Unprecedented move to save dog

More than 70,000 people have signed a petition against the euthanasia of Zico, a nine-year-old Pitbull cross that attacked a toddler in Beja on January 6. The 18-month old child died two days later in hospital in Lisbon.

The petition, which is directed at Beja’s Municipal Kennel and municipal veterinary, Linda Rosa, says that “putting down animals is not the solution” and urges the authorities “to investigate what triggered the dog’s reaction”.

According to a hospital source who spoke to Portuguese newspaper Público, the child was admitted to hospital with a severe concussion and died from his injuries around midnight on January 8. The autopsy, performed the following day, revealed that the child’s death was caused by the dog’s bites, reported the newspaper, quoting a source from the Legal Medicine Institute.

Zico was owned by the victim’s uncle, who lived in the same house as the child’s parents and grandparents in a social housing neighbourhood in Beja, known as “Texas”.

The toddler’s grandfather Jacinto Janeiro told journalists the day following the attack that the dog was “in the dark in the kitchen” and that the child “fell on top of it”, triggering the attack. Whilst Jacinto Janeiro said that the dog was “gentle” and “had never attacked” anyone, he also admitted that he had tried to take the animal to the kennel “a year ago or so”, so that it would be put down as he “didn’t have the conditions to keep the dog at home”.

His statements were confirmed by the municipal vet, who said that the family’s apartment did not have the “necessary conditions” for the dog, which “slept in the kitchen and was kept on the balcony during the day”.

Linda Rosa also added that the dog “was very tranquil and showed no aggressiveness” when it was collected.

On the other hand, news agency Lusa reported that the child’s grandfather had been attacked at least twice by the dog and needed medical assistance. With petitioners pleading that the authorities give Zico and all other “Zicos throughout the country” a second chance, the debate is now focusing on the lack of action against negligent dog owners. “For each life lost due to an animal attack, several lives are saved by animals,” wrote the petition’s signatories, adding that “rehabilitation is an option”.

According to Portuguese law, a Pitbull cross is considered a potentially dangerous breed and therefore owners are obliged to have all the necessary legal documents, including proof of sterilisation and current civil liability insurance.

Public figures like well- known Portuguese actor Ruy de Carvalho came to Zico’s defence on Facebook, saying that “there are no dangerous dogs, only dangerous owners”, and just as he does not believe “in the death penalty for humans” he cannot agree with “putting down animals”.

Animal rights association Animal also came forward, stating that “both the child and the dog are the true victims of this situation”, whilst former leader of the left-wing party Francisco Louçã posted a long message on Facebook, saying: “The issue of safety can’t be resolved by killing … the individual that raises a dog, trains it and keeps it is responsible for its actions”.

Although the family didn’t press charges, the dog was collected by the kennel on January 8, as requested by the PSP. According to the press officer of Beja’s PSP command, Maria do Céu Silva, the police requested the dog’s papers but although the owner claimed he had them, he didn’t present them as “he didn’t know where they were”.

According to reports by Lusa, the dog is microchipped, but not registered.

An injunction has been placed by Associação Animal at the Beja Administrative Court, which has led to the suspension of the dog’s euthanasia.

To sign the petition, go to: http://peticaopublica.com/PeticaoVer.aspx?pi=P2013N34295