A dog who reportedly 'attacked' an Australian woman will not be put down, as his owners had feared, after police determined that the animal had been acting to defend the woman's son.
More than 50,000 people had signed a petition to spare the dog's life following the incident in Moama, New South Wales. The woman, understood to be a crystal meth addict, had allegedly brought her two sons, aged 5 and 9, to the Murray River last Thursday in order to drown them.
According to local reports, the woman had first ordered the older boy into the water, but he escaped and ran up the river bank - at which point he was bitten by the dog, a pitbull named Buddy. The dog then attacked the mother.
The younger boy's body was later recovered from the water following a police search. The mother is expected to be charged with murder and attempted murder.
The dog was detained by Murray River Council rangers, prompting fears he was to be destroyed.
The online petition said: "Buddy ... is a pitbull cross and has since been seized from his owners who are distraught by not only what this mother has done but also that our dog has been seized when he should be labelled a hero instead.
"Buddy doesn't have a history of being a dangerous dog and most certainly hasn't ever bitten anyone and has never been seized before for anything.
"Buddy is a member of our family and has grown up around children his whole life and has been the most gentlest dog, he has clearly seen a child in distress and attempted to help."
The owners have now been informed that their pet will be returned to them unharmed.
"The NSW Police have since advised us that their investigations to date have deemed that the dog in question was responding to extreme circumstances," a council spokeswoman told the Sydney Morning Herald.
"It is likely that the dog was acting in reasonable defence of the nine-year-old boy.
"The NSW Police have advised council that they will not be seeking an order to destroy this animal."
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