February 7, 2013 - An Army Veteran with disabilities is asking for the public's help in saving his service dog, Dutch, from court-ordered euthanasia. He says that after being punched, kicked, and hit with a metal pole for several minutes, Dutch bit his attacker and has now been accused of being a "vicious" dog.
*** For the latest updates to this article scroll to the bottom of this article ***
Dutch is a 4-year-old American Allaunt, who is a registered service dog and an important part of Jeremy Aguilar's life. According to the Aguilars, Dutch has never shown any aggressive behavior before or after the incident and is a certified AKC Canine Good Citizen.
Jeremy served in the Army, and fought in Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan and Operation Iraqi Freedom. He also was also deployed to Hurricane Katrina with the Oklahoma National Guard, which was the first unit to show up. Dutch came into Jeremy’s life a month after he married his wife Heather three years ago. Heather says that Dutch has been "the most therapeutic thing that could have ever happened" to her husband.
According to Heather, Dutch's former owner admitted to animal control officers and in court that she was beating Dutch before he bit her.
Heather says that Dutch's former owner said, "I started punching him in the face and kept punching him until my hands hurt so bad I couldn't hit him anymore," after which she grabbed a metal pole and used the pole to beat the service dog. She then pulled Dutch from her backyard into the house by his collar, and grabbed his mouth as soon as they got inside. Dutch then bit her. The woman was bitten on her leg and buttock and Dutch sustained injuries to his face and head.
The bent metal pole seen above was found in the back yard belonging to Dutch's former owner (click on image to enlarge).
After the incident, Dutch was taken to a veterinarian who evaluated Dutch's wounds. The veterinarian's report stated:
"Face swollen like he was hit. Extensive ST trauma on left side of face. Swelling extends from nose up to eye and base of ear. Some dried blood noted on dog's fur but no wounds apparent in mouth or on face/body."
"Note - dog was extremely well-mannered and sweet in exam room. He did not require restraint during his exam, even when his abdomen, testicles and swollen face were palpated."
The Aguilars say that when they saw Dutch after the incident, his eye was swollen shut and his snout had swelled to three times its normal size.
In addition to the veterinarian who evaluated Dutch's wounds (see above), other animal experts have stepped forward to commend Dutch for his temperament.
Carrie Williams is a highly recognized and experienced retired dog trainer and evaluator who has evaluated for organizations including Therapy Dogs International (TDI) and the American Kennel Club's (AKC) Canine Good Citizen Program (CGC).
"In my testing of dogs for TDI and the AKC and as a dog obedience instructor, I have dealt with a number of aggressive dogs. Dutch was not one of those dogs.", Carrie says "Dutch is a sweetheart. In 26 years of training dogs, he is one of the nicest dogs I've ever come across. That is why I'm volunteering my time to try and save his life."
Carrie evaluated Dutch over a three day period and says, "I truly believe this dog would not bite anyone unless he was provoked and felt like he was defending his life. Dutch was a joy to work with and a wonderful service dog with a great temperament."
During her evaluation, Carrie recounts several of her evaluation techniques:
"On day one of my evaluation, I think I surprised even Jeremy when I met Dutch for the first time. Upon initial contact, I approached Dutch menacingly. I then stood over him, maintaining direct eye contact, in an effort to illicit an aggressive response. Normally, a dog with aggression issues may growl at the very least. Many will snarl and snap, then move to establish a dominate position. Dutch immediately averted his eyes and lowered his head in a submissive manner. When I continued my aggressive behavior towards him he began licking my face and wagging his tail. He continued this submissive behavior until I relaxed my dominant stance. He then continued wagging his tail and licking my hand in a friendly manner.
Next, I tested him further by feeding him treats and then taking the food right out of his mouth. Common sense dictates that putting your hand in a dog's mouth is a good way to get bit, especially when you're taking away treats from a strange dog, but as soon as Dutch felt my hand in his mouth he immediately released the treat and never attempted to snatch it from my hand or nip it away. This gentle, submissive behavior when interacting with a complete stranger is rare, even in common "family dog" breeds." Read Carrie's evaluation in full here.
Corroborating Carrie's evaluation of Dutch, AKC CGC evaluator Sandie Wyman, stated, "I am the CGC evaluator that tested this sweet dog. He did pass with flying colors and even gave me a kiss afterwards. This means that he will receive a real title from AKC stating he can now visit elderly people at nursing homes. I believe this dog is anything but aggressive. I am a certified dog trainer and have also done behavior objectives on animals. Dutch is anything but aggressive."
