The Press Newspaper
It made animal lovers everywhere cringe upon hearing on July 9 that a dog had been shot several times by its owner and the owner’s friend while confined to a cage in East Toledo.
A Lucas County Dog Warden deputy transported the dog, called Sarge, to an emergency veterinary clinic, where x-rays showed six bullets were lodged in its head, neck and chest. The dog recovered, and was transported late last month to the Toledo Area Humane Society (TAHS) for temperament testing.
Although Sarge dodged death, the TAHS deemed he was too aggressive for adoption. According to John Dinon, executive director of the TAHS, Sarge had bitten two employees at the shelter before any testing could be conducted.
“Through informal observation, we’ve determined that he is an aggressive dog. He’s snapped at several staff members, and actually bitten two staff members,” said Dinon. “He would definitely not pass our regular temperament test. He’s too aggressive to even do the test on.”
As a result, the shelter is left with only three options for the dog: transfer it to a certified rescue group that has a history of rehabilitating aggressive dogs like Sarge; a transfer to an animal sanctuary where Sarge could live out the remainder of its life without posing a threat to the public, or humanely euthanize him.
Dinon told The Press last Wednesday that euthanizing Sarge would be a last resort. He is working on finding a sanctuary or rescue group that is interested in taking Sarge.
“We are going to try and find a home for him,” said Dinon. “But whoever we would send him to would have to be someone who has demonstrated skills working with aggressive dogs. Our first choice would be a rescue with a very strong training staff that could rehabilitate and hopefully re-home him. Or if that doesn’t work, possibly a long term sanctuary type situation. Euthanasia is still a possibility, but that is an option of last resort. We are working very hard to find a good outcome for him. We can’t 100 percent rule it out, but we’re working very hard not to euthanize him.”
The shelter has been communicating with “Best Friends Animal Society,” of Utah, the nation’s largest sanctuary for homeless pets, said Dinon. Most animals brought there are ready to go to foster or permanent homes, according to the non-profit group’s website at http://www.bestfriends.org. Others, who are too badly traumatized, through ill treatment or are old, crippled, or chronically ill, find a permanent home at the sanctuary. It also rehabilitates dogs with behavioral problems. The group rehabilitated several dogs that were once owned by football player Michael Vick, who went to jail as the result of operating a dog fighting ring on his property in Virginia in 2007.
“They have a very strong behavioral staff,” he said of Best Friends. “They’re really pretty widely known as a last resort for very hard cases,” he said. “They get thousands of these types of requests per year, and they are evaluating Sarge’s case right now. We’re going back and forth. I’m not sure when we’ll have an answer from them.”
Other groups have expressed an interest in Sarge, but most have not shown to have the proper qualifications, he said.
“I’ve asked them to send me documentation of their abilities to handle a dog like this. So far, only one group has sent us any information, although there’s a couple of others who have expressed tentative interests. We have a lot of people who say they want to adopt him, but it has to be someone who is qualified,” he said.
Sarge’s owner, Lawrence Mick, and friend Adam Collins allegedly took turns to repeatedly shoot the dog while it was confined to a cage. Neighbors reportedly heard it whimpering in pain and called police. Both men have been charged with animal cruelty.
Dinon, who estimates Sarge to be between two and three-years-old, doesn’t know why the dog is so aggressive.
“Sarge is the toughest case I’ve ever had to deal with,” said Dinon. “I’ve done some research on him. Mick is actually his second owner. And he showed aggression with the first owner. According to hospital and dog warden reports, he bit Mick’s girlfriend pretty badly about 10 days before the shooting. So he showed some aggression before he was shot. Certainly, that experience didn’t sweeten up his disposition. I don’t know why he turned into an aggressive dog.”
Dinon said a large number of people have contacted the shelter wanting to adopt Sarge. Now that the decision has been made not to put Sarge up for adoption, Dinon challenged those who showed an interest in adopting Sarge to consider adopting another dog with special needs at the shelter.
“We’ve had inquiries from all over the country and all over the world. Most of them are not qualified to take an aggressive dog like Sarge. But if you have room in your home for a dog, we have lots of dogs.,” said Dinon. “If you have the skills to deal with a special needs dog, not necessarily this aggressive, visit our shelter. We confiscate a lot of dogs through our cruelty department. We get dogs from the dog warden that were surrendered because of behavioral issues. If you have a place in your heart for Sarge, and you aren’t going to get him, why not step up and adopt one of the special needs dogs that we have at the humane society or at your local shelter?”
He noted, in particular, Cheeto, a shepherd mix at the shelter that is extremely timid.
“He’s an older dog – about eight or nine-years-old. He’s just an extremely shy dog. If somebody has a quiet household, is very patient and willing to work with him, Cheeto would make a great pet,” said Dinon. “There’s lots of dogs like Cheeto that need homes. Hopefully, all those people interested in Sarge will say, `Okay, I didn’t get Sarge, I’ll adopt another needy dog from the shelter.”
The shelter has about 35 dogs, 50 adult cats, and 30 kittens currently available for adoption.
For more information, call the TAHS at 419-891-0709.