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Help Needed: Action to save a dog from a bad owner

dancingspark

Certified Ski Diva
#1
I figured I'd try asking for advice here since I know a lot of you have doggies. Sorry this is so long, I just feel like I'm going insane and wanted to talk about it.

I moved into a place with my cousin last month. He has a 3 year old shepherd dog. She's a bit reserved, but seemed nice enough and he loves her obsessively, so I assumed she would be ok to live with.

Within a few days, it became apparent that was a very bad read of the situation. She's mostly untrained, barely gets any exercise during the week, and all attention comes in the form of my cousin smothering her with affection she doesn't seem to want. She violently attacked a dog in the park last month after slipping her collar, and this week attacked my friends' dog several times while my cousin just stood there and watched (my friend banned my cousin from ever coming over). The dog also is obsessed with chasing my cats and stalks them throughout the day, even though we have a baby gate up to keep her out of half the house. She bit me three times this week, too. My roommate's now afraid this will happen to her. Dog bites hurt!

The big problem is my cousin, who refuses to admit anything she does is bad. He justifies all of her negative behavior ("she's not hunting the cats, she just really likes them! You don't understand dogs." "My dog isn't aggressive, your friends just have bad vibes" "She doesn't bite anyone ELSE, so...take that however you want to.") He said he hasn't trained her because he's afraid she won't like him anymore if he does, and he asked me to do it because he doesn't care if she hates me (his words, not mine). He won't walk her more than once a day (and even that is spotty), he won't hire a trainer, he won't even play with her outside, even though he is home 24/7 because he is unemployed.

Oh--and he's also currently trying to adopt another dog.

I had a Come-to-Jesus talk with him last week about it and he said he'd work on training her, but denied the need for professional help and also wouldn't commit to not getting another dog. He tried to convince me this is all in my head and nothing is actually wrong. He also told me my roommate and I were free to move out if we didn't like living there...which...WHAT??

How long do I wait before I have to take really serious action? And what do I even do? Call animal control? Pay for a trainer myself? Report him to the animal shelter? Am I overreacting? I don't want the dog to get put down because of his negligence and I feel responsible for this somehow. Any advice or even just confirmation that this situation is insane would be so helpful. Thank you!!
 

Little Lightning

Ski Diva Extraordinaire
#2
Your cousin needs to realize that he is responsible for his dogs behavior. If it seriously injures another animal or person he can be held liable and the dog may have to be put down. Both of you need to understand dog behavior and how to train his dog. My guess is professional help is required. Here is a link to the Denver Dumb Friends League information on aggressive dogs. https://www.humanesociety.org/animals/dogs/tips/aggression.html Also, has the dog been fixed? That often changes behavior in dogs and cats and solves many issues.

It saddens me that so many dogs (and cats) end up euthanized because of bad behavior due to owners not taking responsibility to train them. I wonder if there is a "My Cat From Hell" version for dogs on Animal Planet.
 

dancingspark

Certified Ski Diva
#3
Also, has the dog been fixed? That often changes behavior in dogs and cats and solves many issues.
Yeah, she's fixed.

She would definitely benefit from professional training, if I can get my cousin to do it. I highly doubt it will happen unless I pay for it, though.

I definitely wish he was more responsible and had not adopted a dog. I'll be getting a dog next year, but not while I live in the same house as he does.
 

Little Lightning

Ski Diva Extraordinaire
#4
You and your cats quality of life is important too. You have 2 options, move somewhere else or insist that the dog learn some manners. The dog won't hate your cousin if he learns how to manage it properly. Both their quality of lives will be better for it.
 

bounceswoosh

Ski Diva Extraordinaire
#5
OMG. Your cousin should NOT own a dog.

I had a similar, but less egregious, situation with my brother and his dog when I moved into my brother's house years ago. His dog would be crated 12 hours a day. Sometimes would pee or poop himself in the crate. I would be the first to come home, and alongside being upset at dog's treatment, also annoyed that I was by default the person dealing with this. But the dog had no aggression issues - even got along reasonably well with my cat. Super sweet dog.

