SINGAPORE: A dog owner who euthanised his pet because of its aggression said he feels "vindicated" after a recently completed four-month investigation found he did not break the law.
Christian, who only wanted to be known by his first name, and his wife did not fail in their duty of care or commit animal cruelty after they put down their dog Loki in April, the Animal and Veterinary Service (AVS) said in investigations findings released on Tuesday (Sep 15).
The couple from Denmark adopted Loki in December 2017 from dog welfare group Exclusively Mongrels. Loki grew to become “more confident and confrontational”, with more frequent and severe bite or attack incidents, AVS said.
Loki bit and attacked other dogs and people on 12 occasions between 2018 and 2020, AVS stated, adding that his owners had explored various options before euthanasia, including medication, training and rehoming.
The case sparked outrage among some netizens who felt euthanasia was not justified. Some identified and exposed the owners, and criticised the Mount Pleasant Veterinary Group that conducted the euthanasia.
Exclusively Mongrels has taken legal action against Christian, 37, for what it said was a breach of the adoption agreement. The parties are undergoing mediation, Christian said.
"We do of course feel vindicated, but have still lived through personal hell for four months, where we just had to sit and wait for the conclusions," Christian told CNA in an email interview, referring to the AVS investigation. CNA also spoke to him on a WhatsApp video call.
"We could of course have jumped online like so many others, but we wanted to respect AVS, the court and their processes," he added.
READ: Euthanasia of dog Loki: AVS finds no failure in duty of care, animal cruelty by owners; no ethics breach by vets
Christian said he and his wife went through more than 10 hours of interviews with AVS representatives, and presented "countless pieces of evidence" showing training and rehoming efforts, as well as biting documentation and medical reports.
"AVS has also interviewed several people that knew Loki and had first-hand experienced his behavioural issues," he added. "I am relieved that AVS has concluded the investigation after four months."
Since an Exclusively Mongrels volunteer posted about the case on Facebook in May, Christian said he and his family had got a "crazy amount of negative comments (and) messages".
One of the messages, which Christian showed to CNA, contained hopes that he and his family would die. Another contained multiple profanities, including some directed at his wife.
"This was extremely tough and it became so much that we had to close down our social media profiles and we feared going for a walk if we were recognised and attacked," Christian said.
Christian made a police report following the torrent of hateful comments. In the report seen by CNA, Christian says that the couple received death threats made via comments and messages on Facebook.
Comments saying that their baby should die were also mentioned in the police report. The police told CNA on Friday that investigations are still ongoing.
The couple had a baby in early April, and they noticed that Loki was uncomfortable and nervous around the child, AVS had said. Loki had also bitten Christian on his lips around that time.
Christian said he has returned to Denmark after taking up a job offer there. "Obviously the decision was made easier when you are receiving death threats in Singapore," he added.
WHY WAS EXCLUSIVELY MONGRELS NOT ASKED FOR HELP?
Some netizens have continued to criticise Loki's owners, as they expressed disappointment at the AVS findings.
Exclusively Mongrels said in a Facebook post on Tuesday that it was "saddened and disappointed" by the "expected" outcome.
Christian said he was not surprised that some have "made up their minds already and cannot be convinced differently by all the facts in the world".
In particular, some netizens have questioned why Loki's owners did not seek help from Exclusively Mongrels before the euthanasia. AVS had said the owners did not ask the group for help in rehoming Loki.
READ: Case of euthanised dog to be investigated, AVS should be allowed to do its job 'without public pressure': Shanmugam
In response, Christian said he only approached people whom he personally knew, were familiar with Loki's history and specific behavioural challenges, and did not have children.
Christian said he needed a guarantee that potential rehomers were "ready to continue the work needed with Loki" and not confine or cage it, which he said "is not animal welfare in my book".
"If Loki was rehomed to a family not 100 per cent aware of his issues, I deemed that the risk of Loki having more biting incidents to be very high," he added, noting that Loki gave "zero warning" before an aggressive act.
"Consequently, a high risk of Loki being rehomed yet again is that it would put further stress on him, leading to a vicious cycle of yet more biting incidents and a poor quality of life for Loki."
Ultimately, Christian said he did not have faith in Exclusively Mongrels as a rehomer as he felt the group would not have reacted constructively to his request.
Exclusively Mongrels has not responded to requests for comment.
REGRETS NOT REACHING OUT TO OTHER SHELTERS SOONER
Christian said he regrets not reaching out to a number of animal welfare groups and an animal shelter in Malaysia earlier in the rehoming process, although he said up till February, he still believed he could keep Loki.
In March, the owners had agreed to send the dog to a shelter in Malaysia, but after Malaysia implemented its movement control order to reduce the spread of COVID-19, these plans were shelved.
"If we had been able to get him to the sanctuary in Malaysia, he would have been running around with dog friends all day, which would have warmed my heart even though he would no longer be with me and my family," Christian said.
Christian advised dog owners in a similar situation to use euthanasia only as a "last resort".
"But if you have exploited all other options and the dog is a danger to your family or the general public, I still believe euthanasia at a respectable vet, like the one we used, is the best option for both humans and the dog," he said.
Christian said he is sad that the Loki case could discourage potential mongrel adopters who are afraid of being doxxed or sued.
"I strongly support the mission of rehoming mongrel dogs, so I would still encourage potential adopters to work with proper animal welfare groups," he added.
Editor's note: The surname of Loki's owner has been removed from this article after he made a request following its publication.