LAYTON — The owners of a husky that bit off the hand and part of an arm of a 4-year-old boy have agreed to turn over the dog and a second husky to Davis County.
In return, Davis County Animal Care and Control director Rhett Nicks announced Wednesday that citations against the owners would not be filed and that the dogs would not be euthanized.
The husky injured the boy near 1100 North and 3600 West in Layton on March 3. The child's hand was not recovered and was believed to have been ingested by the dog.
It was originally reported that the boy may have been playing with the dog by sticking his hand under the fence where the dog was corralled. But the boy's mother, Hope Brown, later posted on social media that it was the dog who "went under our fence and bit Austin’s hand and then attempted to pull him back under the fence.
"Our baby lost his arm from the elbow down because it was ingested by the dog. He has multiple other bites as well as severe bruising on his face and jaw, and a black eye."
The husky, along with a second husky that was also in the yard — both males under 2 years old — were taken by animal control officers and quarantined by the Davis County Animal Care and Control facility. Nicks said other than the victim, there were no witnesses to the incident.
Those who did not want to see the dogs, named Polar and Bear, euthanized, started an online petition in an effort to save them. Earlier this month the petition had collected more than 180,000 signatures.
Nicks said at conclusion of the investigation, he knew the dogs could not be returned to the owners. Animal control representatives met with the owners on Tuesday to present a deal. The county offered to relocate the dogs to an animal rescue or animal sanctuary where they would not be euthanized, in exchange for not filing charges. The upset owners said they needed time to think it over, Nicks said.
While not trying to "strong-arm" the owners, whom Nicks described as being cooperative throughout the process, he informed them that he was required to move forward with the case. But he told them they could still call him if they changed their minds.
On Wednesday, just as animal control officers were typing up the formal charges and just as a press release was sent out stating the owners were being cited with two counts of possession of a dangerous animal, a class B misdemeanor, and two counts of abatement of public nuisance animals, the owners called to accept the deal, he said. The charges were never formally filed.
The dogs will now be relocated with an animal sanctuary. Nicks said he will look for "an organizaiton we trust" when relocating the dogs, which means the dogs may be relocated in Utah or out of state.
Nicks called the incident and the past month an "incredibly emotional situation" with no winners on either side. One family is dealing with a severely injured son, while the other is losing two beloved pets, he said.
"It's tragic all around."
After the decision was announced, the boy's mother posted a lengthy message on her Facebook page, hoping to "set the record straight."
"It was an unprovoked attack. His daddy had eyes on him the entire time and the moment Austin was pulled, John was right there. He ran right over. Austin never lost consciousness during the attack," she wrote. "When we asked Austin what happened that first few seconds he said, 'I saw a puppy nose! I touched the puppy nose and it bit my fingers and pulled me.'
"It only took a second for one of those dogs to dig under the fence just enough to get his snout and part of his head under."
Brown contends the huskies did not show normal behavior.
"We thank the Lord they won’t be coming back and our child is safe again," she wrote. "Austin is home now. We are all struggling and trying to get used to our new normal. The attack left him with only one bone below his elbow and 5 centimeters of forearm left. The doctors saved everything they could."
Brown said her son will need many more surgeries and is also being treated for post-traumatic stress disorder. She also said she and her husband have struggled emotionally.
Brown noted that her family has been verbally attacked by people who support the dogs. She said the initial statement that fire officials put out about Austin having a sock over his hand when the dog attacked him, which was based on preliminary information available at the time, caused a lot of damage. The statement has since been deleted from the fire department's online press releases.
"It just keeps getting quoted over and over. It has caused an unbelievable amount of threats and hate sent to our family. People have said the most horrible things to us. I truly pray that the people who have said the most terrible things to us during this horrific time do not have to experience what our family is experiencing. I pray you never know the anguish our family is feeling and have hundreds of people coming after you."18 comments on this story
Even with that said, one person replied to Brown's online post Wednesday accusing her and her husband of being bad parents who "just want the dogs put down."
"We know that we have so many more supportive and loving people in our corner, the hateful ones can just yell louder," Brown wrote. "To every person who’s sent us kind words, please know we have read each and every loving message to Austin during his recovery and we can’t thank you enough for your kind words."