Euthanizing aggressive dogs

A Jack Russell terrier type dog (not pictured) was killed in a local pound last week because of his extremely aggressive behavior, according to 4 Luv of Dog, a Fargo dog rescue. Because of the dog’s aggression, he was considered by the pound to be “unadoptable.”

My immediate reaction was shock. Was there really no one in the area capable of helping this dog? How can a group call themselves a rescue if they aren’t willing to rescue every dog? Why didn’t I help him? (In this case the pound would not release the dog to rescues due to its aggression, according to 4 Luv of Dog.)

My more logical self reminded me that I hadn’t volunteered to foster this dog even before I knew he was aggressive. I also realize dogs are euthanized every day, including healthy dogs, young dogs and friendly dogs. This dog was not friendly and probably not healthy either.

When is it acceptable to kill a dog due to aggression issues? Is it ever OK?

Ace the mutt - Euthanizing aggressive dogsObviously there is no correct answer. But sooner or later, anyone involved in dog rescue and even some who aren’t will play a part in making this choice.

My simplified answer: There are circumstances when the best choice is to kill the dog.

That being said, I also believe every dog can be rehabilitated to the point of living an almost normal and safe life. It’s just that resources are usually unavailable, the risk of a person getting injured is too great and more laws are out there banning dangerous dogs.

I admire the web master of 4 Luv of Dog Rescue for honestly posting info about the impounded terrier on its home page and admitting he would not be rescued. I’m sure the organization will get at least some negative feedback for its decision to post this info, even if the pound would not release the dog.

No other shelter or rescue group in the area was able to help the terrier either. Adopt-A-Pet of Fargo Moorhead did not. The F-M Humane Society did not. 4 Luv of Dog Rescue was the only group I am aware of that at least acknowledged the dog.

No one helped this dog, and everyone who is a true dog lover should feel at fault for the result.

Euthanizing an aggressive dog

My own parents – two of the world’s greatest dog lovers – had their aggressive spaniel “dealt with” when I was about 3 years old.

I’m not sure if Abby ever got a new home, but her chances were not good. Dog aggression is a serious issue, even more serious when a 3-year-old and a baby are at risk.

In his book “A Good Dog,” Jon Katz wrote about the intense bond he shared with one of his rescued border collies, Orson. Anyone who criticized Jon’s decision to euthanize Orson after the dog attacked multiple people is missing something. People are quick to criticize others.

Confinement, medical treatment and endless rehabilitation are always choices, but not necessarily options in the best interest of the dog or the people who love him. No dog is worth the life of a human.

As for the terrier supposedly euthanized in Fargo last week, he is one example of why more work needs to be done – more communication, more education, better information on training, on socialization, on exercise and adoption.

It’s not just the big dogs, the shepherd mixes and the pitbulls that end up as victims. It is every dog.

Do you believe it is right to euthanize an aggressive dog?

Pin It

431 Readers Commented

Join discussion
  1. Rachel on December 2, 2013

    Thanks Lindsay. Sorry to hear you were attacked. I have experienced that too and it’s scary! Isn’t it crazy that despite having tons of positive experiences with dogs, one bad experience can have such an effect?

