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Phineas the Dog: Family, Supporters Fight to Stop Salem Officials From Putting Pet to Sleep

Categories: Animals

lexi-phineas.jpg
via
Lexi, age seven, saying goodbye to Phineas.
Phineas, a three-and-a-half-year-old labrador retriever in Salem, may not have much longer to live.

That's because officials in the south-central Missouri city deemed him "vicious" after a biting incident involving a seven-year-old girl last year. But in response to the city's plan to put the dog to sleep, the family who owned the dog and a vocal group of supporters have launched a legal battle and social media campaign to save Phineas, who, they say, is a completely harmless dog that the city is stubbornly and aggressively targeting.

Even the family of the biting victim supports the effort to save Phineas from euthanasia.

"Everybody that meets this dog says he's a sweet dog...and everybody in the city of Salem knows this dog is not vicious," says Joe Simon, an attorney who has been working pro bono in this legal fight. "This is an injustice."

See also:
- Blues Captain David Backes Fights to Save Phineas the Dog, Pet on Death Row

Simon shares with Daily RFT a pile of documents in support of Phineas, on view below, including testimonials from experts, vets, shelters -- and even the parents of the little girl who was bitten.

phineas-the-dog.jpg
Courtesy of Joe Simon.
Phineas.

Why, then, does Salem have a plan to euthanize the dog?

The saga started with a June 22, 2012, incident at the home of Salem residents Patrick and Amber Sanders. Their daughter Lexi, age seven at the time, was playing with another seven-year-old girl, a neighbor, whom Phineas apparently bit, says Simon, attorney for the Sanders family.

Here is a picture of that bite, courtesy of Simon, a Kirkwood-based lawyer.

phineas-bite.jpg

Simon says it was minor, but the family went to the hospital just in case. He says that the wound did not require stitches, and the girl was prescribed an antibiotic ointment. He also offers a statement (on view below) from a "certified canine behaviorist" and trainer who says that this was a low-level, "superficial" bite that did not involve puncturing of the skin. The family didn't press charges.

But, as is standard protocol, the hospital reported the bite to police, Simon says, and officials in response took Phineas away from the Sanders family, because they believed there were two other past bite incidents. Records show they also had concerns about whether his vaccinations were up to date.

Simon says that those two other alleged cases did not happen, and that they were later discredited in court. (According to a court transcript, the girl said, "Phineas kind of nibbled on my arm" in reference to past bite.)

phineas-lexi.jpg
Courtesy of Joe Simon.
Lexi and Phineas.

After a follow-up hearing, Salem officials ruled that Phineas must be put to sleep.

For nearly a year now, the family has been unable to reunite with Phineas, and Simon has filed an injunction to block the possible euthanasia. A judge recently issued a temporary restraining order that says the city cannot kill the dog, cannot sell him and must take care of him. City officials are meeting tonight in a closed session to discuss the litigation, and there is another court date scheduled for next week.

All of these details aside, the parents of the girl who was bitten don't want to see Phineas put to sleep, either. They write in a letter to the city and judge (full version on the next page):

We are asking that you reverse your determination that Phineas, the dog that bit our daughter, is "vicious." We do not want the dog to be euthanized.

We ask that you do everything in your power to achieve this result.

The two girls, now both eight, are still friends, Simon says, adding, "The little girl who [got bitten]...has forgiven Phineas for biting her and just wants Lexi to have her dog back. To me, that makes her one of the heroes in this story."

Continue for response from the mayor of Salem and copies of the documents in this legal battle.


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47 comments
NurseBetty2
NurseBetty2

That is most definitely NOT a dog bite - if anything -  that is a human bite. 

bitsgrama
bitsgrama

First of all if this dog had its shots then the little girl didn't need to go to hospital.  I understand that in some cases, like an animal torn off  a finger or an arm;that's reportable.  But there is alot ot things that hospital should report and NEVER do---this is so stupid; I hope the town's people remember this come reelection time and get this gov body out of the town.   They have wasted more time and money of this case and there a simple solution; LET THIS DOG GO HOME WITH HIS FAMILY!!!!   I hope that this case has even reached foreign countries;  I live in WV and work in Pa so I keep drawing support from the people I work with---I think it needs this publicity to show this town how ridiculous they are being!!!

