Neville, a 2-year-old lab mix, was ordered to be euthanized by a municipal judge in early October 2015.

How To Avoid Another Neville: Prevent Dog Bites

Update Nov. 10th 2015:

Neville the dog has been released, and is in the custody of Austin Pets Alive! until he is adopted to a forever home. Neville must be adopted under certain conditions, qualified by the Travis County Attorney, but those interested in adoption of Neville may do so here.

October 12, 2015:

Last week, local social media exploded with the emotionally charged story of Neville, a 2-year-old lab mix at a beloved local shelter, Austin Pets Alive, when a local judge ruled for Neville to be put down after he bit a child. The incident, which occurred on September 22nd, caused the child to need 16 stitches on his face, the family filed paperwork with the city claiming Neville was a dangerous dog, and a municipal judge ordered Neville to be euthanized.

APA has since responded with a petition to save the dog’s life. The petition quickly reached over 50,000 signatures and is still growing. So what really happened? According to the APA petition, the incident occurred as follows:

Neville was playing with other dogs in a play yard when a family entered the yard to visit the dogs. The parents were advised by a staff member not to put their small son on the ground, because the dogs were playing energetically and a toddler could easily be accidentally knocked over. However, the child was placed on the ground and allowed to grab Neville, who unfortunately bit the child.

Everyone can agree that the toddler, hardly capable of understanding the concept of a dog, didn’t deserve to get bitten. But does the outcome reflect the severity of the situation? The lawyer for the family argued that the dog exhibited dangerous behavior. APA says that Neville was just being a dog, reacting to a situation like any dog would. It comes down to he said she said.

“We don’t believe this is a dangerous dog,” said Mike Kaviani, APA!’s Dog Behavior Team manager. ”He did not seek out the child to bite, he was simply reacting to the child who cornered him. We haven’t been given any options at all other than killing the dog or we would be taking them. We are saddened and outraged we were not given an opportunity to find a better outcome for Neville.”

It is clear that somewhere in the the situation, proper supervision of the child was not followed and proper behavior around dogs was not followed. The child should not have been allowed to roam freely in the pen with the dogs. APA says they followed protocol in advising the parents of the child to not let the toddler roam independently and that the parents did not follow the non-profit’s advice.

Regardless of who is at fault, one thing is for sure: proper knowledge of dog behaviors could have prevented this situation.

Avoid Dog Bites: Teaching Children How to Approach Dogs

It is of vital importance that parents teach their children about how to approach dogs. Children can be impulsive, especially when it comes to things that are fluffy, and might instinctively run up to a dog to start petting it. Many dogs in public are very friendly and are apt to smother your child with kisses, but only after they are properly introduced. Parents should always ask the owner if their child can pet the dog and subsequently reinforce how to respectfully and appropriately approach the dog.

How to Approach A Dog

Reading a dog’s behavior is key to understanding their state, since they can’t tell you how they’re feeling. Children say and do the darndest things, with people AND with dogs. Parents need to monitor their children’s interactions with dogs because their behavior, too, can be unpredictable. You wouldn’t run up to a stranger you just met and start rubbing their face, so you shouldn’t do it to a new dog, and you shouldn’t let your child. New dogs should be approached with respect and politeness. Allow the dog to see and sniff you first. Pay attention to their body language. Look for these signs to know if a dog feels threatened:

  • tensed body
  • stiff tail
  • pulled back head and/or ears
  • furrowed brow
  • eyes rolled so the whites are visible
  • yawning
  • flicking tongue
  • intense stare
  • backing away

If the dog exhibits any of these signs, slowly back away.

Responsible Pet Ownership: Canines

It is important as a dog owner to know your dog like you know your other family members. Know their stressors, know their triggers, and act appropriately. If you know your dog is aggressive towards either humans or other dogs, don’t take them to an off-leash dog park or any space where they will be prone to aggressive behavior. It is also important that the owners invest in and reinforce training of their pets so that they don’t run up to strangers, who can be scared of dogs as well and in their fear indirectly cause the dog to bite.

If you are bitten by a dog, immediately wash out the wound with soap and water and monitor the wound for any infection. Dog bites are usually covered by the owner’s homeowner insurance. If the wound causes serious damage, contact an Austin personal injury lawyer; Jason McMinn and Justin McMinn will be happy to evaluate your case quickly and without cost. Call us at 512-474-0222, use the live chat on our website, fill out the form on this page, or email