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Rescue Group Working To Save Dog Ordered Put Down

Reported by: Send eMail Darrah Wilcox
Reported: Jul. 2, 2014 5:42 PM EDT
Updated: Jul. 2, 2014 11:57 PM EDT

Saving Tinkerbell
Eyewitness News Photo

Huntington , Cabell County , West Virginia

Capri Billings is on a mission to rescue Tinkerbell the dog-- again.

"If I thought in any way that this dog was vicious, I wouldn't want her in the community," Billings said. "I wouldn't have offered to bring her back into my home. Our ultimate goal is to save her life."

Billings runs rescue group River Cities Bully Buddies, and Tinkerbell spent 16 months with her family until she found her forever home in Wayne County.

In both homes, Billings said the dog was around children with no incidents of biting or aggression. She said the dog was often at events with her organization, and was always well-received.

"She was always a crowd favorite, because she had such a goofy, silly demeanor. She was always great with the toddlers," she said.

But this spring, Humane officers took Tinkerbell after the dog bit an 8-year-old neighbor. The boy got 14 stitches in his lips.

"It was an unfortunate accident. The kids were throwing the ball around, and I guess Tinkerbell got excited, because she loves toys, and her and the little boy went for the ball at the same time," Billings said.

She said Tinkerbell retreated immediately.

The Wayne County Prosector's Office pursued a misdemeanor case against Tinkerbell's owners, and they were found not guilty of knowingly harboring a vicious animal.

But the legal case wasn't over. At a subsequent hearing two weeks later, a Wayne County judge ordered the dog be put down, and the dog was seized again.

"I think it was situational," Jim Cumm, director of the Cabell-Wayne Animal Shelter, said. "I don't think the animal is vicious. I've seen animals that are vicious, and it has a different demeanor. But yet still, how does a family get peace having an animal in their community that bit their child?"

The little boy is doing okay, and Cumm said the family told him while they don't want Tinkerbell to be euthanized, they also don't want her in their community.

"I think for the community to have rest, the dog needs to be taken out of the community, but if you take it out of that community, you put it in someone else's, and a dog having a tendency to bite, probably the best scenario is to put the animal down," he said.

Billings said she doesn't think it's fair and thinks Tinkerbell is being targeted because she looks like a pit bull.

"It almost became like a witch hunt, that we need to eliminate certain dogs from the community because they are said to be vicious," she said.

She said her group works tirelessly to break down stereotypes on the breed.

"They're the underdog, they're the misunderstood dog, and we also strive to increase public awareness that every dog is unique, every dog needs to be judged on their own actions, and you their own personalities - not what they look like or what they may or may not be," she said.

Cumm said he believes, any dog, if put in a certain situation, can be dangerous, but larger dogs often cause more harm because of their size.

"I think every animal, regardless of breed, can be put in a bite situation and things would happen the same way," he said.

Billings said they have 30 days from Monday's hearing to appeal the decision in a higher court. She said they believe there is precedent in the State Supreme Court of Appeals to have the decision reversed. They've set up a Facebook page called "Saving Tinkerbell," if you'd like to follow their story.

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