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January 28, 2015

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Dog that killed baby still caged in Henderson

Documents show Supreme Court has tried unsuccessfully to have the case mediated

Dog attacks, kills infant

KSNV coverage of fatal dog attack and interview with grief-stricken father, April 28, 2012.

Judge rules on euthanizing dog

KSNV coverage of judge's decision about euthanizing Onion, the dog that mauled a 1-year-old child, May 13, 2012.

The fate of Onion, the dog that killed a Henderson baby in April, is still unclear as lawyers for a group that wants to save it continue to try to get the Nevada Supreme Court to take up the matter.

Meanwhile, the 120-pound, 6-year-old Mastiff/Rhodesian ridgeback is healthy and is being cared for in two connecting cages at the Henderson Animal Control and Care Facility, according to a city police spokesman.

“We’re still waiting on a decision from the Nevada Supreme Court,” Keith Paul, public information officer for the Henderson Police Department, said Thursday.

Paul declined to comment on documents filed in the Supreme Court that show the court tried to get the case settled in a nonpublic mediation meeting last week, but that meeting was unsuccessful.

Onion was turned over to Henderson animal control officers by its owner, Elizabeth Keller, on April 27 after the dog attacked her grandson, Jeremiah Eskew-Skahan, who was at her home to celebrate his first birthday.

The boy reportedly crawled to the dog and pulled on Onion's fur to stand up, police said. The dog grabbed the boy by his face and began shaking him, police said. The boy died at University Medical Center.

After the tragedy, the city was expected to euthanize Onion, in accordance with its vicious dog ordinance. But a group called the Lexus Project intervened.

The Oceanside, N.Y., nonprofit organization has offered to provide funds to place and care for the dog in an animal sanctuary outside Denver. Lexus filed a motion for a temporary restraining order in Clark County District Court to stop the city from euthanizing the animal.

Judge Joanna Kishner, however, denied Lexus’ motion at a hearing in May. In her ruling, Kishner did not determine what action the city should take with the dog but said Lexus had no legal standing because the city now owns the dog.

The judge’s ruling eventually led Lexus to file a notice of appeal with the Nevada Supreme Court, along with two other motions to try to keep the city from euthanizing the dog. The city has filed counter motions.

Lexus has submitted documents to the court saying the grandmother didn't know what she was signing when she gave up ownership to the city. Lexus claims that the grandmother wants the animal to go to the Lexus Project, arguing that gives the organization legal standing to petition for the dog, known in court documents as "A Certain Dog Named Onion."

Meanwhile, the latest action in the case was a nonpublic mediation session set up by the Supreme Court that was held last Thursday in the Henderson City Attorney’s Office.

But court documents filed Monday by Ara H. Shirinian, the assigned settlement judge, showed that meeting was unproductive. The settlement judge signed a form and checked a box that said, "The parties were unable to agree to a settlement of this matter."

Paul declined to discuss what was discussed in last Thursday's mediation talks. Lawyers for Lexus could not be reached Thursday.

All the motions before the Supreme Court, meanwhile, are pending while the court decides whether to hear the case, Paul said.

Bill Gang, public information officer for the Supreme Court, said if the court decides to take up the matter, it would issue an order establishing a schedule for briefs to be filed with the court.

Gang said he didn’t know when that might happen.

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  1. This case sickens me. I feel such sympathy for the family, but at the same time I don't believe it is right for the City of Henderson to reject the offer by the Lexus Project, and the wishes of his 'previous' owner.

    Onion was previously reported to be asleep when the baby grabbed on to his fur. It appears he acted instinctively.

    It is also inappropriate to have the owner, the grandmother, sign over the dog when she is under duress, in shock and sorrow and in a chaotic event.

    The animal shelter personnel should get a temporary hold, and wait until the owner is over their shock, so they can see if there are other options that would still protect the public from a "dangerous" animal.

    The owner was helped through a bout of cancer by her dog companion. I understand that given time to think more clearly, she did what she wanted for the dog that helped her so much. She wants the Lexus Project to have Onion.

    The City and the State should allow the Lexus Project to take the dog, and allow the grandmother to have the peace of mind that her helper dog is in a safe place.

    Condemning the dog to death in light of the plan by the Lexus Project just adds more guilt and pain and is senseless.

    Laws without wisdom are a tragedy and waste.

    Compare the "crime" in the human world. It seems to me this wasn't premeditated, therefore, not a capital offense. At worst, it would be manslaughter, not carrying a death penalty.

    Onion, with no priors, will be confined to a sanctuary, away from his mistress, for the rest of his life.

    Why should Onion get a death sentence when a drunk driver, with priors, who kills someone(s) as a result of their continued negligence does not?

