In early April, a 1-year-old family Beagle named Rufus did a very bad thing — he bit a 4-year-old boy, the boy he lived with, bad. The boy’s lip needed stitches. We won’t downplay the severity of the bite.
But Rufus could die from it. Orange County (Florida) Animal Services has the dog down for euthanasia as an aggressive dog.
The circumstances, however, don’t paint the dog as aggressive. According to Rufus’ owner Nikki West, she was preparing Rufus some new wet food and he became very excited. The boy came running around the corner, startling the dog, and the dog turned and bit — a “snatch and release bite,” as she says on the Save Rufus Facebook page. West says Rufus has never shown aggression before.
“He was so excited about his treat,” Nikki told ClickOrlando.com. “He was on my legs, he was excited, and Chazz came running around the corner excited to show me his new haircut, and it happened that fast.”
She immediately took her son to the hospital. The hospital called Orange County Animal Services. And that night at 10 p.m., an officer came to Nikki’s house.
The officer said the dog needed to be tested for aggression. As Nikki writes on her Facebook, “He is not an aggressive dog, so I signed the papers, given what the officer said, and trusted that he would be tested and in my mind he would do fine.”
Nikki thought Rufus would come right back to her. She was wrong. When she called animal control, she was told her family dog would die. Those papers she signed on that confused, tragic night stated that the dog would be euthanized.
“I would have never have thought that this would have happened when I signed those papers,” Nikki said.
As for Rufus, he’s sitting in a cage. Though at first the family couldn’t visit the dog, they recently got to play with Rufus in the outdoor play area. Rufus and the boy he bit are still amazing friends — they’re family, after all.
But Rufus was back in the cage a short time later.
“He’s scared. He’s just a scared little puppy in there,” Nikki said.
However, thanks to intense media interest, Nikki’s popular Save Rufus campaign, and a Change.org petition with more than 100,000 signatures, Rufus might come out okay. Her lawyer Jamie Halscott appealed the decison, and they’re awaiting a hearing.
“This isn’t a case of a dangerous dog that got loose and hurt someone, it’s a family pet and an incident that happened inside the family,” said Halscott.
Plus, even Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs seems to be on Nikki’s side. She met with Rufus over the weekend, posted pictures to her Twitter, and said she hoped for “a positive resolution” for Rufus.
We’ll let you know the outcome when Rufus has his day in court.