John Dinon, the society’s executive director, said the female chow mix had neurological issues and showed aggression toward cats, dogs, and occasionally humans. Without warning, the dog recently lunged and snapped at a humane society employee.
“We felt her neurological conditions would lead her to having a poor quality of life,” said Dinon, adding that the dog also failed a temperament test. “We do not adopt out or transfer aggressive dogs.”
The stray was rescued from the Maumee by a Washington Township firefighter in a hovercraft on Dec. 21, and transferred from the Lucas County Dog Warden to the humane society Dec. 30. Kennel keepers named the dog River, and later nicknamed her Icy. She appeared to be about 1½ years old, Dinon said.
The animal-welfare group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals presented awards last month to the township fire department and three Toledo teachers for their efforts in rescuing the dog from the frozen river.
Dinon said the dog’s neurological problems appeared unrelated to the icy rescue. The humane society fielded about 10 inquiries from people interested in adopting River.
“We called most of those people back and explained the situation to them,” he said.
The humane society did not pursue transferring River to the Best Friends Animal Sanctuary in Utah. Last fall, the organization paid to fly two dogs to the popular no-kill shelter that grants lifetime care. The lead dog of the two, an east Toledo German shepherd named Sarge, had been shot six times with a pistol in its owner’s yard while trapped in a cage. The shooting case generated heavy media attention.
The rescue of the chow mix started when two Walbridge Elementary School teachers — Christy Lawrence and Shelli Smith — spotted her on the frozen Maumee about a quarter-mile upriver of the Veterans’ Glass City Skyway Bridge, which they were driving across at the time. They phoned authorities and were present when the dog was rescued, along with a third Walbridge teacher, Lynn Henderman.
Lawrence and Smith expressed dismay at the dog’s death.
In a joint statement, they said: “We made frequent attempts to inquire about River’s progress. We feel they were in vain because the dog warden’s office and the humane society were not forthcoming with information. We had several options available to help River. Absolutely no aggression was apparent the night of the rescue.”
The teachers went on to say the more than two weeks the dog spent in a cage could have caused her to become scared and aggressive, and asked, “Why wasn’t River treated with the same humanity as Sarge?”
Dinon said that Sarge’s trip to Best Friends was a special exception to standard procedures.
“That’s not how we usually do things,” Dinon said. “If we put that many resources into every dog, there would be dozens or hundreds of dogs that we couldn’t help.”