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Animal welfare: dog in biting incident will not be euthanized while they investigate possible owner

OKLAHOMA CITY - Jon Gary, OKC Animal Welfare supervisor, says authorities are pursuing a lead on a possible owner of the dog involved in this month’s biting incident.

Gary says nothing will happen to the dog until the lead is investigated.

The dog was set to be held for the state-required three days, but instead Gary says they decided to hold off for a ten-day holding period. During this time, he says they investigated claims that the children threw rocks or sticks at the dog prior to the attack. They were unable to prove those claims.

There was brief consideration to transfer the dog to one of the shelter's partner organizations who would then put the dog up for adoption. But Animal Welfare deemed the dog dangerous after collecting statements from victims and witnesses.

"The incident was a little more severe than we originally thought," said Gary. "Some of the students had pretty significant injuries. One of the students had fourteen stitches."

The dog was on the shelter's euthanasia list by Thursday evening, but Gary says they received a Facebook message from someone claiming to be the owner of the dog.

If it is not the real owner, the shelter will proceed with plans to euthanize. Gary said that would likely take place next week.

If the woman can prove ownership, victims or witnesses can sign a complaint to pursue a dangerous dog charge. Gary said the owner could face up to $500 in fines if it's a first offense. In that case, the dog will remain in Animal Welfare's custody until the case goes before a judge, who will then make a decision.

"[The dog] could be deemed not dangerous and released back to the owner," said Gary. "If it's deemed dangerous, the judge will make a decision whether or not to order euthanasia or return to the owner under certain stipulations."

Those stipulations could include proper confinement, microchip, neutering, etc.

Just before 1 p.m. on Nov. 19, dispatchers received several 911 calls from teachers and administrators at Millard Fillmore Elementary School.

“We have a mad, out-of-control dog on our playground. It’s already bit a teacher and some kids, and we need somebody to come get the dog,” one caller told dispatchers.

In all, 12 students were taken to a hospital for treatment for superficial bites and scrapes as children tried to run away from the dog.

“The dog came on and started to attack some of the kids, and then of course the kids began to scream and panic, which excited the dog and scared the dog even more, so his natural instinct was to keep biting and going after the kids,” said Capt. David Macy, with the Oklahoma City Fire Department.

The dog, estimated to be about a year old, has no tag and is not microchipped, according to Jon Gary, with Oklahoma City Animal Welfare.

"We believe it's somebody's pet just because of the health and condition of the dog, and more than likely lives close to that school area," said Gary.

On Thursday, animal welfare officials announced that the dog would be euthanized unless it is claimed by its owner at the end of the day.

Officials say state law required that the dog be held for 10 days, and the dog's quarantine period ends Thursday.

"The dog has not shown signs of any medical issues, but investigators determined the biting incident shows the dog is too dangerous to be put into an adoption program or otherwise released from Animal Welfare custody.

The dog’s bites broke the skin on 15 victims at the school. Thirteen other victims were bitten without breaking the skin, or hurt while trying to run away from the dog. The victims and other witnesses told investigators the attack began when children on the playground who were scared of the dog began to run away from it, and the dog chased them and bit them," a statement from the agency said.

If the owner comes forward, investigators would consider pursuing a dangerous animal complaint against the owner. In those cases, a judge determines if an animal is dangerous and has the discretion to order the animal to be euthanized or returned to the owner.