Jerepa
Jerepa

OMG! This is a ridiculous waste of money and court time. I'm sick of people that apparently have nothing better to do but try and kill a family pet. Let those people take their dog home where he belongs. And why does a hospital report a dog bite to the police in the first place?

Boogie
Boogie

Kill Phineas. He's the devils hound dog.

Labowner
Labowner

Anybody who knows anything about Labs knows they are very gentle --  When they "retrieve'  ducks or prey, they don't break bones or draw blood.  This dog was clearly protecting his pack and it sounds like not in a malicious manner.  Maybe he was trying to help the kid get off his mistress/master.  If it were another breed, that kid's face or hands would be chewed off... He needs to go back home to his family - what did the kid's parents say?  Where the hell were they to begin with? Good luck Phineas!

Jim Ploudre
Jim Ploudre

Dogs should not bite children. That said the parents of the child who was bit are against this. If the dog is a chronic biter, the owners need to do what is right regardless of it being a pet. I say, require them to post a liability bond / extra insurance for 3 years or something.

Blake Harris
Blake Harris

The mayor just doesn't wanna look like a douche for not sticking by his decision... Problem is he already does...

Kristy Lytle
Kristy Lytle

Sorry you feel that it's an unimportant topic, Galin, but it's an extremely important one to anyone with a pet. What the city and mayor are doing is wrong in this case. Especially since its gone on for a year.

Daniel Reyna
Daniel Reyna

Like i said.....rural Missouri is the armpit of human existence. Obviously these officials are more dangerous than Phineas

Galin Rizov
Galin Rizov

What an important topic ......Saint Louis is doing so well that we gotta read a about a dog cmon .....

freerangewoman
freerangewoman

The dog has been in captivity for a year, by now the people who work in the pound should have observed that the dog is not  a vicious dog and has not tried to bite them.  They should attest to this,


monetiris7
monetiris7

Let the dog go home. After all, people are able to rehabilitate pitbulls....That kid should NOT have been in the yard in the first place. She probably did some stupid kid thing and phineas took it as active play time. You don't just kill a dog. And you don't banish it from the family or city either... give me a break. Dogs do that and labs are big that 8 yr old girls family is mellow dramatic. Tramatic time.... the dog nipped the kid. Its how dogs play. I have been nipped before and yeah it hurts... but you don't kill the dog. Mellow drama made this even be an issue!

freerangewoman
freerangewoman

There is a difference when a playful dog does not use teeth and a vicious dog going for a bite.  There are people who make a big deal of playing and those who KNOW THE DIFFERENCE! Also the breed of dog and how it was raised can also let you know the personality of the dog. Give a warning, put him on a leash and let the kids take home their family member!

Eileen Long
Eileen Long

The dog should not be euthanized. It should be allowed to go home to the people that love him. The city of Salem should be ashame.

msdeby56
msdeby56

Let this dog go home!!!!!

lgfuhrmann
lgfuhrmann

This is INSANE!!!!   How does this city or whomever have the right to do this???   This is a lab we are talking about.   I've had several and I also have gotten bit accidentally when play gets a little crazy.   If nothing else put the dog through behavior classes....DO NOT PUT THE POOR THING DOWN!  

James Madison
James Madison

Perhaps a massive ballot box write in campaign to elect Phineas mayor and oust the current officials.

James Madison
James Madison

City officials are not our masters. They may petition the courts to order it, but the city officials do not have the right to deprive life themselves. Seems these city officials are also pig-headed and cannot reason their way out of a paper bag.

James Madison
James Madison

"Salem officials ruled" - no due process is being observed. The case needs to come before a judge. And for as long as the dog has been imprisoned, city officials should be ashamed of themselves. They should be deprived of their love ones for seven times that long.

gguerti
gguerti

Good God don't you kill enough dogs in your kennels every year, do you need to kill more, especially a dog that has a known home and family and the little girl that was bitten by the dog forgave him. This dog or breed is of no danger to society, please free him and let him live out his short life with his loving family.

