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« Los Angeles takes new approach (after Mandatory Spay/Neuter fails) | Main | Infant dies from dog attack in South Carolina »

April 21, 2012



I agree. Some of the rescue people I know are the worst people I know toward other humans. It would embarrass me if I felt responsible for other people's behavior. Thanks for staying compassionate and real.

Cindi Ashbeck

Thank you for stopping. Thank you for caring for both the person and the dog. Your right, we need to remember to be compassionate towards people also. We're all in this together. Compassion and respect for both animals and people is the only way we'll accomplish any of our goals.


You make such a good point. I don't think there are many people who have owned dogs who haven't had some near misses.

One of my Poodles after years of jumping from the car to the house decided to dart out into the street. A car missed her by inches. We joked that if she hadn't had a docked tail, she would have been hit.


well put. Real change, I think, always come from a place of compassion. Thanks for reminding us.


So true. I regularly hear from people who think it is better to hold a dog indefinitely in rescue or let him be killed in a pound than to allow him to go to someone whose last pet was killed by a car. They always say something about how the next dog will be killed by a car too. As if the person could not have possibly learned anything from the previous tragedy. Or as if death is somehow better than a life containing any amount of risk.

Thank you for posting.


There a so many pets being euthanized every single day. Someone I know tried to adopt one that captured their heart. The wife worked from home, the husband part time from home, the rest in an office. They made good money. They were refused. The are in shock. I told them to go back and demand to be told WHY they were refused and not to give up; they could find another way, and give another a chance.


One of my cats was hit by a car. She was the only cat I ever let outside - because when I attempted to make her an indoor only kitty, she paced and howled and attacked the blinds at night and charged the door every time I let the dogs in or out. After six months of this, I decided I needed some sleep.

And one of my neighbors has an older dad who repeatedly tried to adopt a rescued German Shepherd. He was turned down for an older dog because the dog didnt like kids and he had grandchildren who rarely visit. As if he didn't have the sense to put her somewhere else for an hour or two every six months. Anyway, he finally went out and bought a puppy.


What a tragic story for that poor man and his dog. For the most part, I agree with what you have to say, but I would like to offer a perspective from the rescue side of things.

A lot of people don't have common sense when it comes to animals. I have been involved in rescue for almost eight years so far. People do the most stupid things, and the dogs get in trouble for it. For example, we've had dogs returned for biting because they were cowering under a table or in a crate and people tried to drag them out (one was an Australian shepherd, the other a fluffy black mutt). One person returned a dog he adopted after a week because the dog eliminated on the floor and chewed a leash. Actually, several times we've had a dogs, 5-8month old puppies, returned for eliminating on the floor. I do think that could have been partly helped if the rescue I volunteer for would educate people on crate-training, but they don't believe in it, unfortunately.

However, imagine how difficult it is to place a dog with "issues" when people seem to have difficulty even handling a normal dog. You can tell people all you want that this dog is not good with kids, or not good with dogs, but they don't LISTEN. We had a chow mix returned because she attacked a dog at a dog park when we TOLD THEM she was not good with other dogs and NOT dog park material. People get comfortable with the dog, let their guard down, set the dog up to fail, and then bring the dog back when his behavior is less than perfect. You can't even trust experienced people sometimes. We had a woman who had owned GSDs before who claimed she trained them in obedience and Schutzhund and such who adopted a large male GSD, and after the first little hitch in the road (he offered to bite, but didn't actually bite or something) she returned him. I personally interact with this GSD frequently and have no problems.

And don't even talk to me about this rescue's placement of mastiffs. Every mastiff they've ever placed has been returned at least once (with the exception of Fang, a Neapolitan mastiff who was lucky enough to be adopted by previous adopters). One mastiff mix was even shot in the head and killed for attacking a guy. They say he was a resource guarder and the guy nudged his kong toy and got attacked. At the shelter I never noticed any resourcing guarding tendencies, and I personally fed him and played with him with his kong toy. Stuff doesn't add up, but we'll never know the whole story.

So, with all these negative stories sticking in one's mind, it's easy to forget all the happy stories of successful placements and give in to paranoia. When rescuers give in to the paranoia, that's why they starting looking for ways the adoption could fail, instead of thinking positively "how can we make this work?" There are many times I have been talking to adopters at the rescue shelter and I want to just hand them the leash and say: "Here's your dog, thanks for adopting!" but alas, I have not the authority to do so. Rescue is difficult, there is a constant conflict between all the stories you hear and things you see that show you how stupid and lazy people are, and all the stories you see and things you hear that show you how compassionate and wonderful people are.

Ted Moore

Well done, Brent.


Timely post, Brent. I've got one going up next week. Though not spurred by tragedy, it's about three good homes that were denied and the reasons that they were rejected - also, where they ended up getting their dogs.

People can learn from their mistakes. This young man can learn from his. We have to start giving people a little credit. Millions of dogs live in homes with people who rescues think don't have "common sense" and they survive to ripe old ages anyway. We're losing out on good homes when we refuse to give people the benefit of the doubt. Sometimes homes that seem great are not. And sometimes taking a chance on someone pays off for the dog and the person.

Thank you for stopping. My heart goes out to that poor young man and his dog. I am uplifted by the support he was receiving from everyone in the moment. I also feel for the person who hit the dog. It's a horrible thing to live with even though it wasn't your fault.


