Kathy Lynn Gray, The Columbus Dispatch, Ohio –
Michelle Phillips couldn’t believe what she was seeing.
A wriggling brown puppy, locked in a crate, was slowly sinking into the chilly water of Dry Run Creek on the Hilltop. And the man who’d thrown him in was speeding away in a gold sedan.
Within seconds, Phillips was wading in, grasping the nearly underwater crate and lugging it ashore as the shivering, crying puppy looked up at her with his dark eyes.
“I’m so mad,” said Phillips, 53, a head custodian in the South-Western school district. “How could someone do this?”
Drowning a healthy dog or killing it some other way is not unusual, said Joe Rock, director of the Franklin County Dog Shelter. Every year, concerned citizens or shelter wardens find dogs tossed into trash bins, abandoned in empty apartments or thrown into rivers to die.
“It’s unfathomable to me and to most people,” Rock said. “It just makes you want to get out there and do more.”
One dog recently came into the shelter covered with motor oil. Another was found in a trash container with two broken legs.
Anyone who wants to get rid of a dog can take it to the shelter, which took in 12,666 dogs last year. Fifty-seven percent were strays brought in by the county’s 16 wardens, while another 18 percent were strays dropped off by citizens.
Six percent came in after hours, when dogs can be left anonymously in an indoor kennel.
Nineteen percent — more than 2,000 animals — were turned over to the shelter by their owners.
That number is rising. Through October of this year, 25 percent of the dogs taken to the shelter were brought in by their owners, spokeswoman Susan Smith said. Moving and the inability to pay for care are the major reasons people gave for surrendering their pets, Smith said.
So far this year, 26 people have said they gave up a pooch because they were homeless, and nearly 200 said they couldn’t afford the cost of care. Other reasons include a dog’s advanced age or serious illness and owners who say they don’t have time for their dogs.
Pups such as the dog Phillips rescued — a pit-bull mix now known as Rio — are even more at risk, Rock said. One in 4 of the dogs taken to the shelter is a pit bull or pit-bull mix, and they make up an even larger percentage of dogs that are cruelly treated, he said.
“Less-than-desirable people are attracted to that breed because (the dogs) can be trained to be aggressive,” Rock said. Dogfighters use them in the ring, and drug dealers use them for protection because they’re muscular.
“The No. 1 dog we pick up at crime scenes are pit bulls,” Rock said.
Phillips and a friend took Rio to the dog shelter after his rescue from the creek. Now, the 9-week-old pup is living in a foster home arranged by Pet Promise, a central Ohio rescue group. Rock said he appears to be highly adoptable.
Phillips hopes the publicity surrounding the rescue will be a teaching moment, showing dog owners that “there are alternatives” to killing animals.
“This puppy had a matching collar and leash and a fancy bowl and orange sweater shirt in the box with him. I don’t know why this guy tossed him in the creek. But the outcome is good.”