The Truth Behind "Dutch the Dog"
KREX News Room
MONTROSE, Colo. - More than 21,000 likes on Facebook and hundreds of articles. Almost 250,000 people have signed the petition to save Dutch the service dog.
On Thursday, Dutch's owner, veteran Jeremy Aguilar, could be ordered to turn him over to Montrose to be euthanized.
"I'll fight until they have to come take him from me," said Aguilar, when asked about this possibility.
The case has gone viral and conflicting reports are leaving a mess for officials to clean up.
"Hundreds of emails and telephone calls..." recalled Mike Duncan, Animal Services Supervisor for the Montrose Police Department.
"Someone said this, someone said that. And then they changed it to this, and then they changed it to that..." said Jared Bolhuis, the co-executive director for Welcome Home Montrose.
The veteran's organization has been advocating for Aguilar's needs as a veteran. They believe that includes having Dutch by his side, despite what happened Nov. 14, 2012.
That day, Aguilar left Dutch with his brother while on an overnight trip to take family to the airport.
"We live in the same house together ... I didn't think an incident like this would happen," explained Aguilar.
His brother's fiance heard their dog fighting with Dutch in the back yard and went outside to break up the fight.
"It wasn't the first time that these two dogs had had a scuffle. So, she was just expecting that she would go out and separate them again," said Duncan.
The woman (whose identity isn't being released due to threats against her) told officials that it took several hits with her hands, as well as with a tiki torch pole, to finally separate the dogs.
Once inside, she says that while attempting to administer aid to Dutch, the dog attacked her.
She sustained a bite wound to her thigh and one to her buttock. While she attempted to free Dutch's mouth from her leg, officials say Dutch bit down harder, severing an artery in the woman's finger and causing a compound fracture.
Officials say her injuries total $24,000.
But Aguilar explained to the court that Dutch only turned on the woman after he was beaten by her. He argues that the woman punched Dutch in the face several times. In addition, the pole used during the incident was bloodied and contained dog hair.
A veterinarian assessment of Dutch after the incident reads:
"Face swollen like he was hit. Extensive ST trauma on left side of face. Swelling extends from nose up to eye and base of ear. Some dried blood noted on dog's fur but no wounds apparent in mouth or on face/body."
"Note - dog was extremely well-mannered and sweet in exam room. He did not require restraint during his exam, even when his abdomen, testicles and swollen face were palpated."
After the attack, Aguilar has spent the past few months getting Dutch certified as a service dog.
"People may think it's just a dog. It's not. It's his battle buddy. It's someone who's helped him acclimate to civilian life," explained Bolhuis.
"He's well-mannered and well-behaved. He's a great family dog, great around children," added Aguilar.
"I pretended to beat him with a water bottle. Still nothing. If anything he wanted to get away from me and hide behind the owner," said James Kohout during a final professional examination of Dutch's demeanor on Tuesday in Grand Junction.
Kahout is a Certified Professional Trainer for Canine Manners. He specializes in aggression and temperament in dogs.
But Montrose Animal Services is concerned that the attack could happen again.
Duncan explained to NewsChannel 5 that despite how a dog acts 99 percent of the time, there is still a chance that something can set the animal off.
Those possibilities are called temperament triggers. City officials don't think taking that chance for Dutch to possibly hurt someone again in the future is a responsible decision.
"I have been in this job for 15 years because I love to care for animals and protect them. But my job also includes protecting the public and I also take that very seriously," Duncan said.
The circumstances have led Duncan to make the unpopular recommendation that the city euthanize Dutch.
"It's one of the worst cases as far as severity and aggression to the victim [that I've seen] ... The victim was not only bitten and attacked once, but the large dog continued to pursue her even after she had isolated herself into a bedroom," he said.
It's a decision Duncan doesn't take lightly. Montrose Animal Services is a no-kill facility and considers all alternate routes before recommending euthanasia.
Aguilar hopes the court will opt for a different path after evidence is presented on behalf of Dutch's demeanor and public interaction.
"I hope that he gets a chance to be admitted into a rehabilitation program, to get to live a long life, because I need him as much as he needs me," said Aguilar.
Just as professionals are stepping forward on behalf of Dutch, Montrose city officials also want the public to know that the woman attacked is of strong character. They say she is an upstanding citizen in the community, having a difficult time dealing with all of this.
Aguilar added that he hopes the family can mend the rift caused by this unfortunate incident. It was the city's decision to press charges against Aguilar, who could also be facing jail time and monetary fines in the case.
The police report and documentation of the woman's injuries have been sealed by the Montrose Police Department due to the sensitivity of the case.