A journalist has opened up about the "heartbreaking decision" to euthanise her adopted "pandemic dog", sparking heated debate online.
Madeline Bilis, real estate editor with the website Apartment Therapy, penned a piece for Slate last week describing how just before Christmas she adopted Bonnie, "a six-year-old beagle whose photo melted my heart".
"Like many others last year, I was thrilled to adopt a dog," she wrote.
"The so-called pandemic puppy boom made for what felt like stiff competition at the time."
But according to the New York-based journalist, the New Jersey animal shelter failed to inform her about Bonnie's history of aggressive behaviour.
After six months of failed behavioural training, "daily dog anxiety meds" and unsuccessful attempts at rehoming Bonnie, Bilis said she was left with no option but "behavioural euthanasia".
"She was adorable – and violent," Bilis wrote. "I found a resolution many choose but few acknowledge."
The article, which drew praise from some readers for honestly addressing a difficult topic, described how Bonnie was involved in a number of serious biting incidents.
"Last Christmas morning, I patted my bed, inviting my newly adopted beagle, Bonnie, to jump up and cuddle," she began the piece.
"My boyfriend, still under the covers, reached out to pet her soft little head, which was now wedged between us. I turned away to grab my phone, and it happened: a guttural bark, followed by a human scream. I whipped around to see my boyfriend's hand covered in blood. It was Bonnie's second bite in the week since I'd adopted her."
Bilis told of another incident where Bonnie lunged at a man walking past them on the pavement.
"Before I could react, she chomped into his calf, his pant leg in her teeth as he tried to pull away," she wrote.
"To my surprise, the man brushed off the incident. I did not."
Bilis said as Bonnie's "bite count continued to grow, so did my desire to stop living with a dangerous animal".
"I tiptoed around my two-room home each day, hoping I wouldn't cross any invisible boundaries," she wrote.
"As the weeks went by and no new options appeared, I realised I had a choice: I could send her off with a stranger one day – someone she would certainly injure, and who would perhaps end up euthanising her anyway – or I could allow her to leave this terrifying world peacefully with someone she loves."
She stressed that behavioural euthanasia was "not a decision made out of convenience".
"On the phone, I wept quietly as I made Bonnie's appointment, taking shallow breaths as the receptionist instructed me to make sure she was wearing her muzzle when we arrived," she said.
Bilis said she had nightmares in the days after putting Bonnie down.
"Crushed with guilt, I wondered if there was more I could have done to help my sweet beagle," she said.
"I didn't tell most people what happened. What if they thought I was a monster for not trying hard enough? Instead, I made a post on Instagram so I wouldn't have to talk to the people who had been gushing over Bonnie."
In the post, Bilis said she "explained she had an illness that went undiagnosed before I adopted her, and that I had to say goodbye".
"She was sick, just in a way that was impossible for most people to see," she wrote.
Unsurprisingly, the article sparked heated reaction online.
"I had to have my 16-year-old dog put down because he couldn't walk anymore," one user wrote. "I had to have my 20-year-old cat put down because he was dying in pain. It broke me. Twice. You ended a dog because her behaviour was inconvenient."
A number of people shared images of their own adopted dogs.
One woman said her mother's rescue dog had the same issues and had bitten her several times.
"But we figured out what behaviours WE were doing that triggered her reactions and adjusted accordingly," she said.
"She is now a bit of a diva for attention but she's ALIVE because we didn't PUT HER DOWN over it."
Another wrote, "You gave that six-year-old doggo less than six months' training to turn around a lifetime of trauma and fear … and then you euthanised her when you couldn't get her to adjust quick enough. No back pats for you for this. That's just cruel."
One user said that in her "30-year-plus career as a veterinarian who works on dogs with anxieties and behavioural issues, I've only had to euthanise two dogs for child safety reasons".
"Both were 240lb [110kg] Mastiffs," she wrote.
Several took issue with the term "pandemic dog".
"If your motivation to adopt a living being into your care is simply because you're bored from lockdown, that's a good first sign that you shouldn't," one person wrote.
Many defended Bilis, however, agreeing she had no choice and praising her for the piece.
"Beagles are usually not aggressive so clearly poor Bonnie had a lot of trauma before you found her," wrote conservative podcaster Lyndsey Fifield.
"You did the best you could and did the most responsible thing preventing her from hurting anyone else. I'm sorry for the sick attacks you are facing for sharing this story."
Daily Wire host Matt Walsh wrote, "A lot of people angry about this article but obviously the correct thing to do with a violent and dangerous domesticated animal is put it down."