Dutch's former owner has pressed charges against Jeremy and Dutch through the City of Montrose animal control office in Colorado. According to Heather, photos admitted to court showed that the woman’s puncture wounds from Dutch's bite did not have tears of the skin. In addition, Heather says that the woman did not receive stitches for her wounds.
Jeremy was cited with municipal ordinance 6-2-9 (A), Vicious animals. Under this ordinance, "A vicious animal is defined as any animal that, without provocation, bites or attacks persons or other animals." Heather says that although the judge agreed that Dutch was provoked, the ordinance applies to Dutch's case because he did not bite his former owner until they went inside the home and the beating occurred outside of the home. The judge ruled Dutch's bite a separate circumstance from his beating and there is now an active euthanization order for Dutch.
Ordinance 6-2-9 (A), Vicious animals carries the possibility of one year in jail. Since Dutch is currently under the care of the Aguilars, a Colorado judge ordered Jeremy to post a $500 appearance bond. According to the Aguilars, the judge warned Jeremy that if he doesn't surrender Dutch, the combat veteran will absolutely spend the whole year in jail.
Jeremy and Heather offered to send Dutch through a rehabilitation program, agreeing to the judge that if the evaluator considered Dutch aggressive, that they would surrender him. The Aguilars say that the judge told them that would only be allowed if Dutch's former owner would agree to it; Dutch's former owner refused to agree to the Aguilars' offer.
Dutch's next court date is February 14, 2013 at 10:30 am (City of Montrose municipal court). At that time, the Aguilars will learn how much of a fine and restitution they will have to pay to court and to Dutch's former owner. They will also find out if Jeremy will be sent to jail. But most importantly, they will have to surrender Dutch. The court has asked that they surrender Dutch to animal control before the court date.
The Aguilars are continuing Dutch's training in the hopes that if the judge does force them to surrender their beloved dog, that they can appeal the decision. Their primary concern leading up to the court date next week is to get the euthanasia order stopped to save Dutch's life.
What you can do to help
If you would like to help Dutch, Jeremy and Heather, here is what you can do:
- Share Dutch's story
- Sign and share the Save Dutch the Service Dog petition
- Donate to help Dutch and the Aguilars. Contributions for their legal defence can be made through PayPal to Heather Aguilar at: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Follow Save Dutch and his family on Facebook [NB this page was taken down by the Save Dutch administrators as of February 14, 2013]
Dutch with his three-year-old buddy RJ
UPDATE: February 8, 2013:
The Montrose Police Department and Montrose Animal Control spoke with Montrose Daily Press regarding Dutch's case.
Authorities said that the woman was breaking up a dogfight when the incident occured and according to her account, Dutch was the aggressor in the matter.
While attempting to break up the fight, the woman sustained severe bites. "She is fortunate to have escaped that attack with her life," said Animal Services Supervisor Mike Duncan. "She loved the dog, but she is very concerned for anyone who is going to be around that dog from now on."
Montrose Daily Press reported that authorities said that:
After hitting him failed to faze the dog, she grabbed the pole from a tiki torch to force him off the other dog, then dragged him into her home. He bit the woman in her thigh as she was trying to clean blood from the fight off of him.
The bite sank to the bone, and she had to put her hands in his mouth to pry him off. When she retreated toward her bedroom, she tripped, and Dutch attacked again, biting her buttock, again penetrating to the bone, authorities said. When she tried to pry his jaws off her, Dutch bit her finger so hard it caused a compound fracture and severed an artery.
Dutch kept slamming his body into her bedroom door after she made it inside the room. He bit also furniture and later attacked the other dog yet again.
Montrose Police Chief Tom Chinn said that the woman's medical bill is about $24,000. Authorities could not comment on the recommendation for euthanization because sentencing has not yet taken place.
Jeremy told the Montrose Daily Press that he's "dubious about some aspects of the woman's story, though he feels bad for her." He maintains that Dutch was provoked.
Dutch's story has spread virally and many readers have commented passionately regarding the case. In one discussion on the popular site reddit, vededju has posted several comments regarding the case that have addressed some of the questions readers have asked.
Regarding Dutch's service dog status, Dutch became a registered service dog after the incident.
The City of Montrose released a more detailed account of the incident here.
UPDATE: February 14, 2013
Today, at court in Montrose, Colorado, Judge Richard J. Brown upheld the order to euthanize Dutch, according to news reports.
