YouTuber Nikki Phillippi is facing backlash after posting that her family put their dog down.
Phillippi said that her family put down their dog, Bowser, after displays of aggression.
An animal-behavior expert told Insider that these decisions are extremely difficult.
An influencer is facing backlash from other social media personalities and members of her audience after announcing that she and her husband decided to put down their dog after he bit their son.
Nikki Phillippi, a YouTuber with 1.29 million subscribers who regularly posts lifestyle and family videos, announced in a YouTube video and on Instagram that her family euthanized their dog Bowser following displays of aggression.
"Bowser had an aggressive side that reared it's ugly head a few times over the years... and recently he bit Logan," she wrote in the caption of Tuesday's Instagram post, referring to her young son. "After a lot of counsel, we decided it was time for Bowser to pass peacefully on."
The announcement that Phillippi and her family decided to put the dog down incited backlash online, with viewers and other content creators saying that they should have sought out other options, attempted to mitigate his behavior, or tried to rehome him. But an animal behavior expert told Insider that while no one wants to make an end-of-life decision, the discussion can be appropriate in cases of aggressive animals.
"We didn't want to make this decision...as I'm sure you can imagine," the caption on the post reads. "I'm not kidding when I say this was one of the saddest days of my life."
Phillippi and her husband Dan elaborated on the decision in a YouTube video posted Monday, saying that Bowser had "seriously injured a couple different dogs" in the past and that he had injured their son Logan after he tried to take food from the dog. She also said that a moment of "aggression" five years ago made them consider putting Bowser down at the time.
Phillippi said that they had attempted to find a new home for Bowser, but said that after consulting with a humane society were told that rehoming wasn't an option.
"In some ways it's been anticipated for a really long time, and in others, it was completely shocking," Phillippi said in the video. "Never crossed my mind - 'Oh, now we're gonna have to put Bowser down' - I just thought, 'Oh, he's just gotta be in the right home.' But after getting counsel from multiple professionals who are with dogs all the time, all of them said that, they all said the same thing."
Phillippi was quickly criticized for the choice
Followers and members of the YouTube community heavily criticized Phillippi for euthanizing her dog.
The comments section of Phillippi's Instagram post is full of critical comments that have racked up thousands of likes. "Shame on you," one commenter wrote on Tuesday. "Some dogs can't live with kids but that doesn't mean they shouldn't be allowed to live," said another.
Comments on the YouTube video were turned off. But a clip from the video shared on Twitter by DefNoodles, a YouTube watchdog channel, had responses that accused Phillippi of "animal cruelty."
One Twitter user posted a screenshot of Phillippi's Instagram announcement and wrote, "influencers are the real pandemic."
Meghan Rienks, an influencer and actress with over 990,000 followers on Instagram, posted on the platform and tweeted about Phillippi's announcement. Rienks said that Phillippi "could have pulled a myka stauffer," referencing a parenting influencer who faced backlash in 2020 for saying that she had "rehomed" her son with developmental disabilities after previously monetizing videos about him.
Handling aggressive pets is difficult and a nuanced issue, an expert said
While many critics said there were other options for the Phillippi family, situations involving aggressive pets can be complicated and must be handled on a case-by-case basis alongside professionals, according to Liv Hagen, the manager of shelter behavior services at the Minnesota-based Animal Humane Society.
Hagen told Insider that when dealing with a dog displaying aggression, you must evaluate the animal's response to certain triggers, and determine whether those triggers and responses are manageable or not.
"If you have a dog that you're experiencing some level of aggression with, there are people that can help," Hagen said, but added that she couldn't comment on Phillippi's particular case.
Hagen recommended that owners of aggressive pets consult with veterinarians, veterinary behaviorists, or certified behavior consultants. Sometimes, Hagen said, those discussions end with difficult decisions that are never taken lightly - like rehoming an animal or ending its life. Pet owners may euthanize their pets for a variety of other reasons too, like illness, chronic pain, or old age, according to American Humane, an animal welfare non-profit organization.
"An end-of-life decision is not something anyone ever wants to do," Hagen said. "If it is the case where the animal is truly unsafe - again, making that decision in consultation with experts and professionals - then maybe it is an appropriate discussion to have with the expert that you're working with. And as heartbreaking as it is, it sometimes happens."
Phillippi did not immediately respond to Insider's request for comment.
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