Bust Dog Evaluation: Live or Die?

The dogs seized from a Virginia sheriff’s deputy in connection with dogfighting charges have reportedly been evaluated. Subsequently, 12 were killed and 7 are being put into rescue:

[Lt. Doug] Perry says that was the case with the 19 dogs who survived after being seized from the home of former Richmond Sheriff’s deputy Dave Robinson, who is charged with animal cruelty and dog fighting.

He says experts from the Virginia Animal Fighting Task Force, and local group Ring Dog Rescue came in to evaluate the surviving dogs, to see if any could be rehabilitated and adopted.

But the experts determined 12 dogs were beyond help.

“They were just not adoptable, these dogs were extremely aggressive, very dangerous dogs, we did not want to do that, but we had to do that, and it was in the best interest of the animal, just to put them down,” explained Perry.

12 out of 19 had to be killed based upon evaluations? These numbers scare me. I looked up the Virginia Animal Fighting Task Force to see if their evaluation methods were discussed on their website but I didn’t find that information. Ring Dog Rescue has more info on their site although I did not see anything about the evaluation methods.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m always thrilled to hear that evaluations are being performed on dogs at kill shelters. But the evaluations must be fair and must be performed by at least one qualified person (preferably a small group). The evaluators should be experienced with rehoming dogs seized from fight cases and familiar with the behavior of dogs in a shelter environment. The evaluation is a useful tool to have in the toolbox. It can help rescues to match dogs to the most appropriate adopters. But it shouldn’t be used as a sole means in determining life or death for a dog.

Maybe I’ve got the entire dog behavior issue terribly misunderstood but to my mind, the overwhelming majority of healthy dogs in shelters are adoptable and will test as such in a fair behavioral evaluation by a qualified individual. Some will be “more” adoptable – that is, they can be matched with a variety of homes – while others will have special needs and their pool of potential adopters will be narrower. Hardly any – and again this is just my thought – will need to be killed based upon a fair evaluation. Am I totally in la-la land or does this make sense?

I am very interested to know what testing methods were used on each of these VA dogs, how long the tests took, who conducted the tests and who interpreted the results. Because something seems very wrong here. An evaluation’s purpose is to help match the dog with the right owner so that a successful relationship can develop. It’s not a means to justify killing dogs who don’t “pass”. The test shouldn’t be a pass/fail, especially when fail=death. It’s one useful way to steer a dog in the right direction as far as training and setting goals for the future. One of those goals should always be rehoming. I understand there can be exceptional cases where a dog is deemed unmanageable and unsafe but that would be after many attempts at rehab training, not after one test. And in this case the majority of dogs were deemed worthy of nothing except death.

On a related note, I read a very interesting post today at KC Dog Blog regarding temperament testing for shelter dogs. Well worth a read.

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