Henderson surrenders dog that fatally mauled child to animal rights group

The legal battle over Onion the dog ended Thursday, nearly two years after he mauled and killed a young Henderson boy.

Henderson officials, who have long sought to euthanize Onion, turned the dog over to the Lexus Project, an animal rights group based in New York.

According to a statement released late Thursday, city officials decided to give up the court fight “in an effort to spare family members the grief of reliving the tragic events of the dog attack that killed” 1-year-old Jeremiah Eskew-Shahan.

The attack occurred on April 27, 2012, as the boy celebrated his birthday with his father, grandmother and other family members at their Henderson home.

After the incident, the city declared the dog vicious, and the owner turned him over to be euthanized. The Lexus Project intervened in court before that could happen, saying Jeremiah’s grandmother, the dog’s owner, had changed her mind and wanted to release the dog to the group.

In December, the Nevada Supreme Court returned the case to Clark County District Court for an evidentiary hearing to determine the facts of the case and ownership of the animal, a 120-pound mixed breed.

At issue was whether Onion’s owner, Elizabeth Keller, voluntarily surrendered ownership to the city on the day of the incident.

“As part of the court proceedings, family members would have been required to testify and relive the horrible details of that day,” city spokesman Bud Cranor said in a statement. “We didn’t want the family to have to endure that tragedy all over again.”

When reached late Thursday in New York, Robin Mattasch, president and co-founder of the Lexus Project, confirmed the settlement.

“The litigation for Onion has been dismissed, and he has been relocated permanently to a rescue,” she said. “And out of respect to the family of Jeremiah Eskew-Shahan, we will make no further comment on this subject. It’s over.”

Mattasch would not say where Onion went, but she said he will not go to the Colorado sanctuary the group originally sought to send him to.

According to the city’s statement, its agreement with the Lexus Project indemnifies the city of future liability for the dog, “which was picked up from the Henderson Animal Shelter well cared for and in good health.”

“It also requires that the group transfer the dog out of state to a licensed dog rescue facility and provides assurances that the animal will never be allowed to be adopted out or in an environment with children present. The city is also requiring the Lexus Project to pay for a memorial for Jeremiah Eskew-Shahan that will be placed in a city of Henderson park.”

Contact reporter Carri Geer Thevenot at cgeer@reviewjournal.com or 702-384-8710. Follow @CarriGeer on Twitter.