SOUTHERN COLORADO — A legal battle will decide the fate of a St. Bernard dog accused of biting a young child in the face.
The mother of the child allegedly wants the dog put down, but the rescue the dog came from said they are fighting for his life.
News5 spoke with the director and president of the rescue in Oklahoma where the dog, named Duke, was taken care of before coming to Colorado. It is a foster-based rescue called Adriana's Saints and Angels Rescue that specializes in St. Bernards and other giant dog breeds.
"This is the last dog that I would have ever imagined having a problem with a child," said Shannon Synosky, the director, president, and co-founder of the rescue.
She also said Duke is around 1 year old.
Synosky said the circumstances that led up to the attack set Duke up for failure, and that he does not deserve to die. She said Duke had been exposed to children in the past, and had always done well with them. She said the family adopted the dog in mid-November.
"We also had a behavioral trainer evaluate him, and you know, he did fantastic with all dogs, all people, you know, no signs of anything whatsoever," Synosky said.
Synosky said the family that adopted Duke contacted her weeks before the incident happened, because Duke was fighting with the family's other dog. Synosky said she recommended having a trainer come to help, and even offered to take Duke back to Oklahoma.
According to Synosky, the family told her they would wait until after the holidays to get the trainer. Synosky said the child was bitten on Dec. 23.
A GoFundMe was set up by Vanessa Edgerton to help with the costs associated after her 5-year-old son was bitten by a St. Bernard dog they had just rescued on Dec. 23.
"I later spoke to the mother of the child who also stated, you know, the children were home alone with the dogs not secured," Synosky said.
Synosky said Duke was brought to the Humane Society of the Pikes Peak Region after the bite. She said the humane society at first told her she could pick the dog up on Jan. 3.
"We were later contacted on New Years Eve by them stating that she [the mother] had complained and said that she wanted the dog euthanized," Synosky said.
Synosky said their adoption contracts do not give the mother the right to euthanize Duke.
"Right now, we filed suit against the humane society and unfortunately they've charged me personally with owning a dangerous dog because I don't want him euthanized," Synosky said.
Colorado law defines a dangerous dog as inflicting "bodily or serious bodily injury upon or causes the death of a person or domestic animal." Synosky is being charged with ownership of a dangerous dog-bodily injury, which is a class three misdemeanor according to court records.
The humane society will be holding Duke until the courts decide otherwise. Synosky said one of her worries is that he has now been quarantined for over two weeks.
"We have to wait until the judge decides who owns the dog, if the dog is actually deemed a dangerous animal, and you know, if he lives or dies at this point," Synosky said.
Synosky said her next court date is for the arraignment of her charges. It is scheduled for Feb. 3, according to Synosky.
The Humane Society of the Pikes Peak Region issued this statement to us, regarding Duke:
"Duke, a 1-year-old St. Bernard, arrived at HSPPR on December 23. Our Animal Law Enforcement team received a call for pickup of the dog from the El Paso County Sheriff’s Department following a severe attack on a 5-year-old child requiring emergency treatment. Due to county health department requirements involving bites, the dog has been quarantined at HSPPR.
The owner of the dog requested the dog be euthanized due to the severity of the attack. However, the Oklahoma rescue from which they adopted the dog is also claiming ownership and is requesting the dog be returned to them for adoption. Because of the legal dispute over the rightful owner of the dog, we are currently holding Duke until the court system provides further direction.
At HSPPR, we practice socially conscious sheltering, meaning we work toward the best possible outcome for every animal and the community. Because public safety is a top priority, we work diligently to ensure dangerous animals are kept from harming other animals and people."