's logic, then, you can't possibly know that any dog is good with people and not human aggressive. I don't have any legal advice, I suggest you give it a few days and see what you hear back from this guy before getting a lawyer or anything. He may be reasonable after he has calmed down. In the meantime, yes, get a better harness/leash, and don't leave your dogs alone together.
posted by catatethebird at 9:58 AM on August 18, 2014 [2 favorites]

It is your responsibility to secure your dog at all times, but fortunately the incident wasn't serious.

Attacking and hurting someone else's pet most certainly is serious.
posted by ftm at 10:00 AM on August 18, 2014 [13 favorites]

We just had no idea that he was capable / inclined to do something of this nature.
contradicts this:
Bob's previous owner claimed that he had some leash aggression issues.
I understand that you're freaking out, and as a fellow dog lover (and pitt lover!) I empathize. I imagine that you're likely feeling blindsided and upset and protective and ashamed. You are a Good Person who rescued this dog from his past. But look at this dog's history. He has likely been in a fighting ring. A few months ago he was a runaway. Until a week ago he was living with another person. Now he lives somewhere else. This poor dog has had its life constantly uprooted, and his history has made him dangerous and prone to attack without provocation. The "without provocation" that makes this especially scary, because even you, as his caring, loving, watchful owners, had no idea what was coming. It is likely this behavior cannot be un-trained, and that attempts to work on this training may themselves be dangerous.

As much as it really pains me, he may have to be put down. A dog that mauls a child was, up until that day, a dog who had never mauled a child.

I bet you're generally good dog owners and perhaps you'll consider another dog companion in the future. If that is the case, here is how you can be more proactive:

1) Always keep at the forefront of your mind the safety of you, your current lovely dog, and your community. Resist bringing a threat into the safety of your home and community - no matter how cute. Any "issues" that are half-mumbled yellow flags are now stop signs. Whatever breed the dog is matters less than its behavior.

2) Consider adopting from an animal shelter because many shelters train their animals, are very forthcoming about issues, and assess fit on both sides of the adoption.

3) Upon adoption, sign you and your dog up for obedience/training classes together! It's fun for both, and you learn to work with each other. Nthing "no more Cesar Milan methods." In the real world, his methods promote aggression and are actively denounced by the vast, vast majority of animal trainers. (I say this as someone who used to be in the animal training field and who keeps in contact with professional trainers.)

This has been a very difficult time for you. It is good that you were so quick to volunteer paying for the attacked dog's vet bills and I know your heart is in the right place. But please, this dog has demonstrated hair-trigger aggression as the result of a stressful life. He is not safe to keep in your home, nor any home. Please put him to sleep.
posted by nicodine at 10:02 AM on August 18, 2014 [12 favorites]

Dogs bite. We'd like them not to but they do, and it does not make a dog vicious, though if you cannot get to the source of the anxiety you'll have to decide what to do next.

Please use a trainer that comes highly recommended by at least two sources, one of them ideally the local humane society (as in, a trainer they use) and not the Cesar Millan crap. But you know dangerously little about dogs (a collar is for tags, not a leash or any sort of control or restraint, to start with. Go buy an EasyWalk before you leave the house for any reason again.), and have taken on a real advanced case, so I think you need to talk real talk with a real trainer about what this dog's future is and whether it should remain with you if not put down.
posted by Lyn Never at 10:04 AM on August 18, 2014 [3 favorites]

Your equivocating and offer to donate money to charity via text message (oh, boy!) to make this "right" tells me you know the truth here.

Put the dog down. Make the donation.

I have experience with this sort of thing (dog sitting for friends, a beloved rescue that seemed dangerous to me and later on sent another person to the hospital with serious injuries...) and living in dog-friendly West Hollywood these days with a 3 year old toddler, I'm always on alert for dogs like your rescue when we're out in public.

I'm sorry you have to do this, but I deeply appreciate the courage it takes to make this difficult choice.
posted by jbenben at 12:03 PM on August 18, 2014 [9 favorites]

I think a lawyer might provide you some needed peace of mind in that they will be able to answer all of the questions you have, now that you have a dog who has behaved aggressively towards another animal.

In addition to answering your questions about what happens now, they could answer questions for you about how to best protect yourself if it happens in the future (for example, what you should and should not say or do - admitting fault, offering donation to charity, should you offer to pay for vet bills, should you have liability insurance, if you should take pictures of the wound, or take the names of witnesses, etc.).

In the same way that you are going to an expert trainer to help you care for your dog, I think that part of the cost of your dog is to pay for a lawyer to find out how to protect yourself.

Good luck - it sounds like you are trying to navigate this with integrity.
posted by anitanita at 12:11 PM on August 18, 2014

To be more specific, a bully breed with cut off ears, filed down teeth, and leash / dog aggression is hitting all the red flags for a dog who was used as a bait dog to train fighting dogs. Do you know for sure that the story about the dog being picked up by Animal Control and adopted through the system is true, or is that just what the previous owner told you? You may have been taken for a bigger ride than you think.
posted by KathrynT at 12:44 PM on August 18, 2014 [25 favorites]

I don't think you have to put your dog down but you do have to learn how to manage your dog much better. Bully breeds have to be well-managed. Bully breeds don't bite more than other dogs but they do more damage and there is tremendous stigma attached to them.

You now know absolutely that your dog is dog aggressive. You need to keep the other dogs in your community safe. Here is my list of recommendations for your dog.