Brent, it's wonderful that you are willing to try and understand the circumstances of this incident and hope the young man can adopt in the future. I'm hoping you told him of your connection to the shelter and that you gave him your card, even though it was a sad an awkward moment. In those minutes, hours, and days after a pet's death, it's difficult to impossible to think about getting another dog for many people, but he might have placed your card in the kitchen junk drawer when he got home, but could find it later and remember your kindness and look you up when he's ready.

My young dog and I were walking in an area we'd walked many times before, on the small stretch of a busy street before turning onto another side street, when her collar popped off. I've used these collars for 20 years without incident, and the one time it fails, she, in a puppy "I'm free!!!" moment, ran into the street. Thank dog she hit a car, instead of the other way around (this is right near a stop light so it was going fairly slow), and got up and took off in her shock and confusion. I got her back 4 streets away (connected by a city park, so she only crossed one more roadway where she could have been hit again), but if she had died... The thing is, this has never happened to me in 40 years of walking dogs, and I would have to come up with a horrible illness to tell most rescues about her death, because they wouldn't want to give me another chance. I've successfully raised 8 of my own dogs, had 4 family dogs growing up, and I'm a petsitter and dogwalker for many more that I take the utmost care with (I even have a pretty healthy 15 year old greyhound!), but freak accidents can make judgmental people, well, judgmental, instead of compassionate and sensible.

Darath S.

I love this post, Brent! I am sadly one of the few who wants to help the whole picture when it comes to rescue. It's those people who care about their dogs that I always want to help. We need to take the time to listen with our heart, feel compassion and be more understanding and less judgmental as rescuers. I often get criticized for trying to help dog owners as much as I do the dogs but you know, if we can keep those dogs in their own homes, life is just so much better!

Jennifer Brighton

That young man could have been me in a different setting. I was picking berries with my two dogs and was just getting ready to leash them up when a deer ran between us. Both dogs took off and jumped a 4-foot barrier fence. My older dog came back when I screamed hysterically, but my male ran through the woods, down a steep bank and onto the freeway and was hit by a truck. I thought he was dead lying there in one of the lanes at rush hour.

Long story short, thank goodness for big pit heads! He had a little bruising on his lungs and a huge gash over one eye. To look at him a few months later, you'd never even know he'd been hit, my vet did such a wonderful job stitching him up.

But my point is that when I fessed up to the shelter I adopted him from (I take him to visit) everyone was so understanding and shared stories of similar incidents. I still feel guilty that they entrusted me with him and this happened, but they assured me they understand that dogs can be unpredictable and it can and does happen. Reading your comments here, it makes me appreciate my shelter even more.


good post, good points. i hope the best for that dog owner.

P Kennedy

Thank-you for this note. A few years ago I adopted a dog out to a couple who told me they had lost their previous dog that way. He had escaped from the yard and gotten hit. They showed me how they were going to reinforce the yard. And it was clear to me that they weren't careless people, that they would be the most amazing owners, and I approved them. 4 years later and they are all amazingly happy, and their dog goes everywhere with them. I couldn't have found better people for him.
I think about all of the stupid stuff I used to do with my first dog (I got him when I was 22) and how much I've learned since then, and so I give others the benefit of the doubt. All you have to do is ask a few questions and see them interact with a dog to know if they've learned from past mistakes.
Funny, though, while I have rescued all 3 dogs I have had, I've never filled out a rescue application. I sometimes wonder if I would be approved or rejected???


Love this post. Thank you for being compassionate to the humans as well. I know many of us, including myself, could stand to be more understanding. For quite some time I was volunteering to check references on adoption applications for a rescue in my area. I had to stop helping with application processing because I just could not be a part of rejecting so many apps based on the rescue's strict criteria.


Good post. I regularly let my dog's leash drop to the ground in the neighbourhood whenever he seems like he's particularly responsive. I think it's a nice experience for him, and reinforces that he's not just staying close because of the leash attaching us. I also believe (hope?) that I'm aware enough of his body language that if I were to see him start away I'd be able to step on his leash in time. But I could be wrong, and I know I could lose him this way.

Some people would see me as irresponsible, but I think I'm developing a stronger relationship with my dog, and that he's got a richer life with more freedom (and correspondingly more responsibility).

Rescue organizations need to think carefully about whether their applications truly reveal what constitutes a "good home". Perhaps instead of rejecting applicants out of hand based on certain answers, they can simply be "red flags" to ask a couple of extra questions in an interview to find out what happened.


Christina -- I'm a big fan of off-leash walking and working on the dog following you by choice, even if they don't have to. Some day you'll find yourself in a situation where the dog won't be on a leash -- and you need to know for sure (or as for sure as you can ever be with a dog) that they will come to you and/or follow you even when they don't have to...


Brent -- I agree! Leashes can break, not be clipped on like you thought... but even without those kinds of scenarios in mind, I find my dog is more responsive to me *on leash* when he gets time off leash.

I hope the measures I'm taking will protect my dog from something happening to him, but as we saw in this story, we can never be sure. I'm glad for this post because the rescue infrastructure really needs to hear that there are many ways of being a good owner, and we need to be as compassionate of the (well-intentioned, responsible) humans as we are of the animals.


Very, very sad. Thank you for being compassionate.

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