    It will cost nothing to the City of Henderson taxpayers to release Onion to the Lexus Project. However, the City's continued efforts to fight this does cost the taxpayer.

    As a resident, I protest this stupid fight by the City. This dog has an option. Recognize the grandmother's wishes and give Onion to the Lexus Project for placement in the sanctuary!

  2. Drowning in debt, Henderson has the money to waste on spurious lawsuits intended to execute a dog? Onion belongs in the sanctuary. Stop the foolishness and send him there. And, for those of you who live in Henderson, vote the morons wasting your tax dollars out of office the first chance you get!

  3. I truly hope that they stop wasting money and let the sanctuary take that poor dog.

    As for Heretic, the answer to your question is yes I value the life of that dog 200% more than yours!

    The grandmothers wishes should be respected and the dog should be released! Animal control thrives on killing animals and the whole system needs to be revamped.

  4. Heretic, you fist of all make the mistake of attributing conscious though and malice to the actions of a dog.

    Second, I would ask, in the case where the dog snapped at your child, did the child hurt the dog first? If so, why was the CHILD not "gone within minutes"?

    Third, can you say that in your child's lifetime you have never lost your temper and yelled at them (snapped at them)? If you have, why weren't YOU "gone within minutes"?

    Sorry, but you seem to the the perfect example of why some people should not be allowed to have dogs (or children)

  5. Don't punish the dog if the parents/grandmother aren't being charged with something.

    The incident was tragic, but that doesn't excuse basing decisions on emotion instead of reason.

  6. Many decades ago, after I bought a tiny toy poodle, I learned all I could about the breed. I learned about how small dogs, which think they are big, can end up dead by big dogs who are threatened by them, or perhaps think they are prey.

    I had the dog out camping with me, off a leash. I let my guard down. A group built a little damn in a stream to create a swimming hole. My dog, being a water dog who had never gone swimming before, leaped into the water and panicked. He was struggling to keep his head above water. I was shocked, and in seconds an black Lab ran past me, jumped into the water and saved my poodle, guiding him to shore. I couldn't believe what I saw.

    My sister had a toy Yorkie free in the front yard. He evidently threatened a passing Lab, also off leash, with his small dog bravado and it killed him.

    Two instances of different dog behaviors, same breed, difference circumstances.

    It cannot be reinforced enough to know your pet, and other pets, and not drop one's vigilance with any size dog, or think that your pet won't do something that could end in it's death, one way or another.

    The same thing goes for a child, as swimming pool and traffic deaths prove. It is easy to get distracted, but no excuse.

    I don't believe that animal control for a minute enjoys putting a dog down, and I am sure it is terrible for them to see abuse and irresponsibility by humans. I certainly don't envy them their jobs.

    However, there is an option for Onion, and there is a guarantee he will not be adopted out.

    The question in my mind is whether Onion is truly a "vicious" dog, or another victim of circumstances.

    Consider the event. We know how it began, we can imagine the chaos, the crying, the screaming that went on, strangers arriving, followed by animal control trying to capture him with the wired cables on poles, and finally placed in a strange location of barking dogs.

    I wonder what qualified veterinary specialists, who are trained to diagnose and rehabilitate "vicious" dogs, would say after working with Onion for awhile? What would their recommendations be?

    Onion has an option that most others do not. It is one of those occasions when we can be merciful rather than killers.

    There is no better action that can be taken than for humans to understand their responsibility for their pets and live up to it.

    Legal precedence is an issue that I can understand. Can we really say that all the avenues to make sure a pet isn't being labeled "vicious", irresponsibly, have been included in the law?

    If owners were legally accountable for the actions of their pets, and if enforced, perhaps there would be fewer failures of owner responsibility.

    Perhaps some humans should consider a stuffed toy as a pet rather than a living animal, if they are unwilling to take on the degree of required responsibility needed for caring for them properly.

  7. I have actively worked in the animal industry most of my life. For years, my ranch was contracted to hold animals who were abused, lost, etc, and dealt with the courts in their disposition. This case where Onion acted in an instinctual response, is truly tragic, but since he had no priors, and never manifested any negative intent to harm during his life/and his life pattern, he should be remanded to Lexus.

    There is no rhyme nor reason to the City of Henderson pursuing the legal remendy of punishment by death. It is an unpopular position with citizens and therefore a waste of taxpayer money.

    With social media, we witness how too often, humans are misguided in their beliefs and perceptions of our animal friends, and foolishly risk safety. Animals are animals, and they are first and foremost, creatures of instinct. Sure, they are capable of being domesticated members of our households, but they still are animals and live by the rules of animals.

    Blessings and Peace,