Case Snapshot
Case ID: 19025
Classification: Neglect / Abandonment, Fighting
Animal: dog (pit-bull)
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Thursday, Dec 15, 2011

County: York

Disposition: Open
Case Images: 1 files available

Suspect(s) Unknown - We need your help!

Johnny's first Christmas came a bit early, but it arrived just in time for the abused pit bull.

His gift? A chance at a decent life.

Tim Kohler, an animal control officer, found Johnny in the early-morning hours of Dec. 15 on East Cottage Place in York City.

A 2-pound coffee can had been wedged onto the dog's head, covering his muzzle and his eyes, according to Melissa Smith, executive director of the York County SPCA.

"He was probably having trouble breathing," Smith said.

Kohler removed the can and took Johnny to the SPCA's Emigsville shelter.

"Johnny is covered in (dog) bite wounds," Smith said. "We suspect the can on his head was probably placed there because he was being used as a 'bait dog.'"

Bait dog? People involved in illegal dog fighting often find non-aggressive animals for their fighting dogs to practice on, and those are referred to as bait, she said.

Shelter staffers aren't unfamiliar with incidents where animals, both wild and domesticated, get their heads wedged into cans and jars while looking for food.

"And that's what we initially thought," Smith said.

But the extent of Johnny's wounds, and the fact that the can was wedged tightly on his head, indicate he most likely was victimized by people training their dogs to fight, she said.

Johnny, who appears to be just shy of a year old, has wounds around his neck and on his head and legs, according to Smith.

Wounds infected: "He has a lot of infection in the wounds, and where the can was wedged on his face there are a lot of abrasions and cuts," she said. Johnny also is emaciated, she said.

"He was in very rough shape when he came in, but he's getting better now," Smith said. "He's really come around."

Johnny was lethargic and almost emotionless during his first few days at the shelter, she said, but has warmed up to the staff.

The small brown dog is physically affectionate with people, but is being kept away from other animals for

now, until his temperament can be evaluated, Smith said.

"It's really hard to love him up right now, because his face is covered with a medicated salve," she said.

Special treatment: Still, SPCA staff members are doting on him.

"Our veterinarian is making him eggs every day. He's getting the special treatment," Smith said. "Johnny's become a staff favorite due to his pitiful circumstances."

Smith is optimistic about Johnny's future.

"If we can get him through his physical wounds, I think we can work him through his emotional wounds as well," she said.

Tips sought: Smith is urging people to come forward with information about what happened to Johnny.

"In addition to the person responsible, there were probably spectators as well," she said. "And all those people are equally guilty and need to be held accountable."

While many types of animal cruelty remain summary offenses akin to a traffic ticket, an animal-cruelty charge for dog fighting is a felony in Pennsylvania.

So if Johnny was used as a bait dog, those involved are facing felony charges, according to Smith.


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