DALLAS - A formal hearing has been set for a rescue dog that attacked a 2-year-old boy at Klyde Warren Park earlier this month.
Dallas Animal Services said the case of "Rusty" will be presented next Friday after the dog caused "serious bodily injury" when it went after a toddler at a pet adoption event.
On Thursday, the operators of that event, Dallas Pets Alive, released a new statement in which they said the animal "...most likely bit the child out of fear" because the child was "unattended."
The boy's mother vigorously disputes that account.
"He was not unattended at all. I was with him the entire time he was there. I was literally a few feet away when it happened," said his mother, Dr. Allis Cho.
As Cho explained in an interview with WFAA last week, her family was at the park two weekends ago when they came across the event. She said they received permission from a volunteer to pet Rusty, one of the rescues that was leashed. They did so without incident and moved on, but when Cho and her son Luca returned to Rusty's area, Cho said the dog attacked.
"This was a full-on mauling. The dog grabbed him, drug him to the ground and wouldn't let go," Cho said.
Photos of the incident show puncture wounds to the boy's upper torso and arm. Several men nearby rushed to get the dog off the crying child.
"They had their hands in the mouth for several minutes trying to pry it open," Cho said.
Dallas Pets Alive said it thinks the animal can be rehabilitated given it had "...no history of aggressive behavior or biting," according to the statement.
The hearing will determine if the dog, believed to be a lab and pitbull mix, s euthanized -- something Dr. Cho is still pushing for.
"We would feel guilty if he went on to attack another kid," she said.
Luca is recovering well, but there are concerns about the emotional toll.
"Obviously, he's traumatized. We have a larger dog at home," she said. "My husband's family has three large dogs, and he definitely runs away from them now."
The nonprofit declined an interview but said it has now reevaluated policies at its open adoptions.
Changes now include:
- A new easy-to-identify color-coded system. For example, a "green" animal can attend all events: Good with kids, other dogs and very social. A "red" cannot attend events.
- A formal written behavior assessment form will be kept in the dog's file to ensure that everyone in the organization knows, at all times, the behavioral needs of our adoptable animals.
- The final list of all event attendance will be approved by both behavioral and medical team leads.
- No alcohol consumption at events for anyone handling an animal (many of the adoption events are at local breweries).
- Required dog handler training for volunteers, organization leaders, and fosters. Volunteers will not be allowed to handle dogs at events without prior training.
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