In both the Philadelphia Examiner and the Daily Tribune (which is, I assume, a local paper to Heidi's part of Michigan), there have been articles stating that the individual who reported this incident to the police was in fact bleeding from a bite, on the nose and chin. The Royal Oak's city attorney David Gillam is in fact saying that Heidi's life is not in immediate danger, which is a relief. His statement is, to me, rather noncommittal and open ended however:
He said the city did present two options: euthanize the dog or move her outside of Royal Oak. However, the issue could be resolved by sending the dog to obedience school, muzzling her whenever she is outside the owner’s McLean Avenue home, or some other action. (quoted from the Daily Tribune)These aren't unreasonable options. "Sending" a dog to obedience school isn't what I would recommend (if he's actually discussing a board and train), but obedience classes that Heidi's owners attend with her is certainly preferable to returning their dog to rescue or euthanasia. Muzzling her, I feel, would prevent accidental bites, but not the other kinds of hard-head contact that would break a nose. Granted, I'm not a doctor, but I know that the Doberman snout and head packs a wallop, having been casually bludgeoned in the face by Elka's pointy skull.
Which brings me to an interesting point. Dog bites are a concern, certainly. A Doberman is a dog of threatening size, and power, and a Doberman bite to the face can be decimating. Again, from the Daily Tribune: "Bleeding from the injuries, Seagraves went into the store for a paper towel then to Beaumont Hospital, where he told police he learned his nose was broken." If asked, I'd say the contact, all of it, was accidental. A Doberman who wants to bite you in the face, and you're not prepared for it? I don't think you'll be wandering around to get your business taken care of. I'll admit, this is a strange way for me to defend an incident, by highlighting the potential damage and bite strength of a Doberman that intends one harm, but there it is. In human criminal cases, one must prove intent. I don't think Heidi had the intent.
Indeed, the police report says ""the dogs jumped up at him and hit him in the nose and also caused a small laceration" and the responding animal control officer's notes say "He had two scratches that were bleeding a little. One on bridge of nose and one below lower lip." (from this article on the Philadelphia Examiner: Royal Oak Responds to Outpouring of Support for Heidi the Doberman, and the City of Royal Oak Attorney's Office Press Release)
It is also of note that this incident actually happened in October. According to the City of Royal Oak website, there were two prior court meetings on this matter, with the next one scheduled on February 9 (People vs. Spalding). I'm not sure what it is about the prior meetings, and upcoming one, that prompted Heidi's people to create their website and petition out of the fear that Heidi would be euthanized, since officials have hastened to say that isn't their intent, but obviously, I only have the news to go on.
I don't regret having signed the petition for Heidi, because I don't feel that she's necessarily a dangerous dog who will bite again. Do I feel something like mandated obedience training would be a fair way to satisfy both sides of this case? Yes.
Has this made me rethink how to handle passers-by, whether they want to greet Elka or not? Yes. Jumping is something that we've discouraged for a long time (though, as I've noted, Elka will jump next to somebody, and not put her paws on them, though many of our friends have been "dolphin nosed"). On leash, I'm going to continue to encourage her to sit if I'm speaking with somebody, and I daresay I'll tack on the behavioral expectation of focusing on me, rather than strangers. I like that Elka is friendly, and that I don't feel I have to worry about her behavior with people. But if she were to be excited, and jump up with a happy, open mouth? We could have another Heidi situation, and I do not want that heartache and that court case.
(another Heidi picture, used frequently in news articles, from the Save Heidi site)