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Dog that Killed Las Vegas Toddler is Still in Custody

The giant family dog, Onion, that savagely killed a Las Vegas baby boy on his first birthday is still being held by Henderson Animal Control, pending the decision of the Nevada Supreme Court on whether to consider releasing the animal to a New York rescue organization.

On April 27, 2012, Jeremiah Eskew-Skahan was celebrating his first birthday at his grandmother’s home in Henderson, Nevada, near Las Vegas. All day, little Jeremiah and Onion, the family’s 6-year-old, 120-pound Mastiff/Rhodesian Ridgeback, had shared toys and played together happily. That was the last day of Jeremiah’s life.

At bedtime, the little boy crawled across the room to give Onion one more kiss goodnight. As he tried to pull himself up higher, the toddler held onto the fur of the gentle giant that had been his trusted friend since his birth. But this time, Onion grabbed little Jeremiah’s face in his teeth, tearing his flesh and shaking him until his neck broke. Jeremiah died a few hours later at University Medical Center.

After the savage, unprovoked attack that killed the baby, Jeremiah’s grandmother, Elizabeth Keller, signed Onion over to Henderson Animal Care & Control, for euthanasia, in accordance with the City’s vicious dog ordinance.

“He killed a 1-year-old boy,” Keith Paul, spokesperson for the Henderson Police Department, told theLas Vegas Sun.“Barring a court order,…When a dog kills or seriously injures a human, which this dog did and was declared vicious, city law stipulates he would then be euthanized.

But that didn’t happen because a New York non-profit animal organization, called the Lexus group, intervened and filed a motion for a temporary restraining order in Clark County District Court to stop the city from euthanizing Onion. .

Lexus Project president Robin Mittasch said, “It's a tragedy what happened. But on the other hand, the dog didn't do anything wrong. He doesn’t know what he did.” She argued that Onion should be released to them and placed in a sanctuary near Denver, Colorado, for the rest of his life.

That motion was denied by Judge Joanna Kishner at a hearing in late May. Kishner said Lexus did not follow proper procedure and had no legal standing to take the dog because Onion became the property of the city when the owner relinquished him to the animal-control agency. However, the judge did not set forth in her ruling what action the city should take with the dog.

Lexus Project immediately petitioned the Nevada State Supreme Court to consider the case, claiming that it could not get a fair hearing in District Court.

Since then the case has languished. The Nevada Supreme Court has thus far failed to render a decision on whether it will even hear the case, and the city of Henderson has consequently been unable to euthanize the dog.

Spokesman Keith Paul said nothing has changed with the animal’s status since Lexus filed its first documents with the Supreme Court in June. “There’s no change. We’re still waiting.”

And so is Onion. He is being well cared for and is kept in two large connected cages at the Henderson Animal Control and Care Facility. “I know he’s seen regularly by a veterinarian,” Paul told theLas Vegas Sun. “He can easily stand and walk around and move from one side to the other.”

The Supreme Court’s public information officer told reporters that the high court has scheduled Lexus attorneys to file briefs with the court by Sept. 24, in which Lexus is expected to lay out its legal arguments for being able to take over custody of the dog from the city.

“This is just the start of the formal process. The city’s attorneys would then have 30 days to respond to Lexus’ brief. Lexus would then get to reply in writing. After that, it would be up to the Supreme Court to decide what to do, reported theSun.

According to the court spokesperson, “They can decide it on the briefs; they can schedule oral arguments. Depending on what other motions come forward, they can rule on those.”

So Onion could be in those cages two months or more until the Supreme Court even formally begins studying the matter to decide his fate and the grieving family of baby Jeremiah Eskew-Skahan can finally hope for closure in this tragedy.



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