One of the biggest viral sensations to hit the Internet this month was the video of Tara the cat fighting off a dog who attacked a four-year-old child. If you haven’t watched it yourself, you almost certainly know of it. The story has brought out a range of emotions in many who’ve heard it: Whether your response is amusement, wonder, outrage, or sentimentality, no one has been unmoved by it.
Tara the cat now has thousands of fans and a Facebook page dedicated to her fast action. Scrappy, the dog that she fought off, was euthanized this week at the request of his owners, despite many outspoken supporters.
Scrappy, a Labrador–Chow mix approximately eight months old, was sent to the city of Bakersfield Animal Care Center immediately after the attack. He was held there for the requisite 10 days to check for rabies, then euthanized over the weekend.
Liz Acosta has already chronicled the details of the case in a thoughtful, concise article that encapsulates the different perspectives about the dog’s fate.
While the dog might have gone quietly, his supporters have been extremely vocal. There were at least three online petitions calling for him to be pardoned, and the shelter itself received a combination of abuse and impassioned pleas to let him be adopted by another family. Many even volunteered to do so themselves. But of course, it’s not as easy as that. The attack on Jeremy Triantafilo was more than just a playful nip; after the attack, the boy needed 10 stitches in his left calf. According to shelter workers, Scrappy continued to be aggressive after arriving at the shelter, even when workers attempted to give him food and water.
It’s never easy to say whether a dog should be put down. It seems clear that it would have been very, very difficult to adopt Scrappy out into a new home. In a video interview by the Bakersfield Californian (also included in Liz’s article), columnist Lois Henry and Julie Johnson, director of the Animal Care Center, make some excellent points about how the media exposure inspired people to invest passion and energy in Scrappy that thousands of other dogs across the country also desperately need.
“I applaud their love of animals,” Henry said. “I’m glad that they have so much compassion. But I’m sorry, this dog attacked a child. If it had gotten to the child’s throat, we would be having a very different conversation right now. … If people have so much care and compassion and concern for this particular animal, why don’t you use that energy to adopt and save the many, many other dogs that have never bitten anyone? They’re going to be put down simply for lack of space. And that’s the real tragedy here. For people to focus on this one animal that garnered a lot of attention through the media is just misplaced energy.”
That’s something to think about seriously. Anyone who cares for animals will feel a certain sadness at the news that Scrappy was put down. But it’s also important to realize that the decision was not simple or easy, and that adopting him out would have carried risk for the community and the shelter. Caring for and training an aggressive dog takes much more than good intentions and a love for animals. For those who feel grief or outrage at the news that Scrappy was euthanized, remember that there are thousands of dogs waiting in shelters across the country who need your love and compassion every bit as much, if not more so.
What do you think? Was euthanizing Scrappy the right option in the end?
Read about dogs in the news on Dogster: