Orange County Animal Control report released on Rufus the beagle biting child

Orange County family fights to save beagle that bit child

ORLANDO, Fla. - Orange County Animal Services on Wednesday released its report about Rufus, a woman's 1-year-old beagle that bit her 4-year-old son's lip and was scheduled to be euthanized.

The 25-pound dog was turned over to Orange County Animal Services by the owner, Nikki West, after biting the family's 4-year-old in the lip April 9. Originally, West said she was giving Rufus dog food when her son ran into the room and the dog bit him.

Officials say the Animal Services report appears to tell a different version than West's account of what happened soon after the child was bitten.

"We felt like there was a lot of misinformation going around so we just wanted to be very clear about what the law says and where we stand," said Diane Summers of Orange County Animal Services.

West said the child was rushed to Arnold Palmer Hospital with what she said was a minor lip injury. But according to the Animal Services report, she told the animal control officer the injuries were more severe.

"The lip had to be reattached and will require future surgery," the report stated. West said she had a local surgeon look at her son's lip and he said it wasn't severe enough to require surgery.

West also told them she could no longer trust Rufus or take the chance that it could happen again and wanted to surrender the dog, according to the report.

"When they went out there they say she actually surrendered the dog to him and the papers make it clear that, 'my dog may be adopted or humanely euthanized' and she signed off on this," Summers said.

When the officer asked the mother to remove the dog from the crate so the officer could look at him, she stated she was afraid of the dog and didn't trust him to remove him, the report states.

"I believe all of those words in that report are not true, those are not the words I stated to that gentleman," West told Local 6 on Wednesday.

Another discrepancy between West's account and the report is the distance in which the attack occurred.  West told Local 6 her child came running around the corner and into the kitchen, in which her dog jumped up and bit Chazz in front of the oven near the dog's food. The report, dated April 23, stated the dog "charged" at the son for 10 feet, "indicating the dog pursued the victim."

The officer on scene said with the height of the child compared to the dog, the dog would have had to jump up and grab the victim's lower lip, according to the report.

Officials were also asked by Local 6 why the distance wasn't addressed in the office's initial report.

"The initial report was brief due to the owner requesting that she be allowed to relinquish the dog to Animal Services -- there was no immediate need for a detailed report,"an Animal Services official said.  "The officer covered the basics and most crucial information in his initial report and no detailed investigation was required.  In light of the situation, I directed the responding officer to write a more comprehensive report.  I also requested that he provide a diagram of the owner's floor plan to better understand what had occurred."

West has since hired an attorney, who filed a temporary injunction so Animal Services cannot euthanize the dog.

"When I see him every day it breaks my heart.  When he whines for me, when I leave, it's devastating," said West.

West says she believes she was misled.

"I will standup for Rufus till the end I just want to see a happy ending for him," she said.

Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs has weighed in the topic, saying:

"We love our children and we love our animals. There are state laws and county ordinances to protect them both, including a defined judicial appeals process. That process is underway, and it will ensure a full and fair hearing of all the facts. In the meantime, rest assured I have instructed our staff to take excellent care of Rufus."

Since the appeal was filed, a hearing will be held and a judge will determine what happens to Rufus. It's not clear when the hearing will take place.

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