Shelter Dog Mishap - Dog kills his new owner

Thousands of dogs are saved from shelters all over the world every single day. It is where a person finds their new best friend and where the dog is able to find their new forever home.

Unfortunately, a man named Anthony Riggs from Tennessee chose the wrong dog to adopt from a shelter. This is difficult to believe, but he adopted a Rottweiler that ended up killing him hours later.

Can we take a second to think about this? Imagine yourself going to a rescue shelter ready to save the life of an animal, finding the dog that you think is meant just for you, and then out of nowhere, the dog attacks you. You are home alone, your phone is across the room, and you can’t get away. There is nothing you can do.

It's terrifying, and it's sad.

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How did the dog kill his new owner?

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Rottweiler that killed Anthony Riggs. Photo: Jackson-Madison County Rabies Control

According to the shelter, they didn’t see any type of aggression from the dog while he was with them; they believed he was safe to adopt by a new owner.

This canine had been found five days earlier just roaming the streets. Obviously, since the dog was a stray animal, there was no known vaccination history.

Through the five days and countless people he interacted with, he hadn’t bitten anyone. Officials “by no means would adopt an animal out that showed any signs of aggression,” says the source.

Tennessee law requires stray dogs to only be held for three days, given food and water, but does not require them to be examined or tested for any type of disease or illness.

Madison County Sheriff’s Office spokesman Tom Mapes said:

“It's just one of those tragic stories that we want to encourage people to adopt pets, but then you have a situation like this that occurs, and it’s just mind-boggling. It's disheartening.”

My thoughts are with this man’s family. Losing someone is something nobody wants to experience, and this time, the horrific accident happened just as the holidays were coming.

Riggs’ ex-wife said, “He never hesitated to be with dogs. Sometimes, he related to dogs better than to people.”

She questioned why the dog had been up for adoption. “A docile dog does not turn in three hours and kill somebody,” she said. “Something was wrong.”

Something was definitely wrong.

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When Riggs’ wife and a co-worker of her stopped by the house, they found Riggs unresponsive on the floor. The dog bit both the wife and the co-worker without any warning signs; the dog didn’t growl or show teeth before biting.

Teresa Sanchez, the co-worker, said that the dog “just bit us like he did it all the time or something.”

According to Mapes, the Madison County Sheriff's Dept. spokesman said:

“The husband was all chewed up. There was blood everywhere. The sheriff’s report said Riggs was found ‘mortally wounded on the floor from the dog attack.’”

adopted dog kills his owner - thomas riggs
Anthony Riggs, 20 (left). Photo: USA Today/submitted

Many people believe shelters should, at the very least, adopt the protocol of performing temperament tests. This will allow a basic assessment of the dog to see how they interact with people, different situations, what their triggers are, and generally would protect the public.

Understandably, when sheriff’s deputies arrived at the scene and the dog ran out of the house, the dog was shot. They were afraid the canine would attack more people who had gathered outside.

While the dog showed no signs of aggression before, this animal is being sent off for autopsy. They will test for diseases, recent abuse, and rabies to find the reasons why he attacked his new owner.

If you are ever attacked by a dog, try to stay on your feet and use your arm to protect your face. If you are a bystander trying to help, try to approach the scene calmly and try to make a slip leash around the dog's head/neck and pull tight—if the dog can’t breathe, they can’t bite. This will force the dog to release the victim, allowing them to get to safety.

Kelly works as a veterinary technician in Austin, TX as well as regular animal rescue volunteer. She's been an animal lover and dog owner since childhood, and has worked in different dog related fields over the last twenty years. Currently she lives with three dogs and a cat.