Phineas, the yellow lab that a judge ruled should be destroyed for biting a young child, is in good condition and spirits, according to an eyewitness visit from a reporter with The Salem News.
Thousands of people are following the issue on social media sites, and some reports on those sites report that Phineas has been starved and tortured by city officials, but The Salem News has found this not to be the case.
During an exclusive interview with his handlers at a neutral location Saturday, the dog appeared to be in good condition. One handler estimated that the dog weighs anywhere from 85 to 90 pounds. During the interview Phineas played with the handler, investigated his surroundings, and received petting from all those in the room. Despite being in a new area with new people, Phineas did not make any aggressive maneuvers, even when a photographer’s camera flash went off near his face.
“He just seems like a normal dog,” said Animal Control Officer Jarred Brown, who chauffeured Phineas to the interview.
Brown went on to say that Phineas has been under the watch of a veterinarian, and is receiving good care at his new, undisclosed location.
Phineas was moved to the new location after it was reported that he was at the Dent County Fire Protection District fire station. He had been moved there from the Dent County Animal Welfare Society shelter in the Masters Industrial Park, according to court documents. He was moved because he was stolen from the shelter, then returned.
“It is my job to protect this dog. I don’t want to see him hurt or stolen,” said City Administrator Clayton Lucas. Lucas is in charge of the dog’s care and responsible for his well-being while the dog’s fate is determined. An appeal of the judge’s ruling is in the court system.
Joe Simon, St. Louis, who is the attorney for Phineas’ owners, Patrick and Amber Sanders, posted a 26-second video online during which he bangs on the garage bay door that leads to the fire station basement and points to the sound of a dog barking as proof that Phineas is being held there. According to previous reports, the fire department has a live-in mascot, a golden retriever.
Simon also claims that Austin Denton, a firefighter with DCFPD, saw the dog in unsanitary and inhumane conditions, and was disciplined for being a whistle-blower. A posting under Denton’s name on facebook elaborated on that claim, but Denton himself did not return multiple requests for comment.
According to Fire Chief Brad Nash, Phineas was kept at the fire station for a time, but was removed last week. Nash was exclusively in charge of the dog’s care.
“The dog was very well taken care of. I am a dog lover, I made sure of it. I walked him three times a day, fed him twice, made sure he had water. I came into town on weekends to take care of him,” said Nash.
Nash declined to comment on any disciplinary action taken against Denton for alleging the dog was abused, citing personnel policy, but went on to say that those accusations were false.
“It makes me sick to think of someone mistreating a dog,” Nash said.