I strongly considered calling animal control. My reservations were 1) irreparable damage to my relationship with my brother, which had always been distant and 2) what would happen to the dog if I did so? What were the odds he would be adopted by a better family, vs just being euthanized? I decided between the two, that I would do what I could to help the dog and educate my brother. I decided it sucked, but could be a lot worse.

Your situation is worse. The dog has bitten people. The dog has bitten enough people that it would almost certainly have been euthanized by authorities, had they known. And the worst part is that it's not the dog's fault. Your cousin is making the situation worse. Dogs thrive on knowing what to do. When they don't get training and don't know what is expected of them, they get insecure. At best, they cause mischief and property damage. At worst ... well, you've seen it.

I would say the dog would definitely be better off in another home. Unfortunately, unless you find a rescue specifically for dogs with a history, if that exists - I'm not sure any shelter would opt to adopt this dog out rather than euthanizing. Obviously neglecting to mention the biting would make you complicit in anything that followed, even if you never knew about it.

The only actions you can take *legally* are likely to result in the dog being euthanized. I don't know. If you are willing to burn ties with your cousin, you could find someone willing to take on a tough case (there are definitely people out there!) and smuggle the dog out. But - your idiot cousin (I'm sorry, but!) will likely get another dog.

UGGGHHH I was avoiding this thread because I knew I'd have a bad reaction. This sucks =/
 

dancingspark

Certified Ski Diva
#6
I decided between the two, that I would do what I could to help the dog and educate my brother. I decided it sucked, but could be a lot worse.
Did you have success with this? I want to make sure the dog, who is definitely not at fault here, does not get put down. But I also don't know where to draw the boundary with my cousin about how much responsibility I should have in fixing the whole deal.

UGGGHHH I was avoiding this thread because I knew I'd have a bad reaction. This sucks =/
Thank you for responding anyway--I really appreciate your input. And we are agreed, my cousin is an idiot. No argument from me there.
 

Little Lightning

Ski Diva Extraordinaire
#7
Have you talked to your cousins vet. They've probably seen this behavior too and should have recommendations on what to do. What are the laws in your city about aggressive dogs? How serious have the bites been? Enough to require medical attention? My cat bit me and the bite caused my hand and arm to swell due to infection. I had read that in many locales doctors are required to report animal bites. I was worried this might happen in my situation so I took my cats health records with me when I went to urgent care. The doc was reassuring that he would not report her since she did not have a prior history of biting and house cats generally do not get exposed to diseases like rabies. He also said dog and cat bites are dangerous because the bacteria in their mouths are different than humans causing infection. Knew that about cats but not dogs.
The more I think about it talking to the vet is safe. They should be able to help you assess the situation and get advice on what your next step should be. The most important thing is to find out what is causing the dogs behavior. While it sounds like your cousin has no idea how to care for a dog it may also be reacting to the cats. Then your cats may get stressed out and start misbehaving. Sorry, I watch too much of Jackson Galaxy's show "The Cat from Hell".
 

Christy

Angel Diva
#8
This situation is long past the point where pro training is going to make this dog safe in the short term. The dog needs super top notch pro training PLUS an owner that understands there are limitations to where this dog can go and who it can be around. Your cousin has made so many bafflingly stupid decisions that I don't see how a trainer will be able to help. Training only shows you what to do, and it requires consistency and commitment. I can't imagine it would work with this dog owner. True dog aggression is also not easy to deal with. Even with great training the dog might not change--it might just be up to the owner to make good decisions to keep other dogs safe.

Baby gates are a joke for a determined dog. I would not be surprised if he kills your cats.

Someone needs to step up here--I'm very surprised none of the other dog owners whose dogs were attacked called animal control. Unfortunately I'd say it's gonna have to be you. At the very least, you can call animal control and talk to them about the situation. Ask what they recommend. This isn't the same as filing a complaint/report. If you like you can omit the part about it biting people--that would take it to a whole other level. Or be cagey-"what if it bit another person, what would happen then?" I'm a longtime volunteer at the Seattle Animal Shelter and there are a few things I can think of that we might do. We might send a Humane Law Enforcement officer to do a "welfare check" where they'd assess the situation and talk to the cousin. They would need the backstory from you as it doesn't really sound like they would walk into your home and necessarily see anything wrong. If you got your friend whose dog was attacked to file a report, that would be another step. I doubt animal control is going to seize the animal after one dog attack (that wouldn't happen here unless a dog killed a dog) but they might ban it from dog parks or take other needed measures.

