LAYTON, UT (KTVX/CNN) - A dangerous dog investigation is underway in Utah after a boy’s hand was bitten off by one of his neighbor’s dogs, but a growing number of people have signed a petition asking that the dogs not be euthanized.
While the 4-year-old boy recovers from his injuries, the two husky-breed dogs, named Polar and Bear, are being held at the Davis County Animal Shelter on a 10-day rabies quarantine. Their fate is still very much up in the air.
“There's a severe injury to a human, so we are doing a dangerous dog investigation, which could range from nothing being done up to and including euthanasia,” said Rhett Nicks, director of Davis County Animal Control.
Nicks says they don’t know which dog actually bit the boy after he put his arm in a sock and stuck it underneath a vinyl fence Sunday afternoon, but Jessica Nusz, a friend of Polar’s owner, says it was the dog named Bear.
After the incident, Nusz started a Care2 petition that claims putting the dogs down would just compound the tragedy, and so far, more than 148,000 people agree.
“It would put an unnecessary emotional trauma on the family of the dogs because they've had them since they were puppies,” Nusz said.
Nusz says Polar’s owner has depression and anxiety and depends on the male husky for emotional support. She initially started the petition because her friend is distraught over the incident.
Nusz also believes Bear probably thought the boy’s sock-covered hand was a chew toy and bit down too hard.
“It was just a freak accident, and the neighbors know it was a freak accident. Things like this can happen, especially if you're not careful with big dogs,” she said.
Officials say the sock could indeed be a mitigating factor in the investigation.
"He had a sock on his hand, so it appears that it was just innocent play and that he was reaching through the fence to try to play with one or both of the dogs,” said Layton Fire Department Battalion Chief Jason Cook.
However, David Broderick, the founder of Innovative K9 academy and a dog trainer for 20 years, says he would prefer it if the offending dog was euthanized.
"The fact that it actually ripped it off, it wasn't just a chomp. It wasn't thinking it was a game … If the dog was frustrated enough to do that kind of damage, it will do it again, given the chance,” Broderick said.
Nicks says the final determination on whether the dogs will be put down will be made by a judge because in Utah, dogs are considered personal property, which is a matter of the courts.
Investigators were unable to find the boy’s hand, and they fear it may have been eaten by one of the dogs.