Jeremy was fined and ordered to spend two days in jail. Dutch was not surrendered today, so Judge Brown also ordered Jeremy to turn him over.
The Aguilars are appealing the decision, and may be able to keep Dutch during the appeal. The judge ordered Animal Services to hold off on putting the dog down until all appeals are complete.
UPDATE: February 27, 2013
- According to Montrose Municipal Court clerks, an appeal for Dutch has been filed prior to the February 28 deadline to do so, as reported by The Montrose Daily Press
- Jeremy was ordered to hand over Dutch to Animal Control on February 14, but he has not turned over the dog to authorities.
- A hearing is set for May 16 to decide when Jeremy will serve his jail sentence.
- According to a KJCT8, Montrose authorities say they haven't seen Jeremy or Dutch in the past few weeks since the court's decision.
- The GJ Sentinel reports that Judge Brown is willing to consider sending Dutch to an animal sanctuary in Colorado or Utah, rather than put Dutch down. "The Court received information from Colleen at Best Friends Sanctuary in Orange County California, who indicated they have a sanctuary facility for dogs such as Dutch which would allow him to be placed at the sanctuary in their care," Brown wrote. Jeremy would be able to visit Dutch at the sanctuary. The judge added, "It seems like this might be a good alternative so that Dutch is not euthanized on the one hand, and on the other there is no exposure or risk to the public." The city of Montrose has agreed to this option. There is no response from Jeremy on this proposal.
Update: March 23, 2013
A two-day trial date for Jeremy Aguilar's appeal has been set for May 16. The trial could potentially overturn the euthanasia order for Dutch.
Update May 30, 2013
Jeremy turned himself in on Monday after an arrest warrant had been issued by the courts of Montrose when he failed to appear at an earlier hearing and relinquish Dutch. Jeremy arrived in court surrounded by a group of fellow veterans supporting him when he turned himself in, according to KJCT8 News.
"They shouldn't be doing this. They've made that man a criminal. They better let this go because they're going to have too many people behind him," said veteran Whit Bailey.
In February, after Jeremy was convicted and Dutch sentenced to be put down, Jeremy appealed the court's decision. As soon as the appeal was filed, the judge stayed the order to euthanize Dutch (ergo put it on hold) while the appeal is underway.
Jeremy was supposed to turn Dutch over to animal control at that time. However, he did not comply with the municipal court order and was supposed to appear in court on April 18 to address the matter. But when he did not turn over Dutch or appear at last month's court date, a Municipal Court warrant was issued for his arrest.
Jeremy told the court on Thursday that his former attorney had told him that he had not needed to come to court for his April 18 hearing.
According to the Montrose Daily Press, the judge said that Dutch still needs to be surrendered, but emphasized that the order to have Dutch euthanized remains stayed. He also reiterated that the court has suggested placing Dutch in an approved animal sanctuary since February and that this would be the preferred way of assuring the public's safety.
Jeremy will need to surrender Dutch in order to leave Colorado to return home to Oklahoma. If he complies with the surrender order, his contempt hearing will be cancelled.
Jeremy's attorney, Brandon Luna, said that with his appeal rights in jeapordy, Jeremy decided now was the time to come back and "show that he is indeed actively defending the case, and he's willing to cooperate with the state court and city court system."
Dutch is currently residing with a veterinarian in Oklahoma.
Update June 24, 2013
Jeremy has turned Dutch over to Montrose Animal Control. The Montrose Daily Press reported that Jeremy's attorney, Brandon Luna, said on Monday that the hand-over was made to comply with court orders and that Dutch is in no immediate danger of being put down. A trial date for the appeal has yet to be set. Luna said, "(Aguilar) made a difficult decision. He completely intends to fight for Dutch. He also has to fight for the rights he's got" at trial.
Udpdate August 23, 2013
Today, a jury of three women were chosen to hear the prosecution and defense's arguments regarding Dutch's case.
The jury found Jeremy Aguilar not guilty. According to testimony heard in court, Dutch was not involved in a dogfight and instead was alone at home with his former owner when the incident occurred.
The Western Slope Watchdog reports, "The woman's claim that Dutch had been fighting with her dog before she was bitten last November collapsed when a veterinarian from the Montrose Animal Clinic testified and offered medical records showing that the pitbull was being treated in the clinic at the time of the alleged dogfight." Read more details about Dutch's trial here.
Heather Aguilar says, "We're all headed to the animal shelter to pick him up!"
Below is a photo of Jeremy and Dutch, reunited.
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