Death Watch: Neville the Dog

Neville the dog's euthanization order appealed

Neville (courtesy Austin Pets Alive!)

Last month a 2-year-old boy was bitten on the cheek by Neville, a 30-pound lab mix and Austin Pets Alive! shelter dog. The wound required 16 stitches to close; Neville was transported to bite quarantine. Two weeks later, on Oct. 7, Austin Municipal Court Judge Ferdinand Clervi ordered Neville be euthanized after the parents requested Neville be destroyed. The incident has now ballooned to epic proportions, due mostly to the extensive local media coverage and a wildly successful petition.

Neville came to APA! from San Antonio, and had been previously placed in a foster home. Though he ended up back at the shelter, APA! media contact Amanda Potter-Laycock said Neville didn't have a record of previous violence. "He didn't show any signs of aggression," she confirmed.

The day of the incident Neville was out in the play yard with four or five other dogs. APA! claims they told the toddler's parents to keep their son off the ground while in the yard – a "typical directive" for families with small children, according to Potter-Laycock. The order wasn't followed, and the little boy approached Neville from behind. Minutes later, Neville snapped, opening a sizable gash in the boy's face. Due to the incident, APA! created a policy which will prohibit small children from being in play yards with multiple dogs ­– a policy that might've spared the boy's face, had it been in place.

APA! appealed Judge Clervi's original decision, which sent the case from municipal court to Travis County. Though the proceedings have started over, APA! still requested, and obtained, a temporary stay of destruction on Oct. 21. Travis County Attorney David Escamilla said the order wasn't technically necessary because the entire process would start over in the county and Clervi's order is no longer in effect.

"Everything is stayed because the case has started over," Escamilla said. "You could argue that you don't need a temporary injunction, but I don't blame Austin Pets Alive! for being concerned. They wanted to guard against any mistakes or misunderstandings."

In addition to the petition's over 230,000 signatures, a Save Neville Facebook page has over 1,300 likes, and has been a resource for people in town and out to get information.

"For me, just being a part of that and seeing the way people are responding – I get chills, and was brought to tears multiple times just seeing the outpouring of love that people had for a dog that they didn't know," said Kirsten Tait, an APA! foster and volunteer, who helps run the page as a moderator.

Tait said she's had the experience herself of going to the shelter with young children. Her two children were 3-and-a-half and 5 years old when their family went through the adoption process last year. She said shelter staff warned her about keeping the kids close, and that they only saw one dog at a time.

"I would feel responsible for the situation if it were my child," Tait said. "And I would not make a request to have the dog euthanized – to be as blunt and straightforward as I can. And if it was the exact situation, I had put my child down on the ground and they were bit, I just don't see it as the animal's fault in this situation."

Neville is currently housed by Animal Control, but is in no immediate danger of being euthanized. The court proceedings continue, but APA! remains hopeful for a positive outcome. In the case that Neville is allowed to live and be placed in another home, Potter-Laycock is confident they will find someone willing.

"We have so many offers," she said. "So many people came forward and said, 'We'd love to adopt Neville.' ... So many people want to save him, help him, I think we'll find a home pretty quickly."

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Ferdinand Clervi, Amanda Potter-Laycock, Austin Pets Alive!, Neville

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