Popular parenting YouTubers Nikki Phillippi and Dan Phillippi are facing criticism from fans and followers after sharing that they had euthanized their nine-year-old bull terrier, Bowser.
The pair, who live in Nashville, said in an emotional YouTube video shared on May 3 that there had been "multiple instances" over the years where they would have been justified in putting the dog down, but the final straw came after he bit their young son, Logan, in an incident that Dan called "defensive."
Dan and Nikki Phillippi did not respond to multiple requests for comment from TODAY.
"It happened in a way that almost doesn’t matter, because the end result was the same, but in the spirit of telling the story, it wasn’t like Bowser attacked Logan. Logan tried to take food from him," Nikki explained in the video. While Logan wasn't seriously hurt, he was left with "a mark" on his face from Bowser's teeth.
Dan said in an earlier incident, Logan had also hurt the dog's ear, leaving it swollen for nearly a month. That incident allegedly left Bowser with a scar.
The Phillippis said in their video that Bowser was an "angel" who could "get rowdy" whose personality changed after he was attacked by another bull terrier, which belonged to Nikki Phillippi's parents.
"Bowser was attacked when he was a puppy, and we never really talked about that very much, but that was a big turning point in Bowser's personality," Nikki said. "Prior to the attack, Bowser could go to dog parks, Bowser was just calmer in general, and then after the attack it just triggered something in him ... Ever since then, things really took a turn."
The couple said that while they loved Bowser, it had become difficult to care for him once they had their son. They also said that they were planning to move soon and already had begun to have conversations about what to do with Bowser, since there's "a lot that goes into transporting him."
"He's seriously injured a couple different dogs, including (other pet) Zoe ... We had her stitched up a couple different times," Dan said. "He's such a powerful animal that just the tiniest fraction of a second, an 'Oops, he didn't mean it,' or 'He snaps out of it,' it's not good."
The pair said that they had considered rehoming Bowser, but were told by "the humane society" that that "was not an option," due to his long history with the family and "all the instances where Bowser had shown aggression."
The Humane Society of the United States told TODAY that the nationwide organization had "no involvement with this case." When contacted by TODAY, the Nashville Humane Association said they had no records of Dan and Nikki Phillippi, and were not aware of any conversations about the euthanizing of Bowser. The Phillippis did not specify in the video which animal shelter they had connected with beyond saying "the humane society," and they did not respond to requests for comment.
The Phillippis said in their video that they decided to have the dog euthanized at home.
"It was the worst day (but) it was amazing because you know, everything comes to an end, and if you have to have an end, which everything does, it was a beautiful, perfect ending in our living room, in our arms," said Nikki. "We were able to hug him and kiss him and hold him and thank him."
Backlash to the video and to social media posts about their decision came quickly.
The Phillippis have both set their Instagram accounts to private, and comments were disabled under the YouTube video. On Twitter, users have begun to reference the incident in the comments of Nikki's old Tweets, while Dan appears to have deleted his account. A Change.org petition calling for the de-monetization of the couple's YouTube channel has begun to circulate, garnering over 12,000 signatures.
Some were concerned about one moment in the video, where Dan said that he thought of the movie "Old Yeller," where a dog is put down.
"In the moment, I’m thinking — I grew up with the movie 'Old Yeller,' and I wanted to pick Bowser up by the back of the neck, take him into the backyard, and put him down right there," said Dan, around the 16-minute mark of the video.
Others criticized the couple for having a photo shoot with the dog before euthanizing him.
One person wrote, in part, "On today’s episode of influencers are the real pandemic...@NikkiPhillippi puts down her dog for biting her kid but not before she has a photoshoot with the dog inches away from the kid the dog allegedly bit and needs to be put down for."
Some users referenced videos where the couple appeared to tease Bowser with their other dog, Zoe. One clip appears to show Dan moving the small dog around, while Nikki films.
Other YouTube creators, including Jeffree Star, Rachel Ballinger and Jaclyn Hill, criticized the couple on social media. Star, who has several dogs, said it was "hard to wrap (his) head around" the couple's actions.
Early in the video, Nikki said that she had expected backlash to the decision.
"This was not a decision we came to lightly, you know, when they were first talking about this, and just how this was all going to unfold and just having conversations around it, one of the things that I said was 'People aren’t going to get it, people are going to be upset,'" Nikki said. "And Dan's response was 'Nobody’s going to be as upset as I am.'"