Phyllis M. Daugherty's recent article about shelter dogs asks the question, "do California animal shelters and rescues have a right to release dangerous dogs?" (Phyllis M. Daugherty, Do CA Animal Shelter and Rescues Have a Right to Release Dangerous Dogs?, City Watch, June 2019.) It's the right question at the right point in time. In the past several years, the shelter / rescue / foster industry has been wracked by scandal after scandal:
- Shelter dogs killed 7 of the 36 Americans killed by dogs in 2018. (https://blog.dogsbite.org/2019/05/2018-dog-bite-fatality-statistics-discussion.html).
- Shelters and rescues have been caught releasing dangerous dogs to the public. (https://www.animals24-7.org/2015/09/06/albuquerque-city-shelter-released-dangerous-dogs/).
- Shelters and rescues have routinely lied to families about the bite history of dogs. (https://www.animals24-7.org/2018/05/05/how-a-shelter-blackjacked-adopters-with-the-nanny-dog-myth/).
- At least one shelter manager has been criminally prosecuted for rehoming vicious dogs. (https://www.animals24-7.org/2014/06/23/stamford-shelter-manager-is-first-in-u-s-to-be-charged-with-reckless-endangerment-for-rehoming-dangerous-dogs/).
- A shelter manager gave two vicious pit bulls back to their owner after learning that the court ordered the dogs euthanized. (https://www.animals24-7.org/2017/10/30/shelter-director-resigns-in-maine-lost-pit-bulls-case/).
- A shelter gave dogs and cats to a university for experiments on the animals, and stated the animals were "adopted" or "transferred to rescue." (https://www.animals24-7.org/2019/05/02/should-giving-shelter-dogs-cats-to-university-labs-count-as-live-release/).
- Shelter dogs have died in transit as they have been shuffled from state to state and from the USA to Canada. (https://www.animals24-7.org/2019/06/06/why-is-the-aspca-stonewalling-about-the-deaths-of-20-dogs-in-transport/).
- Rescues have been accused of using donated funds to buy heroin and of giving dogs to dogfighters and convicted animal abusers. (https://www.animals24-7.org/2016/04/25/viet-shelter-sold-dogs-for-meat-u-s-shelters-sold-dogs-to-fighters/).
As I have said, the new definition of a rescue dog is "a dog you need to be rescued from." When I hear "shelter dog" I think, "gimme shelter!"
Only the State of Virginia has banned lying to potential adopters about the bite history of a dog. (https://www.animals24-7.org/2018/05/30/virginia-bars-shelters-rescues-from-hiding-dogs-bite-history/). Contrast that to Los Angeles, where there is an official policy to NOT tell unwitting, ignorant folks the breed of the dog they are looking at, in order to get the pit bulls adopted. That policy is also in effect in other cities.
The shelter / rescue / foster business must not become an axis of evil. We cannot leave it to lawmakers to solve this problem, apparently, because they can't even come to the obvious conclusion that pit bulls present far too much risk of serious injury and therefore need to be eliminated from the planet. Injured people and dedicated lawyers are the only solution I see to this. Phyllis Daugherty's article mentions some of the legal grounds to sue. I myself have successfully sued animal control, rescues and fosters for dog attacks by rescue dogs. It is difficult but can and should be done when warranted.