I'm not gonna weigh in on whether or not OP should rehome or euthanize their dog since that is an extremely personal decision, and a single paragraph on a public forum does not paint the entire picture. But I will weigh in about behavior euthanasia and "no-kill" in general. My job is in animal welfare (specifically the behavior dept) and training. Part of my job is to counsel owners when they are at that crossroad. And it's also part of my job to work with and determine outcomes for dogs that arrives at my shelter for aggression issues. I've been on the phone, in the room with aggressive dogs, worked on behavior modification plans with families, and on the floor when a dog is being euthanized.
A personal opinion I will share is that if I am ever at the cusp of making such a heavy decision, I would choose euthanasia over "no-kill" (sanctuary, shelter, rescue, etc). Every time. There is no sanctuary on this planet that I would place an at-risk dog in. And I've been to Best Friends for a week long behavior conference, though I won't say more about them here except that I was impressed by a lot of what they do. I completely understand why a family would choose that option and I would never shame them for it. It is not wrong to hope for a happy outcome and to live the rest of one's days with the memory that they gave their beloved dog another chance. However, having seen the mental state of those dogs I personally believe the lives they live are no longer representative of the human-dog bond that makes our relationships so special. They are just animals being kept alive. For some people, knowing their dog is alive is enough. For me, it's not. I'd rather know that my dog died peacefully in my home, than to live the rest of my life wondering what if - what if they mentally degrade, what if they bite a staff member or volunteer, what if they are sent out into the world and harm someone else's pet or family member... And I am not being dramatic. This stuff happens - all the time. But again, the value of a dog's life and the impact of their death, making the decision to euthanize, is deeply personal and NO ONE can claim to know what the right answer is.
That said, if reputable animal professionals are recommending behavior euthanasia, they are likely not saying "this dog cannot improve". They are saying that the amount of effort required to keep this dog safe - from it's family, from itself, from it's community - is monumental. Statistically, a dog that has bitten will likely do so again. Statistically, management will fail at some point. And so, an organization is not held liable for future damage and also being responsible when they suggest euthanasia, rather than suggesting training or rehoming as an option. It doesn't mean that rehoming or training aren't worth it - those are very viable options! But I think behavior euthanasia is an equally viable option for any aggression cases, even in situations where a dog has not bitten yet but whose current behaviors suggest a future bite is imminent. Please note that I am NOT saying that any dog who has shown aggression should be euthanized. I am saying, if a family is dealing with an aggression issue I would never question their decision to euthanize. It is so easy to say things like 'I've had a troubled dog and I've rehabbed it!' or 'The RIGHT home situation or the RIGHT family can give this dog a great life!' or 'The right training plan can make this dog better!' But I feel those are extremely judgmental viewpoints that can sometimes bring more uncertainty than answers to the situation. Like unless a person passing judgment is the person saving the family from despair and taking the dog, rehabbing it, whatever... No one can understand the situation a family is in with their aggressive dog, except the family themselves. Sometimes I've had the privilege of receiving glimpses. I've personally placed 'risky' dogs and over the years I've gotten to hear the 'ever afters' from the very owners I placed these dogs with. Anecdotes easily sway emotions so instead I've personally run the numbers on the success rate of placing challenging dogs from my very own shelter. And, all of this done with a heavy emphasis on transparency, adoption matching and counsels, and post-adoption support (ex. free unlimited training with certified trainers, free behavior helpline services). I won't share exact numbers here, but let's just say my viewpoints have changed significantly over the years. There are successes, for sure! But once upon a time I thought training and placement were the solutions. AND I live in one of the most rural states in the country so rural placements are possible. Just put the kid-aggressive dog in a childfree home, away from a populated area. It sounds so simple and we can all go to sleep at night with no worries. The owners of that dog sometimes live a different reality. Because... life doesn't happen in a bubble, accidents happen.
OP I am sorry that you are at the cusp of making a difficult decision. Keeping an aggressive dog is difficult. Rehoming an aggressive dog is difficult. Euthanizing a dog is difficult. The resources I'd recommend are:
- The Facebook page "Losing Lulu". It consists of owners who have made the choice to euthanize their dogs for behavior reasons. I know you have not made a decision yet but hearing stories from other owners who have had to live in fear and make these impossible decisions is very humbling. And it can help you feel less alone about being at the edge of this decision making process.
- Consider what it would REALLY take to make sure a bite never happens again. This would mostly comprise of management - gates, pens, muzzles, separation, etc. Is it possible for you? If so, it doesn't mean you are obligated to walk that path. If it's not possible for you, what makes it possible and fair for the next family to take on?
- If, understandably, this dog is not the right fit for you, sending it back to its original rescue is better in many ways than sending it to a different one. A part of me believes organizations that place dogs should be responsible when a placement doesn't work out. No-kill or not. This is the only thing that will lead to impactful change over time and prevent situations like yours from happening again. My shelter's policies changed after years of following up with our placements and seeing how those dogs and families are doing. Will this rescue change? And change does not necessarily mean 'euthanize all the risky dogs'. For example, after learning that some fearful puppies we placed grew up to be adult dogs who had anxiety and aggression issues, we bolstered our socialization program and follow-up support for litters of fearful puppies and their adopters.
Anyways, sorry for writing a novel. This is a topic I'm very passionate about and something my work revolves around.