History of aggressive dog that bit child was disclosed to animal rescue, says previous owner
Rescue says volunteer did not pass along details about dog’s past
The previous owner of an aggressive dog that was adopted by a Manitoba family and bit their child said he disclosed the dog's history to the animal rescue group that arranged the adoption.
Danny Wells and his former partner got the dog about six years ago when it was a puppy, and said the dog had behavioural issues from the start.
"We were very honest because we didn't want this to happen," said Wells, who lives in Minneapolis.
Paul and Arlene McDonald, who live in Carberry, Man., adopted the dog named Griz at the beginning of June from the Homeless and Injured Animal Rescue of Canada, or HIARC.
The next morning the dog bit their 11-year-old son in the neck, knocking the boy down the stairs. His wounds were mostly superficial scratches and some bruises but the McDonalds decided to put the dog down.
They later learned through medical records the dog had a history of anxiety and aggression, which they say they had not been told about. The rescue had said they were not made aware of the dog's history.
Wells spoke to CBC News over the phone and said the dog received medication and training throughout its life, but recently became unmanageable for the couple, who have split up.
"[Griz had] horrible separation anxiety. Any apartment we moved into wanted to kick us out because he would scream and scream and scream for hours if we left him," said Wells.
The dog was also not good with other dogs unless it was a controlled encounter, Wells said, and even guests to their home had to follow strict rules.
"Don't talk to the dog, don't pet the dog, let him come to you," he said.
"We didn't trust him around other children." said Wells, who has a young son.
The couple came to the conclusion they could no longer care for Griz so they tried to find him a new home.
"[We tried] every rescue, no one would take him with his issues," he said.
'This seemed like a miracle'
Wells and his former partner took Griz to meet with several people who were hoping to take him, but they all declined after learning of his issues. Griz bit a man at one of the last introductions with prospective adopters, and the couple decided he would likely need to be euthanized.
The Minneapolis family was contacted by a woman who was "a friend of a friend" about a rescue in Canada that would be willing to take him, Wells said.
"This seemed like a miracle," he said.
"This lady told us … that this is a perfect dog for this rescue, they take on dogs like that. And her friend that runs [the rescue] is a dog trainer and is going to work with him and make sure that anyone they adopt [him] to knows all of his issues," he said. "We really trusted her."
Wells met with the woman the day before Griz was scheduled to be put down and handed him over.
"This was kind of a last ditch effort to let him live and have a good life."
He said he told the woman about Griz's history with anxiety, his aggression toward other dogs, and that he should not go to a family with kids.
Wells said he also told her about the bite at Griz's meeting with a potential adopter.
"It was not a serious bite, it was a warning bite. It drew blood and we told her that," Wells said.
Rescue says they weren't told
HIARC told CBC News the information about Griz's past was not disclosed to them.
"If that would have been the case we would not have taken the dog," said Michael Purkhardt, a director with HIARC.
Purkhardt said a volunteer, who took the dog from Wells, fostered the dog for a week in the U.S. before bringing it to Canada. He said this volunteer told the rescue a different story about the dog's past.
"That he was great with kids and other dogs," Purkhardt said.
CBC News spoke with the woman who took the dog from Wells, and drove him to Manitoba where he was handed to the McDonald family, but she did not want to be interviewed.
She denied being a volunteer for the rescue and said anything the owners told her about Griz was passed on to the rescue.
"She is a volunteer because she's doing this on our behalf, she talked with the owner on our behalf," Purkhardt insisted.
'I feel horrible for the family'
HIARC directors never physically saw Griz, and none of them contacted Wells personally or asked for medical records.
Wells was surprised when he learned Griz had been dropped off with the family shortly after crossing the border and was never seen by the rescue.
"Shocked actually, because that's exactly what [the person who took Griz] told us she wouldn't do," he said.
"I feel horrible for the family, and for Griz, that he didn't get a chance like I thought he was going to, and that he bit a child," said Wells.
Wells said he wished he had put Griz down himself so he could have been there.
History of animal important: Humane Society
The Winnipeg Humane Society would not comment on what happened in this case but said they try to gather all the information possible on an animal before placing it in a foster home or putting it up for adoption.
"Every case is individual and it all starts with the amount of information that we can gather at the front end," said Javier Schwersensky, CEO of the Winnipeg Humane Society.
Before accepting a surrendered animal, the Humane Society tries to speak with all previous caregivers. They also ask for access to medical records, he said.
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Each dog taken by the Humane Society is also seen by staff at the shelter and assessed medically and behaviorally.
Getting an accurate history is not an exact science, Schwersensky said.
"Sometimes people are more forthcoming, sometimes they are not," he said.
If there's any questions about an animal's history or behaviour, staff spend more time with the animal before it goes on the adoption list, he said.
"Of course we want the best possible outcome for every single pet, but we also have a responsibility with the community," Schwersensky said.
HIARC plans changes
HIARC said they will make changes to the way they work with volunteers and put communications about animal histories in writing, but said changing their policies won't guarantee people are being truthful.
"Policies will not change anything and there's no way we can dig far enough to know that they were lying in the first place," Purkhardt said.
He also said the rescue would make more of an effort to get medical records of animals they take into their care and not trust the word of their volunteers.
"We're gonna find out where the tattoo is and we're going to call all of the vets that have been involved, even if there's more than one, we're going to call the owners directly, we're going to bypass the volunteers," he said.