Thursday, December 18, 2008

Animal Rescue Skeptical of Hero Pit Bull Story

MINNEAPOLIS -- The pit bull mix credited with saving a Florida woman and her 2-year-old son from a knife-wielding attacker is now awaiting adoption in Minnesota.

The dog's 1,500-mile flight was one of the last legs of a journey that has taken several strange turns since it began more than a month ago in Port Charlotte, Fla.

Midwest Animal Rescue in Minneapolis, Minn., is in the process of placing the dog, named Angel, into a permanent home.

Angel's ordeal began Nov. 3, when a woman claimed that a man grabbed her and held a knife to her throat as she and her toddler tried to leave Higgs Park in Port Charlotte. She told police that the 69-pound pit bull mix came out of the nearby woods and scared off the attacker.

The dog then jumped into her car before she drove home. Charlotte County Sheriff's Office spokesman Bob Carpenter said deputies never found the attacker. The dog was later taken to Charlotte County Animal Control.

Animal rescuers at MARS saw Pet Pulse's Nov. 5 article about Angel and were immediately skeptical about the alleged victim's story. The dog would not protect someone it did not know, they believed.

MARS adopted Angel, fearing for its safety if left at the pound. Though MARS rescuers questioned the woman's story about the attack, Carpenter says police have no reason to doubt it.

Pet Pulse's queries to the police department also confirmed the report as legitimate.

Angel went to the Punta Gorda Animal Hospital, in Punta Gorda, Fla., after MARS gained legal custody of him. There, veterinarians discovered that Angel had heartworms. The dog credited with saving a life now faced a danger of his own.

Monique Haas from MARS explained that the dog had to stay subdued for the six-week course of treatment in order for the medication to work. The organization decided to place the dog in a foster home in Florida so it could begin treatment immediately.

Phoenix Animal Rescue in Gainesville contacted MARS offering help. MARS spokesman Chris Rinkenberger said that's when another threat to Angel emerged. One of the people who had volunteered to serve as a foster host for the dog threatened to find Angel and take him by force, Rinkenberger said.

The threat led MARS to quickly abandon plans of fostering the dog in Florida and sent someone to personally escort Angel to Minnesota, instead.

"We didn't know who we could trust," Rinkenberger said.

Representatives from Phoenix Animal Rescue and MARS met at Tampa International Airport on Dec. 3 and Angel flew to Minneapolis.

Angel's outlook improved once he arrived in Minnesota. Veterinarians found his heartworm condition was not as serious as believed and his prognosis is good, Rinkenberger said.

The dog stayed with Rinkenberger for several days while he awaited a longer-term foster home. Angel showed no signs of aggression, he said.

Though he appeared to not have had much formal training, Angel "was very lovable," Rinkenberger said.

"He wanted human attention."

Angel's docile nature offered further indication that he would not have charged the alleged attacker, as the victim in the Florida incident had claimed.

They can't prove it, but MARS rescuers still believe that the attack never happened and that the incident was a ruse so the woman could dump her dog, perhaps hoping a hero would stand a better chance of finding a new home.

If so, the ploy worked. Haas said that it was still worth the expense and effort it took to rescue Angel, "because he needed to get out of there," she said.

Once his heartworm treatment is complete, Angel will be eligible for adoption in his new home state.

To contact MARS, visit

And to search for Pet Pulse's original story on Angel, type in "Stray Pit Bull Saves Woman" into Zootoo's news search engine.

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