In a shocking and tragic turn of events, Minneapolis Animal Care and Control put down Putz, the pitbull of Debra Peters, who was seized by the office on October 6, 2011 after the dog bit her ex-husband while defending her during a domestic dispute.
Peters said Putz was only trying to defend her and himself. Her ex-husband had spat in her face before kicking the dog. When he took a swing at Peters, Putz came to her defense, biting the abuser on the wrist and stopping him from attacking.
”(He) kicked Putz and I said, ‘What did you do that for?’ and he went to swing his arm at me and that is when Putz jumped up and got him on his wrist,” Peters said. "He was only protecting him and me.” Her ex's injuries were confined to that one wrist.
The Coalition for Animal Rights Education (CARE) group stepped in to help Peters, convinced the dog meant only to grab the man before he could strike. ”If that dog had been angry or aggressive enough to want to do that guy in for his actions he wouldn't have had one bite and release with no puncture wound,” said Collen Meyer of CARE. "That dog probably was capable of doing far more in a short period of time."
The dog's brave act would eventually cost Putz his life. Minneapolis Animal Care and Control was asked to assess the dog, and when they did so, they declared him dangerous and recommended that he not be returned to Peters. "What we see is that if it has bitten it has a great chance that it may bite again," said Dan Niziolik with Minneapolis Animal Care and Control. Minneapolis Animal Care and Control provided the following observations as justification for PUtz's euthanization:
• That Putz was territorial and guarded his cage.
• That he didn’t sit on command.
• That he didn't respond to the vet’s touch. Ignored her patting.
Given the length of time Putz was separated from Peters, and isolated in a shelter, it would seem natural that any dog would be stressed by such surroundings and not react in a social or "happy" way. "After being locked up for so long, of course any dog is going to be jumping around, sniffing, playing with the dog toys,” Peters said.
The vet's note also stated that when a dog with bite history is "large, has great strength and no particular interest in pleasing people, it is my opinion he is not an acceptable pet."
”Who says that dog has to be nice to her?” Meyer said. “There are people who would give her the same reaction and she wouldn't put them on death row.”
Ironically, the past history of the ex-husband did not appear to have bearing on Putz's case. Police records showed a number of domestic calls at the home. Once, Debra's ex-husband was arrested after she told police he threatened to cut the throat of her previous dog while holding a large knife.
There is also another unsubstantiated report where her ex husband claims she told Putz to attack him and that he bit him in the face. Peters denies that. But the city also used this unverified incident for their case. They also decided Peter's could not own a dog over 20 lbs because she has a felony on her record.
”I just think if he were a human and intervenes for this abused woman he would be called a hero not a biter,” Meyer said.
Peters had paid kennel fees and done whatever the city asked in the past three months (she paid to have him neutered and microchipped) in the hopes they would spare him, even if they gave him to someone else, which appeared to have been an option at one point, but it fell through. In a last ditch effort animal welfare groups offered Putz a permanent home at a sanctuary where he would never be offered for adoption. But in the end it did not matter. The judge in the case disregarded the offer and ordered that Putz be put to death.
On Saturday, that order was carried out, and the dog who gave everything he had to save Debra Peters drew his last breath, and the dog she had bottle fed as a baby was gone.
Many involved in the case are justifiably furious, and believe that the city has made a tremendous mistake that will have serious repercussions in the future. “The dog had gone to protect his owner against an abusive situation and ended up at animal control,” said Meyer. Worse that that, he ended up dead. It would seem that the system failed both Peters and Putz in this case.
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