Family’s loss may be a lesson for others with aggressive pets
OU News Bureau
Tim Iovan was teary-eyed as he recalled the day he gave up Ramona, his beloved pet pit bull.
“I just want to see my dog again,” said the 54-year-old Northville man.
Iovan and his family learned the hard way that research is necessary when adopting a pet — especially when that pet is a purebred pit bull.
The Iovan family adopted 5-week-old white pit-bull Ramona into their home in February 2011 when their daughter Emily, 19, was given the dog by a coworker.
“I fell in love with her,” Emily Iovan explained. “She was playful, and she liked to snuggle.”
By November, Ramona began to display aggression and attacked Emily’s brother, Grant.
“She bit me twice out of nowhere,” he said. “I have puncture wounds in my left butt cheek.”
After the attack, Tim Iovan immediately placed an ad on Craig’s list. Responding within hours was Sara Yankowski and Amanda Burgess, two women who recently had started their own animal rescue, Pitties and their Kitties.
“She was extremely aggressive,” Yankowski said of her first meeting with Ramona.
Ramona was taken to Rossini Animal Hospital in South Lyon where a veterinarian noticed odd behavior. Tests showed the dog was deaf.
Due to a miscommunication between the family and the animal rescue group, the dog was signed over to a deaf animal sanctuary in Ohio after its diagnosis. Pitties and their Kitties will not release Ramona’s whereabouts or the names of her new owners.
Emily said that this situation is avoidable and that anyone looking to give up a pet should do some research first.
“Don’t just put your dog on Craig’s list,” Emily advised. “Be clear-headed about it.”
Yankowski said that this was a misunderstanding and that there are better ways to handle an aggressive or unwanted dog.
“Try to have your dog trained and rehabilitated — don’t give up,” Yankowski said.
Head to the vet
Kevin Hatman, Michigan Humane Society public relations coordinator, suggested taking a pet with sudden behavior issues to a veterinarian.
“If your pet is acting out of character, take it to a veterinarian,” he said. “It could have some sort of health issue.”
For minor behavior issues, he recommended calling the Michigan Humane Society’s free pet behavior help line.
When faced with a situation where a pet must be given up to new owners, Yankowski and Hatman suggested taking the animal to a local branch of the Michigan Humane Society.
On its website, the society encourages pet owners to “exhaust other options before considering the surrender of an animal,” but understands that giving up a pet is sometimes necessary.
“Should you ultimately decide to surrender your pet, the Michigan Humane Society will not turn away your pet for any reason, including potential adoptability or cage space,” the site says.
“We are completely open regardless of health or temperament,” he said
According to Yankowski, shelters can be a risky option for breeds such as pit bulls,
“Never take it to a shelter unless you are sure they are no-kill,” she advised. “If you take it to a shelter, it could die. Instead, find a breed rescue — they’re everywhere.”
The Michigan Humane Society will take purebred pit bulls. However, if an animal is unable to be adopted out because of health or temperament issues, it will sometimes be humanely euthanized if another rescue cannot be found, Hatman said.
A learning experience
Ramona’s case was a learning experience for Pitties and their Kitties as well, Yankowski said.
“We no longer take owner surrenders, where the owner signs over the dog,” she explained. “We were new at it, and we didn’t have surrender forms written up. We don’t do that anymore.”
Pitties and their Kitties now rescues animals from shelters and places them in foster homes before adopting them out to suitable families.
Yankowski said she is sorry the Iovans had to give up a beloved pet. She said dogs such as Ramona need specific kind of family to handle them properly. However, she also said that many pit bulls are family friendly.
“If the Iovans ever want a pit-bull in the future, we will find a suitable one and waive an adoption fee,” she said. “I love pits — they can be wonderful pets.”
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