Wythe County officials have shared information regarding a dog picked up and euthanized before a rescue group could take possession of the dog.

The dog’s owner, whom officials declined to name, has been charged with allowing the dog to run at-large, failing to provide veterinary care and not having dog tags.

Events unfolded on Aug. 26 when a resident on Murphysville Road called Wythe County Animal Control to report that an injured dog was in her yard.

According to Blake Stowers, Wythe County public information officer, the animal control staff immediately took the dog to a local veterinarian’s office.

“The dog was not found locked in a shed as reported on social media,” Stowers said in a statement. “There were severe injuries to the two front legs and paws. Officials and veterinarians did not know what caused the injuries to the dog’s front legs and paws, but the injuries were very severe with maggots found from the front paws up to the chest.”

Stowers said veterinarians tried “very hard” to heal the dog.

“They initially cleaned up the wounds and provided medication continually. The next day, the dog was sedated while veterinarians attempted to clean up the infection and wounds. The dog was continually monitored to see if it would improve. Unfortunately, due to the poor health conditions of the dog, it was unable to heal. The dog was in such poor shape that the animal control officer in consultation with veterinarians determined that the most humane action was to euthanize the dog. The dog was euthanized on Aug. 29,” Stowers said.

While the dog was being treated, animal control personnel were in contact with a rescue agency that was interested in transporting the dog out of state for continued medical care.

“Ultimately, this was unable to happen due to the condition of the dog,” a county press release said.

Courtney Bellew, founder of Special Needs Animal Rescue & Rehabilitation Northeast in New York, said an official with the county animal shelter contacted her about taking in the dog – called Sassy – and treating her. She agreed.

According to its website, SNARR, saves “the toughest dogs to place; those with serious medical conditions, paralyzed dogs, deaf and blind dogs, severely emaciated dogs, dogs with neurological deficits and disease, dogs with injuries and orthopedic issues … the animals that nobody else wants; the dogs that would otherwise be euthanized.”

Bellew said that when she later called to arrange the details to transport Sassy, she was told that the dog had been put to sleep. She expressed her outrage on the group’s Facebook page and urged followers to contact Wythe County to demand justice for Sassy – which they did.

“They knew we were interested,” she said. “They didn’t even call me; they just put her to sleep. Why treat her for three days and leave her alive and then turn around and euthanize her?”

Bellew said she did not understand why animal control contacted her about helping Sassy, then decided to euthanize the dog. She said no one bothered to call her to find out what they could do for Sassy before deciding to euthanize her.

SNARR could have helped Sassy, she said, adding that helping disabled animals “is what we do.”

If Sassy did not have a rescue group interested in helping her, then euthanasia would have been the correct call, Bellew said.

“But they knew we were interested,” she said. “Why not just let us try?”

Bellew said that from photos of Sassy, she does not believe the dog was intentionally hurt, and it’s possible that she got caught up in some equipment or a lawn mower.

“I don’t think it was deliberate,” she said. “But if their plan was to euthanize her – and her injuries were horrific from day one – why would they treat her and look for a rescue group and find a rescue group and then turn around and euthanize her?”

Last week, Wythe County Animal Control launched an investigation and met with the dog’s owner.

“Despite their efforts, they were unable to identify what caused the dog’s injuries or who might have been responsible for those injuries,” Stowers said.

To reach Millie Rothrock, call 276-228-6611, ext. 35, or email mrothrock@wythenews.com.

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