1. Call several pit-bull rescue organizations and get recommendations for experienced bully breed trainers. (You can't use a cheap PetsMart $99 training special.)
2. Complete obedience training and canine good citizen training. Consider agility training.
3. Evaluate your walking equipment. For my Presa Canario (a giant bully breed), I used a prong collar for walks. I worked with a trainer who taught me how to use it correctly. I attached the leash to his prong collar with another hook to his name tag collar in case it came loose. Make sure you know how to hold your leash so that it is not jerked out of your hands if he pulls suddenly. Martingale leashes are also a very good option but I like the control the prong gave me, a woman with really powerful dog.
4. Use a muzzle when outside. No off-leash activities.
5. Keep an eagle eye out for other dogs when out walking. When you see other dogs, change directions, cross the street, don't let him focus on other dogs.
6. Make sure he gets plenty of exercise, not just a 10-minute walk to a pee and poop spot a few times a day. A tired dog is a happy dog. Be engaged with your dog during walks, not talking on the phone or something. Run if you can, get on your bike and let him run alongside, take treats and practice commands.
7. Keep him busy with toys that make him work to get treats out.

Don't reach out to the injured dog's owner anymore. They have your contact info, you've apologized, let them take the next step. Hopefully, you will only have to deal with the vet bill. Consider yourself lucky if that's the case.

Thanks for giving this guy a chance. I sincerely hope that you can give him a good life and that you can keep him safe as well as the other dogs in the community. Please take your responsibility seriously and don't put your dog in questionable situations. Learn dog body language; they can't tell you they're feeling anxious or fearful. (My friend's Chihuahua bit a half dozen people; everyone thought she was a mean little bitch, and then she had a few bad teeth pulled and her personality changed almost instantly. She'd been in pain and no one knew. And if she'd been a larger dog, she'd have been put down.)

My Presa was attacked by a pit-bull when he as a puppy. It was pretty horrific; we couldn't get them apart as the pit had locked onto my dog's neck. I never wanted my dog to attack another dog like that. Because of my dog's size and breed, I worked hard to manage him. I lived for a while in a high-rise where I had to ride the elevator with a giant dog in a building filled with dogs. My big guy did great. He was the gentle giant of the building.

However, there were two little, unrelated, shithead dogs that wanted to charge him whenever they saw him. They would just go ballistic. Their owners and I always changed directions, crossed the street, didn't get on the same elevator, whatever it took, to avoid any interaction. A 125 lb. dogs versus a 25 lb. dog is not going to end well for the smaller dog but I didn't want my dog to hurt someone else's animal even if 'they started it.' I took responsibility for my animal and they took responsibility for theirs. Fortunately, my guy was never dog aggressive, which I worried about after he was attacked. He had lots of doggie friends but I controlled his contact with random, unknown dogs. I have no idea why these two dogs hated my dog, but they did, so I made sure I kept my dog away from them. You need to keep your dog away from other animals too.
posted by shoesietart at 2:57 PM on August 18, 2014 [7 favorites]

Just because a dog with no training acts like a dog with no training, you do not put it down. The fault lies with both you and the dog-you for not providing training (you obviously didn't have him long enough) but also not taking precautions.

Get a lawyer, do online research, communicate with the people whose dog was attacked, I am sure he was furious then of course but maybe be open to talk. Keep communication open, he is obviously a dog lover. Best of luck, this does suck.
posted by jellyjam at 4:14 PM on August 18, 2014 [1 favorite]

Wouldn't a big concern here be not just dogs, but children in your neighborhood? In the extremely poor city in which I live, children are routinely sought out and attacked by off-leash pits and pit-types (usually escaped from enclosures) who've probably been abused. You are trying to be good dog parents, but please listen to the folks above who urge you to reconsider bringing a potentially dangerous animal into your community, especially if you're trying to prove something about this dog or about your abilities as dog owners. The fact that this poor dog has had its ears cut short with kitchen shears is enough to tell you that it's been treated terribly and is now -- by your admission -- a loose cannon.

Are you dog experts? If not, maybe you should at least consult with a pit bull rescue to see if they'd be willing to help rehabilitate this animal, or if they think it's possible.
posted by Bluestocking_Puppet at 5:00 PM on August 18, 2014 [2 favorites]

My dog has a target on her ass. She's been attacked by other dogs about 20 times, mostly because she is a loud mouthed coward and looks it. She's also been attached by a small cat that she unwisely growled at, but anyhoo, suffice to say I'm familiar with this scenario.

On only one or two occasions has all this "I keel you!!!" drama ever led to even a minor actual wound. I think your dogs attack was much more serious than you thought. Most dog "fights" are snappy-bitey-growl face offs with maybe someone getting a nip on the nose or ear because it's mostly about trying to make the other dog back down (that would be mine). Attacking the body of another dog while it's turned away is really very, very aggressive, not just scuffling.

The one time a dog did that to my dog I punted it in the ribs so hard it flew about 10' and called the cops. And yes I ripped the owner a new one. I've never even considered doing that before over a minor dog scuffle. It's really not normal.
posted by fshgrl at 6:12 PM on August 18, 2014 [7 favorites]

As the former owner of an occasionally aggressive dog, I would strongly recommend muzzling your dog on all future outdoor excursions. I thought it would be awful, but instead it was a huge relief. I like the Jafco plastic muzzles because they're light, strong, and have enough room that the dog can still drink from a bowl.
posted by zippy at 7:23 PM on August 18, 2014 [1 favorite]

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