Find out what organization he's trying to adopt another dog from and contact them and give them the scoop. How would you feel if he got a puppy that his current dog attacked and badly hurt, or killed? I know it's not fair this is on you, but you are one of the few people in a position to do something about it. Rather than thinking that you are doing something bad to your cousin and his dog, think about the future dog attacks you are preventing. This may make the difference between a person or another dog getting badly hurt.
 

VickiK

Angel Diva
#9
What a horror story. The problem is your cousin. He shouldn't own animals period. @Christy was very helpful. My personal feelings would be inflammatory and unhelpful, so I'll stop there.
 

dancingspark

Certified Ski Diva
#10
Have you talked to your cousins vet. They've probably seen this behavior too and should have recommendations on what to do. What are the laws in your city about aggressive dogs? How serious have the bites been? Enough to require medical attention?
I don't know if he takes her to a vet. I've been trying to figure that out, but he's been vague about whether she's been assessed recently. Laws in Denver are pretty intense about aggressive dogs. It's a petty misdemeanor if a dog attacks a person or another dog, and the dog gets put on a list...then euthanasia if it happens again. The bites haven't been serious enough to break my skin but they have bruised and left my hand/arm swollen. But a bite like that would really hurt one of my cats, and even though the dog has no access to them, I'm still worried.
 

Little Lightning

Ski Diva Extraordinaire
#11

bounceswoosh

Ski Diva Extraordinaire
#12
Did you have success with this? I want to make sure the dog, who is definitely not at fault here, does not get put down. But I also don't know where to draw the boundary with my cousin about how much responsibility I should have in fixing the whole deal.
I don't remember, unfortunately. Soon after, I met my future husband and moved out. It was maybe 15 years ago. I didn't have much experience broaching difficult subjects. I told my parents on the phone, and I believe they talked to him, actually. I remember things getting good better - not great. Soon after I moved out, he actually got married to a woman with a daughter who adored Bear, and they all moved to a house with a fenced yard in a neighborhood where my brother didn't fear that Bear would be stolen, and so I think things got better without me doing much.
 

dancingspark

Certified Ski Diva
#13
Baby gates are a joke for a determined dog. I would not be surprised if he kills your cats.
This is what I'm ultimately afraid of. I was kind of hanging back on doing anything in hopes that the situation was salvageable, but based on the comments here, it sounds like it may not be. I started looking for apartments a few weeks ago just in case. I'm thinking about relocating my cats for the short term until I can figure out another option. It would be my fault if something happened to them while I wasn't home.

This situation is long past the point where pro training is going to make this dog safe in the short term. The dog needs super top notch pro training PLUS an owner that understands there are limitations to where this dog can go and who it can be around. Your cousin has made so many bafflingly stupid decisions that I don't see how a trainer will be able to help. Training only shows you what to do, and it requires consistency and commitment.
This is a good point. Thank you, your comment was really helpful. I'm going to call animal control today and see what they say. This all totally sucks but I think I needed to hear it. I don't want to be complicit in any of this and/or keep getting bitten.
 
#14
Good luck and let us know what happens. I was writing this below then saw your last post and I'll still keep it. I totally think you should get your cats out of that.

Also
NO.

I think a lot of people are reluctant to report things like this, which doesn't do anyone any favors. All is does is allow the dog to potentially badly hurt someone else. My neighbor was badly attacked by a German Shepherd at the Airbnb where her friend was staying. She walked through the back gate to the MIL apt where the friend was, and the dog was loose and just attacked. She didn't want to call the police/animal control and the people paid her dr bills and were very apologetic. She couldn't use her hand for 6 weeks, and the day earlier she'd visited her friend with her infant daughter in her arms. There is no way that is the first sign of that behavior in that dog, and being territorial isn't necessarily a bad/unmanageable thing, but to operate an airbnb with that dog on the property??? That's the kind of escalation hopefully you can prevent by getting this dealt with now.

