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It’s Friday afternoon, the day by which Shawn and Sophia Vrooman’s attorney said he wanted a proposal prepared to present to Ark-Valley Humane Society (AVHS) to save the life of the dog Echo, who so far has escaped the euthanization that AVHS deemed necessary almost immediately upon his arrival there on Feb. 2.

Echo was relinquished to AVHS, according to the Vroomans, to give him a chance at a new home and more training after they admitted that their focus on their new arbor business was taking so much time that they couldn’t give Echo the attention he needed. Echo was in bite quarantine from the day he arrived  at AVHS until Feb. 13.

On February 15, AVHS put this statement on their website:

Ark Valley Humane Society’s (AVHS) lawyer has advised that transferring Echo to any individual, rescue group or other such entity will not relieve AVHS of any future, potential liability. It is not possible for the previous owners or any other individual or organization to sufficiently indemnify AVHS should another person or animal be injured by said animal.

One hates to think of this as a mere control struggle when the life of a living thing hangs in the balance. This is a decision to save  — or not save —  a dog that according to his breeder, his former owners, people who know and own Daniff mastiffs, and those who have taken care of him say is not an aggressive dog, but a protective dog; who for some good reasons at this point, could well be fearful, protective and not able to trust anyone, especially at AVHS.

Echo, wearing the harness that the Vroomans say is what he is used to wearing. Photo by Sophia Vrooman.

According to the Vrooman’s lawyer, several animal trainers and dog behaviorists have offered to foster and help Echo.

The Vroomans, in the accompanying letter to the community appear to feel most strongly about a world-renowned animal behaviorist and trainer named James Tsai based in Vancouver, Canada. They have shared their sense that Tsai is the best person to help Echo.

In a copy of a communication Tsai has sent, he refutes the assessment of Echo as irretrievably broken and not worthy of saving and offering his considerable skills to retrain the dog.

Tsai, who the Vancouver Sun calls “One of North America’s top experts in canine rehabilitation,” runs Arf Arf Bark Bark Dog Foundation,  (read: Dog Whisperer To Rehab Great Dane Rescued By 911 First Responder).

He noted cases where he had successfully indemnified other shelters and animal rescue organizations from New York City to Los Angeles for violent dogs, some that had bitten 16 times, attacked people, dogs who had been cruelly abused and forced to fight. His work has been recognized by the Court of New York, SRGDRR – largest Great Dane Rescue in North America,  New Hope For Danes (oldest Great Dane Rescue in Canada, est. 1982),  and the Southampton Animal Shelter, New York, among many shelters.

There is no word on how AVHS has received the outreach from Tsai, or whether they may consider the proposal. Echo’s fate comes before District 11 Court Judge Diana Bull on February 23.

AVV acknowledges that AVHS does some wonderful rescue work. It handles animal control for the county and given that position of trust, considering the consultation and assistance of “one of North America’s top experts in canine rehabilitation,” would demonstrate an approach that truly is humane.

Since being removed from bite quarantine on Feb. 13,  there is no word on whether or not Echo has received the prescribed care that AVHS promises that every dog that comes to its shelter receives. Has he gotten exercise? Is he getting any attention? Is he even in a cage big enough for his size?

As Tsai notes on his website: “We believe giant breeds, such as Great Danes are at extreme risk because their significant size makes them the first to be killed in shelters due to lack of space and cost of feeding and vet care.”

There is no report of law enforcement being involved in any violent incident with Echo prior to February 2. The AVHS statement above appears to reiterate their position based on potential future liability, not actual legal charges from anyone. Would the February 15 AVHS statement have given enough time for a real assessment to be made?

Tsai, a man who has dealt with and gentled the most violent of dogs, says “We advocate for dogs because we care. They love us. Our dogs would give their lives to defend ours. Giving them a voice and making a difference in their lives is the least we can do.”