After a public plea by the Sunshine Coast SPCA that raised about $12,000 for Rocko, a five-year-old lab-mix dog in need of surgery, the animal has been euthanized.
“We did have to euthanize him for showing severe aggression towards humans,” said Cindy Krapiec, branch manager.
She said Rocko was being treated for a skin condition while awaiting the cruciate surgery that would allow him to walk pain-free; however, he never got the needed procedure.
“Unfortunately they can’t go into surgery when they already have a pre-existing infection, and his skin was completely infected, his whole body was infected with a dermatitis infection.”
While being treated for the skin problem, Rocko was sent home with a foster family. It was in that family placement at the end of August that Rocko bit a teenager, Krapiec said.
“We brought him back to the shelter and we were working with him, hoping that it was maybe pain related or there was something else going on, but his behaviour escalated. He just tried to attack person after person, and we just couldn’t take that risk. Obviously you can’t re-home an animal that’s shown such severe aggression, so we had to euthanize him,” Krapiec said.
Former owner of Rocko, Shaun Thorald, said he would have taken Rocko back without hesitation; however, Krapiec said that offer couldn’t be extended since the former owners are still being investigated for animal cruelty.
Thorald maintains his family never abused Rocko.
“The dog was never abused, the dog was nothing but loved,” Thorald said.
“He had fleas, he had a hip issue and chewing problem and it culminated all at the same time but in no way does that mean abuse, not even negligence, unless you left him like that. We were treating him for fleas and it didn’t work, so we used another one and it irritated his skin.”
Rocko was eventually surrendered to the Sunshine Coast SPCA when an animal cruelty investigation was launched after someone reported seeing him limping in pain along the highway.
Thorald said Rocko, who “is actually a purebred pitbull,” never showed any signs of aggression during his years with the family and he was surprised to hear Rocko bit someone.
“He has never bit anyone before,” Thorald said.
“He was just a big lap dog who loved to jump up and cuddle.”
Lorie Chortyk, general manager of community relations with the BC SPCA, said Rocko was deemed to be adoptable in the beginning, which is why they made him a poster pooch for a fundraising campaign.
“He came to us on July 19. Normally when a dog comes into our care, we do a full behavioural assessment, but because his medical state was so poor we weren’t able to do that. But he was very friendly and seemed highly adoptable. There was nothing in his initial behaviour that caused any concern,” Chortyk said.
“I don’t think we’ve ever done an appeal where we’ve had to euthanize an animal, and in this case the staff and volunteers really believed there was a bright future for this dog.”
After the biting incident, Krapiec said Rocko was taken to the vet to ensure his pain medication was adequate, as pain can sometimes cause an animal to behave violently, but she said the medication was not considered to be a factor.
Ultimately the shelter doesn’t know why Rocko became aggressive but Chortyk said they had to euthanize the dog as he was deemed to be a risk to the community.
Krapiec said there is about $6,000 left from the money raised for Rocko that will now be used for other animals at the shelter.
“We have a dog right now that’s getting 25 teeth pulled, so I mean there’s always going to be more medical that we can put it towards. But it’s hard when we raised all that money just for him and had intended to do the surgery,” she said.