Les Golden, a Chicago-area dog rescuer, is appealing to officials in Henderson, Nevada to spare the life of Onion, the Mastiff-Rhodesian Ridgeback that killed Jeremiah Eskew-Shahan in a brutal mauling last week. The attack occurred on April 27 after the family celebration of Jeremiah’s first birthday.
The group of “dog lovers” is urging city officials to release the 6-year-old dog to a sanctuary near Denver, Colorado, where they claim the animal could spend the rest of his life.
Although he has never met Onion, Golden is sure that, “This dog will never harm another soul.” “The dog deserves to be saved,” he told WGN-TV on a news video, claiming that the family just “wants revenge.”
The request is opposed by Onion's owners, who voluntarily relinquished the pet to animal control officials for euthanasia after he killed Jeremiah when the baby crawled over and grabbed onto the 120-pound dog to help himself stand up and to give the dog a goodnight kiss.
The child's grandmother, Elizabeth Keller, says she leaned over to pick Jeremiah up when Onion suddenly attacked. The dog latched his jaws around the boy's face and head and shook him viciously. Although Jeremiah’s father, Chris, immediately rushed downstairs to free the boy, Jeremiah died within hours after arriving at the hospital.
“For what he did to my son, he deserves to be punished,” father Christopher Shahan told the Review-Journal. “I've already accepted the fact that he's dead.”
Henderson animal control officers declared Onion a vicious dog, which requires euthanasia following a state-mandated quarantine which will soon end. “The dog attacked and killed a child,” animal control spokesman Keith Paul said. “It would be irresponsible of us to allow this dog to be adopted out.”
Lisa Kavanaugh, who runs a 35-acre ranch near Denver called Blue Lion Rescue, said she would welcome Onion. “If it's an accident, why not give him a chance?” Kavanaugh toldChicago Tribune reporters... “He's never, ever going to get a chance to hurt anybody else.”
A visit to the Blue Lion Rescue website shows a number of mainly large-breed dogs who have histories of aggression and are up for adoption. Among them is a Bassett Hound named, Louie, whose biography reads, “Here’s the story…I was with Bassett Hound Rescue and I flunked all of the foster homes they put me in. I’ve had a problem with me opening my mouth and putting your body part in it. It’s called “biting syndrome…I’m looking for a new home. I do need a person who is a pack leader and willing to put me in my place if need be…”
A thoughtful critic named Madeline C. wrote to the Chicago Tribune, “People who come to the rescue of killer dogs are of the same ilk as women who write love letters to and sometimes marry imprisoned serial killers and other murderers. For some people…reading about someone (or something) in the news creates a lurid cerebral intimacy. But with dog freaks, I think there’s also a perverse sort of pride in considering a dog's life to be worth the same as, or even more than, that of a human life. They see saving a dog that killed a human being, even an innocent child, as the ultimate badge of tolerance…”