Dog lover from Churchill adopts husky that killed baby

| Thursday, Feb. 23, 2012

A dog that fatally mauled a 2-day-old baby will not be euthanized, and is living with a Churchill man who adopted him, raising the concern of neighbors and officials from nearby schools.

William Uhring saw the news coverage of the Feb. 16 death of newborn Howard Nicholson Jr. and photos of Nico, an 18-month-old husky that police said attacked the child, and decided he wanted to give him a new home.

"It's not the dog's fault," Uhring said on Wednesday. "That dog was put in a very uncomfortable situation, and I didn't want to see it victimized further."

Alan Hernandez, who lives across the street from Uhring on Greensburg Pike, said he isn't happy to hear that the husky involved in the fatal attack is living close by.

"I have a little boy, and now I'm going to have to make him come inside if that husky is outside," Hernandez said. "This is shocking to me. I can't believe someone adopted that dog. That dog should have been euthanized."

Schools and several school bus stops are located on the street where Uhring lives. Alan Johnson, assistant superintendent of the Woodland Hills School District, said he plans to contact the district's solicitor to explore legal options.

"This is an animal that we'd like to not have anywhere near any of our students, and now we're very concerned for their safety," Johnson said.

Allegheny County police are investigating the fatal incident and have not decided whether to pursue criminal charges against the baby's mother, Brandy Furlong, 21.

Yesterday, District Attorney Stephen A. Zappala Jr.'s office asked McKeesport police to withdraw citations issued to Furlong this week for failure to register and properly vaccinate her four dogs and for harboring a dangerous dog in relation to the husky.

Zappala spokesman Mike Manko said authorities are investigating, and he declined to elaborate on why the request to withdraw the citations was made.

Furlong told police she put the infant in a baby carrier, which she placed on the living room floor before leaving the room for a few minutes. She heard the baby screaming and ran to find the child bleeding severely from the head with the husky hovering over him.

The baby died in the hospital about 90 minutes later from severe head trauma, the Medical Examiner's Office said.

Ken Ferree, owner of Ferree Kennels in McKeesport who contracts to provide animal control services for the city, removed the husky and another dog. Ferree said the husky had a broken leg and a makeshift splint but apparently had not been taken to a veterinarian.

It was Ferree's decision to release the husky, said James Morton, assistant superintendent of county police.

"We're doing the investigation but we have no control or authority over the dog and whether or not it is euthanized or allowed to be adopted," Morton said.

Ferree couldn't be reached, and no one answered the door at his kennel. No one answered the door at the Scott Street home of Furlong and boyfriend Howard Nicholson Sr., 26.

Uhring said he doesn't know Furlong or Nicholson -- but after seeing news coverage of the attack, he drove to their home and left a note on the front door, offering to pay the $650 in kennel fees and veterinary fees if they would sign over custody of the husky to him. They went to the kennel Tuesday night and retrieved the dog, Uhring said, and a pit bull was given back to Furlong and Nicholson, Uhring said.

Police said Furlong and Nicholson bought the husky from someone on the Internet about a month before the fatal attack.

Yuhring said he has a 7-year-old husky, also named Nico, and a 13-year-old black Labrador retriever. He said he felt rescuing the dog was the right thing to do. He said the husky, which has a cast on its broken leg, is getting along well with the other dogs and with Uhring's teenage daughter. He changed the husky's name to Helo and said he isn't concerned the animal might attack again.

"That dog was in pain, with a homemade splint on its leg, and it was put in a new home with other dogs and was probably lowest on the food chain when it came to eating," Uhring said. "He ate so much food when he got to my house. He just needs a loving home."

Daniel Estep, a Denver-based animal behavior specialist, said dogs involved in fatal attacks are typically euthanized.

"Most shelters are not going to put up for adoption a dog that has a serious bite and certainly not one that killed an infant," Estep said. "They wouldn't touch that with a 10-foot pole. I certainly wouldn't trust that dog around really little kids in the future."

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