Disabled U.S. Army veteran Jeremy Aguilar couldn’t imagine his life without his dog, Dutch. But today, the veteran of both the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq is fighting for Dutch’s life, and he is asking for your help.
Dutch, a 4-year-old American Allaunt, is a certified AKC Canine Good Citizen and Jeremy’s registered service dog. Jeremy’s wife Heather Aguilar calls Dutch “the most therapeutic thing that could have ever happened” in her husband’s life. According to his family, Dutch doesn’t have an aggressive bone in his body.
Last November, Jeremy and Heather dropped Dutch off at his former owner’s home in Montrose, Colo., while they drove to the airport to drop off a family member. The former owner, whom Jeremy and Heather had known for almost 12 years, had agreed to keep an eye on Dutch while the Aguilars made the 10-hour round trip drive.
But what happened next no one could have expected. When the Aguilars returned to pick up Dutch, they found their dog had injuries to his face and head. His caretaker, a woman the Aguilars trusted, said Dutch had bitten her, breaking the skin on her leg and buttock.
The woman decided to contact Montrose Animal Control and press charges against Jeremy and Dutch. Jeremy was cited under municipal ordinance 6-2-9 (A), Vicious animals, which defines a vicious animal as “any animal that, without provocation, bites or attacks persons or other animals.” Animals fitting this definition are euthanized under a court order.
But the Aguilars insist their mild-mannered Canine Good Citizen service dog does not fit the description of a “vicious animal” under the Montrose law. They know this because Dutch was not just provoked — he was allegedly beaten.
Heather tells DogHeirs.com that Dutch’s former owner admitted to hitting Dutch before she was bit. According to Heather, the woman was quite clear about beating Dutch, telling animal control officers she “started punching him in the face and kept punching him until [her] hands hurt so bad [she] couldn’t hit him anymore.” Dutch’s former owner then used a metal pole to strike Dutch repeatedly before dragging him indoors by his collar and grabbing Dutch’s mouth.
Following the incident, Jeremy and Heather rushed Dutch to a veterinarian. They explain that Dutch’s injuries looked so severe, his eyes had swollen shut and his snout was so swollen it appeared to triple in size.
“Face swollen like he was hit,” the veterinarian’s report begins. “Extensive ST trauma on left side of face. Swelling extends from nose up to eye and base of ear. Some dried blood noted on dog’s fur but no wounds apparent in mouth or on face/body.” The veterinarian took time to note Dutch’s exemplary behavior during the exam.
Dutch was also evaluated for temperament by Carrie Williams, a retired trainer and behaviorist with experience evaluating animals for organizations like Therapy Dogs International (TDI) and the AKC Canine Good Citizen Program.
“In my testing of dogs for TDI [Therapy Dogs International] and the AKC [American Kennel Club] and as a dog obedience instructor, I have dealt with a number of aggressive dogs,” Williams explains. “Dutch was not one of those dogs.”
“Dutch is a sweetheart. In 26 years of training dogs, he is one of the nicest dogs I’ve ever come across,” Williams added, explaining that, in her expert opinion, the only way Dutch would have bitten anyone is if he felt his life was in danger.
Despite the evidence pointing to provocation before the biting incident, the judge in Dutch’s case ruled that because the beating took place outdoors and he did not bite his former owner until they were inside her home, municipal ordinance 6-2-9 (A), Vicious animals applies and the court-ordered euthanasia stands.
But Jeremy and Heather refused to give up on Dutch. Though they offered to send Dutch to a rehabilitation program, agreeing to surrender Dutch if the evaluator there considers him vicious, the judge would only approve if Dutch’s former owner also approved, which she did not.
The Aguilar family now knows their only shot at saving Dutch’s life is with the public’s much-needed support. They have created the “Save Dutch” Facebook page to help spread Dutch’s story.
Jeremy Aguilar returns to court Thursday, February 14, when he will learn his beloved service dog’s fate.
If you would like to help Jeremy Aguilar and his buddy Dutch, please consider sharing their story and signing their petition, which has already accumulated over 34,000 signatures and counting. They are also accepting donations to the Aguilar family’s legal fund via their PayPal account at firstname.lastname@example.org.