A dog that killed an infant after the child's mother left him alone with the large canine is at the center of a court battle as the animal's new owner fights city officials who say it should be seized and put to death.
On Thursday, the first day of a Pittsburgh court hearing on the dog's fate, a former animal control officer and expert on dog behavior came to the defense of Helo, the husky who fatally mauled Howard Nicholson at the infant's home in McKeesport, Pa., in February.
The witness, James Crosby, said he believed that the injuries to the child showed that more than one dog could have been involved in the mauling, and that those injuries indicated "play gone wrong," not an aggressive attack. Crosby also said the dog could have mistaken the baby for his favorite squeak toy, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported.
"Helo loved to squeak the squeak toy. He liked to dissect the toy to get to the squeak," Crosby said.
Assistant Dist. Atty. Laura Ditka said Crosby lacked the expertise to judge the dog's intent based on the pattern of wounds on the baby and the animal's behavior since the incident.
The child was less than a week old, and his mother, Brandy Furlong, said she left him alone momentarily with the dog. When she returned, she said, she found the baby bleeding and screaming. He died in a Pittsburgh hospital, and the husky was seized by animal-control officers.
After hearing of the dog's case, a new owner, William Uhring, stepped forward and adopted him.
Uhring, who has two other dogs, said he wanted to save Helo. When seized from Furlong's home, the dog had a broken leg in a makeshift splint and apparently had never received veterinary care for the injury, he said. Helo was one of four dogs kept in the baby's home, but the infant's mother insisted that the husky was the only one loose at the time the infant was killed.
"That dog was in pain, with a homemade splint on its leg," Uhring told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. "He ate so much food when he got to my house. He just needs a loving home."
But Uhring's neighbors weren't happy to have the dog with the notorious past on their street, and they complained to the city, leading to the current court case. The hearing is scheduled to resume later this month.
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