How is it that none of the people whose dogs were attacked made him pay vet bills? Maybe his come to Jesus moment will happen when he starts having to fork over $$$$. Does he realize he can get sued?

I have a friend whose Mastiff, who she got as a puppy and was well socialized, etc, became increasingly dog aggressive as it grew up. She did tons of training but it didn't make the dog safe around other dogs. Her dog very badly attacked a couple of dogs, and also bit a couple people during it's life. She basically spent that dog's whole life terrified her dog would hurt another animal or person, and she more or less arranged her life around this. She loved the dog dearly and it was wonderful with her and her husband but they lived with self imposed constraints on who could come over, when they could vacation (her dad was the only person that could sit), etc. You have to be like that to have a dog like your cousin's.

Laws in Denver are pretty intense about aggressive dogs. It's a petty misdemeanor if a dog attacks a person or another dog, and the dog gets put on a list...then euthanasia if it happens again.
If one is charged with a petty misdemeanor, that should get them to recognize the gravity of the situation, and if they don't and they allow it to happen again they shouldn't have the dog. Yes it does suck for the dog, but frankly I'd rather have one dog euthanized than 10 dogs badly injured or worse.
 
#15
I agree it's horrible. But honestly, it is probably out of your power to fix it It's not your problem. Animal control may tell you to file a complaint. But if you do not own the dog you may have to let the whole situation go, as much as that seems wrong. You might have to move out. Remember the Serenity Prayer?
"Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference". Now, you could attempt to take possession of the dog when you move out and actually do something with it, but depending on your cousin this may get you arrested for theft of personal property.
 

Little Lightning

Ski Diva Extraordinaire
#16
What is your reaction to the dog when it misbehaves? Do you give it the same signals as your cousin does or do you react differently? I just read your comment that he won't take her outside or walk her in spite of being home and unemployed. It sounds like your cousin has a lot more problems than the dog. He needs to grow up and take responsibility for himself and yes, I agree, it sounds like it would be better to rehome the dog, if it's possible, than allow it to become a danger to him and others. I'm thinking of the recent situation of the 2 pit bulls that killed their owner. Such an unexplainable tragedy.
 

dancingspark

Certified Ski Diva
#17
How is it that none of the people whose dogs were attacked made him pay vet bills? Maybe his come to Jesus moment will happen when he starts having to fork over $$$$. Does he realize he can get sued?
I honestly have no idea how he's gotten so lucky. I asked my friend if she wanted to report him and she said no, because her dog just had a cut on his nose and it would heal easily. I was there for the park attack too, and that woman was so stunned and in shock. I made sure she and her dog were ok, but she just walked away. I kind of wish she had reported him because that would have headed it off. He does know he can be sued, and this is getting a bit more into the backstory than I intended, but this kid has a trust fund and money means nothing to him. So the threat of getting sued did not work when I tried it.
 

Gloria

Ski Diva Extraordinaire
#18
I rescued an aggressive do ONCE. Unfortunately at 3 years it's really hard to break a dog of all aggression it's pretty much a pattern at this point. The biggest mistake is too much affection, aggressive dogs need a firm owner that is a leader, not a coddler which brings out alpha tendencies. I know that seems counter-intuitive but sadly it's true the owner has to be the alpha. German Shepard's often times need a more strict owner as they can be headstrong in general. It doesn't sound like a good situation, I am sorry you have to deal with it. I don't know if there is a right answer.
 

Little Lightning

Ski Diva Extraordinaire
#19
My SO recently got bit while riding his bike though a local park. The dog broke skin but the drove to the local drugstore and bought him Neosporin. Her explanation was she had just recently adopted him and didn't know his behavior well. She also sent the dogs vaccination records along with her name and address in case he needed it. The dog was on an expandable leash so it got away from here before she could do anything.
 

VickiK

Angel Diva
#20
I absolutely hate to say this, but euthanasia might be a kindness to the dog.
 

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