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Despite attack, dogs life spared

A 75-pound Husky that attacked a 7-year-old Troutdale girl last summer, fracturing her skull, will not get the death penalty, despite spending months on canine death row.

The dog, named Snickers and owned by Alicia and John Rich of Troutdale, attacked Kaitlin McKiernan, tearing a hole in her neck and biting her head so hard that her skull was pierced, according to medical records.

The attack happened last August when the dog escaped the Riches' back yard. Records show no indication of a previous attack by Snickers.

Christine McKiernan, the girl's mother, said she is convinced that her daughter could have been killed if the child's father had not been there to pull the dog away.

The girl was rushed to the hospital, where doctors determined that her brain and spine were unharmed despite the severity of the wounds.

McKiernan said she believed that the dog would be euthanized, given the unprovoked attack and the severity of the injuries. She was so sure that she didn't attend hearings about the dog's disposition. 'They are good neighbors with kids of their own,' she said. 'I thought if I left it up to them, they would do the right thing.'

The Tribune was unable to contact the Rich family in time for publication.

It also appeared at the time that the dog would die: Multnomah County's animal control staff designated the dog as dangerous and scheduled it to be euthanized.

But the Rich family, after being contacted by animal rights advocates who offered free legal help, appealed the order.

At the hearing, attorney Robert Babcock represented Snickers and the Rich family, arguing that the dog didn't meet the stringent standards for a dangerous dog designation. The designation is 'narrowly defined' by Oregon courts, Babcock told the Tribune. The injury 'has to be permanently and seriously disfiguring or it has to have been life-threatening,' he said. 'This wasn't life-threatening, so it didn't meet the standard.'

A county hearing official agreed with Babcock that the animal did not deserve a 'dangerous' designation. Animal control officials tentatively have agreed to his suggestion that Snickers be placed at a secure sanctuary in Utah. The dog would be housed away from other animals.