Max, a 9-Year-Old Shih Tzu, Is Saved from Exile After Biting Girl
Ankeny City Council members voted against "vicious" label for pet who bit a 5-year-old girl
Five-year-old Josie Babcock was a few doors away from home when she spotted Max.
The nine-year-old shih tzu was a familiar sight to the kindergartner as she made her way home from a nearby friend’s house.
Josie had petted the dog before. But on April 13, something went wrong when she leaned in for a hug.
Max, who was unattended, unleashed and was handling his business on his unfenced front lawn, bit Josie on her upper lip. She suffered nine stitches.
“My biggest fear is Max now has the taste for human blood, knows my daughter’s scent and may cause another incident in the future,” said Melanie Babcock, as she stood before Ankeny City Council members Monday who were deciding the dog's fate.
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She told the council that Josie knew Max. She said her daughter has been
taught about safety around animals.
“I’d like to think we live in a community that values our children more than our pets," she said.
Lynn and Ted Deal have lived in the same house for 43 years. Max has been their “family dog” for nine years. Lynn Deal said her husband had just stepped back into the house for a moment before the child was bitten.
Deal said she immediately went inside to pray for Josie.
After Josie Babcock’s mother, Melanie, filed a report with city officials that night, Max was put on 10-day quarantine. According to city ordinances, he met the definition of “a vicious animal” at the time because the bite was above the child’s shoulders, said Ankeny Police Department Lt. Ed Hamilton.
The Deals were served with a city notice for “vicious animal’ on April 24. On April 25 they appealed that determination. Hamilton said they found no previous bite history with Max.
On Monday, Josie’s father, Troy, told the council that he wants the dog removed from the neighborhood near the 300 block of North Oak Drive. He said his daughter had just been trying to “give it love.” He said he fears for the safety of other children in the “high kid traffic” area where Max was left unattended.
“Whether or not this dog is given a second chance to harm another child depends solely on the council’s decision,” he said. “Whether or not my daughter’s scars will heal properly is yet to be determined.”
Mindy Carratt, the Deals' daughter, apologized to the Babcocks and stressed that Max is a good dog. She said children must be taught how to act around animals.
“He is and always has been a very loving dog,” Carratt said.
Josie’s grandmother, Marlene Babcock, told the council about Josie’s facial scars and showed them her picture.
“I’m afraid the emotional scars will take a lot longer to heal,” she said.
“We love kids. We do not wish harm to any child or any adult,” Ted Deal told the council.
City officials Monday decided that Max’s actions did not meet the criteria of “vicious.” City officials said for Max to be considered as such he would have had to be out of his yard and have had “violent propensities” in the past.
“The dog was not considered at large,” said Hamilton.
The council decision reversed an order that could have called for the removal of Max from Ankeny city limits or possibly his destruction, Lynn Deal said.
That decision saddened Melanie Babcock.
“I’m not happy,” she said. “I would just like a guarantee that this isn’t going to happen again and no one can give me that.”
Ted Deal said he felt “good” about the decision that spared the “little fella” who stands 12 inches tall. He said his grandchildren and others interact well with Max, who has since been licensed.
“I am convinced that Max felt threatened when Josie got down to his level face to face and tried to pull him in for a hug,” he told the council.
Lynn Deal looked pained when she considered what would have happened if the council had voted to require Max removed from the city of Ankeny – or worse – destroyed.
Her daughter-in-law, Lynnette Deal, described Max as “calm.” She said her children have spent time around Max since he was a puppy.
“This was what I believe to be an isolated incident,” Lynnette Deal said.
Now, Max is on a leash any time he is outside.