  2. Penny on October 9, 2014

    I’m not sure anyone is still active on this thread but I (we) could really use some support with the decision we are have made.
    I found this website/thread last year after we rescued at pit mix. We had every intention of re-homing her in fact she has gone to 4 separate places but has always been returned. We were adamant that they notify us before making any decision to surrender her to the pound because we knew what the outcome would be.
    We’ve had 2 separate trainers out to our house for training, we’ve done everything to work with her and get her more socialized. The first incident she went after a neighbors dog when we opened our gate (we didn’t see the neighbor walking her dog but she did) and ended up giving the dog a puncture wound. Paid that vet bill and tried to make amends with our new neighbor but from that point on anytime she walked by our property with her dog Lit’l Bit would go crazy and race back & forth along the fence to the point of getting our other two dogs in a frenzy as well. Neither one of our other two dogs ever acted this way when people walked in front of our property until Lit’l Bit arrived.
    The 2nd incident was when we were introducing her to a couple that was very excited about adopting her and fell in love with her (she is a very pretty brindle & has a very sweet disposition) but as we were making the handoff another little dog showed up and in some freak accident kind of way she struggled in a way that released the latch on her leash. She went after the dog (who was previously traumatized) and we ended up with a $2000 vet bill. Needless to say after seeing that the couple decided against taking her.
    After that we worked diligently to keep her contained in our 1.5 acres but she continued to find ways out and we’d get calls from our neighbors that she was out running around. Thank goodness she never did anything while she was loose. The funny thing is she is normally ready to go after any other dog she sees but for some reason she got along with the dog behind us, in fact when she would get out that is usually where we would find her.
    Two nights ago on our walk we encountered a family with their dog so we went up a drive way to avoid them but as they pasted and we started walking Lit’l Bit tripped me and as I went down I lost control of the leash. She took off after that dog like a rocket and by the time I got there she had a hold of the other dogs ear and was clamped down, it took everything in me to pry her jaw open to release the other dogs ear. Luckily for us the people were very understanding and nothing serious happened to their dog, two of them had some serious road rash from going down on the asphalt.
    After that I came back to this thread and read & re-read posts and realize putting her down is something we need to do. As others have stated we need to do something before its too late and she does some serious damage to another dog or person that may be trying to break up the scuffle. But as others have stated this is one of the hardest decisions I have ever had to make because 95% of the time she is such a sweet, loving beautiful dog it is breaking my (our) heart.

    How did some of you deal with others that knew what you have done and the judgement(s) you got from them?

    My head knows this is the right decision but my heart is breaking. Thanks for letting me share.

    p.s. I’ve had others tell me to try and find her a place where she can be a guard/attack dog but the thought of her being in that kind of environment and not a loving home seems worse to me.

    • El on October 9, 2014

      Hi Penny,
      Everyone’s situation is different but I really feel for you right now. We had to have our little dog PTS and although it was heartbreaking and I regret HAVING to to it, I don’t regret doing it. It was absolutely the right decision in our case. She would have seriously hurt someone. Anyhow, unfortunately people do judge, and although the majority of people understand and were supportive, a few were not. I can understand why people jump to conclusions, as before we had to do this, I would have probably had the same opinion. In fact I did. I recall a couple I know had to have their dog PTS and I was a critic at the time. Of course when you are put in this awful position yourself, you see things differently. Don’t worry about other people and what they think, do what is best for your dog and for your family. You don’t have to explain your actions to anyone.
      If you know that what you are doing is the best and kindest thing, then it really isn’t any one else’s concern. Sending positive support at this very difficult time x

    • Lisa West on October 9, 2014

      When we were struggling with this a friend said “to give him another chance is to give him another victim!” That really helped us make the decision. My vet really questioned us to be certain we had exhausted all other options and then she agreed with our decision. Up until then I would never have imagined that I would put down a healthy dog.

    • Lindsay Stordahl Author on October 9, 2014

      Hi Penny. Gosh, I’m so sorry. I wish there was something I could say to make it better. I wish you did not have to make such a hard choice, and I know you will ultimately do what is best for your dog. It’s obvious you love her very much. Other people will judge, but that is because they can’t possibly understand.

      Take care.

  3. Penny on October 13, 2014

    Thank you so much El, Lisa & Lindsay for your comments/posts, it really means a lot to have others understand and be supportive of the heartbreaking decision we had to make.
    We lovingly helped usher Lit’l Bit into doggie heaven. Even though I felt judged by a few of the front desk girls I truly appreciated the care and understanding we got from the vet. She said the same thing you did Lisa but in different way.
    As others posted previously we were not aware of how much stress we were under by always being on alert and our walks are like night & day now, I forgot how nice walks can be. We miss her dearly even feel a little guilty because we are enjoying how peaceful our house is especially with our other two dogs.
    Thanks again for your support and care it means more than you know.