Wounded pit bull bounces back, SPCA growls at dogfighting

Posted: February 10, 2012

Left for dead, a severely injured pit bull found in Chester County on Monday has undergone a dramatic recovery and provided inspiration to animal-control officers.

The dog's condition when a Caln Township police officer found him in a ravine near Coatesville was so horrific that observers thought he had been hit by a car and likely would not survive.

On Thursday, the dog dubbed Radar by officers from the Chester County SPCA - a name connoting what they perceived as his quiet, soulful pleas for help - cavorted with balls, Frisbees, people, even TV cameras, outside the agency's West Goshen building.

"I never would have expected this," said Animal Protective Officer Craig Baxter as he stood next to Radar, who was busy nuzzling fellow officer Cheryl Shaw, wagging his tail as he licked her face with his long tongue.

Baxter said that because he had responded to Caln Township Police Officer Joseph Caboni's call, he was the one who transported the dog, which was in great pain, to the West Chester Veterinary Medical Center.

"I was the bad guy; he didn't want anything to do with me the first couple of days," Baxter said.

During an examination Monday, veterinarian Scott Humphries determined that the dog's injuries, which included multiple puncture wounds, a muzzle swollen to twice its size, and visible ribs and spine, had been caused by a dogfight.

The findings prompted a new initiative.

"The Chester County SPCA wants the public to know that 'Dog Fighting Is on Our Radar,' and we are actively seeking information regarding dogfighting in Chester County," said Rich Britton, a spokesman for the independent nonprofit group.

Shaw said dogfighting had existed in Chester County for years and was difficult to police without help from the public.

Britton said signs might include an inordinate number of pit bulls in one location, dogs that are chained and seem unsocialized, and dogs with scars on their faces, front legs, hind end, and thighs.

"This dog and this breed are unfairly painted as monsters," Britton said. "It's the people who abuse these animals who are the real monsters."

Britton said anyone with information could provide it anonymously and is encouraged to call 610-692-6113, ext. 213. Each count of felony animal cruelty carries with it a $15,000 fine, up to seven years in prison, or both, Britton said.

Shaw said Radar's remarkable turnaround offsets some of the appalling abuse she observes on the job.

"This makes it so worthwhile," she said as Radar gave her another kiss.

Since Monday, the dog, which had weighed 38 pounds, about 20 fewer than normal, has gained three pounds, Shaw said. She said his wounds are healing and his swollen muzzle is about half the size it was. But before Radar can be put up for adoption, he will have to be quarantined for six months to ensure that he did not contract rabies from any of the bites he sustained.

Finding a home for a dog with such a sweet disposition will not be difficult, Britton predicted. Of course, Radar may have to be wrenched away from Baxter and Shaw, who both admitted coming in early and staying late to ensure Radar gets sufficient TLC.

Baxter shook his head as he watched Radar continue to demonstrate affection.

"How could someone do something like that?" he asked.

Contact staff writer Kathleen Brady Shea at 610-696-3815, kbrady@phillynews.com, or @brandywinebits on Twitter. Read her blog, "Chester County Inbox," at www.philly.com/chescoinbox

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