JamesMadison
JamesMadison topcommenter

"Salem officials ruled" There is this new thing that Salem officials might want to read up on. It is called due process. I feel quite strongly that any action ending a life of a person or a pet requires a court order following due process. The exception is immediate threat of life of others. So far "Salem officials ruled" that can seize your property and withhold your 'pursuit of happiness' without as much as a judge hearing the case.

royalune
royalune

"Borned?" BORNED! Wow...Mr. Mayor, you probably say nucular too!  Seriously...who voted for you? You have no class; everything you say is full of "Crock," and you can't make a good argument because you're a liar. It was so tasteless of you to bring up abortion, which has nothing to do with saving Phineas.  What were you hoping to achieve? Did you think we would change our minds and perceive you as caring compassionate man? I hope you're not thinking of becoming a full-blown politician, but if you are...get yourself some PR coaches; go take an English course for better grammar and to expand on your vocabulary. Also think of taking a class in etiquette.  Poor people of Salem, Mo!

AshamedofSalem
AshamedofSalem

When the evidence against this dog  has been discredited and the 'officials' continue to hold the dog and pursue charges where there is no evidence to support them, isn't there  a clear and serious case of an obstruction of justice?  

This dog has been held over a year with NO proof it is 'vicious' or 'dangerous.'  The dog has been held in deplorable conditions at times, it's location 'hidden'.  

This family's 4th Amendment rights have been violated by depriving them of their dog (property) for a year.  Deprived of a fair hearing and denied access to the dog by them and their attorney.   

This case is screaming for an outside, criminal investigation of the city officials in this case for  breeches of duty,  official misconduct, obstruction of justice as well as perverting the course of justice.  

  Charges should be coming forth... not against the dog... but against the city officials who have orchestrated this injustice.

bassmann692000
bassmann692000

There are other dogs out there  guilty of a lot worse. I had a dog come into my yard grab my cat of my porch and kill him. Would not let me out of my house and was aggressive to the officer that that was called. All they got was a fine. Then not to long after that it bite a person.I think Phines should be set free he did not do nearly as bad as this dog did.

Teri
Teri

It all boils down to the politics and unfortunately this dog and family has suffered.  These said officials should be removed from their positions for letting this go on as long as it has.  Let's not forget the financial impact this has had for keeping this poor dog for almost a year.  Imagine the other financial issues with this being just one example/  Give the dog back to it's owner's.  What a bunch of freakin morons.  FREE PHINEAS!!!!!!

cathieandgreg
cathieandgreg

What an embarassment it must be to live in Salem, Mo. and have "officials" that behave in that manner...shameful indeed.

muzak16
muzak16

This is not a vicious attack.  I was bitten by a Collie/Shepherd dog when I was 4 years old.  The dog was hunting me every time I went outside.  My brother was just 1 1/2 years older but he did not do that with him.  Anyway to get to the point, the dog jumped on me in front of the Silo on our family farm.  He bit me on the top of the head, the eye area and chin.  He almost took out my eye!  My head and face was full of blood...my dad thought that I had teased the dog.  Two weeks later, I seen the dog hunting me down in fear I walked and stood behind my dad in the barn with by brother.  He jumped on me again, biting me in the same places.  Again I needed stitches I have the scars still 44 years later but they have faded.

It's too bad my parents did not take a picture but I had to be rushed to the ER.  I hope by sharing my story this dog will be saved.

Jane Suzanne Reed
Jane Suzanne Reed

I think the family has agreed to release the dog to an out-of-state rescue group if the Salem officials will free him. They think it is in the best interests of the dog. Rescue groups have offered to take him. If Michael Vick's dogs could be released, why can't Salem officials release this dog to a responsible group?

LeiLani
LeiLani

"he kind of nibbled on my arm...." that is not a dog bite otherwise all puppies and young dogs would be guilty.  So the he was standing by the city ordinance until the other 2 alleged bites were unfounded, so why wasn't this dropped after that?  I guess I'm confused how a bunch of city officials can't get their stuff together and get this right.  It doesn't take rocket science.  The dog clearly isn't a threat to anyone except maybe some officials jobs if his mistreatment allegations turn out to be true.

Rick Rodinis
Rick Rodinis

So when a lawmaker's child get sent home for biting another kid on the playground, should that child be euthanized? Family pets, for many, are treated equally and as a family member. For those who prefer not to enter into parenthood, although not in this case, family pets are their children.

Adam Usher
Adam Usher

Let the dog go!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

suetoo
suetoo

Seriously Salem?  Sheesh.  It must be hard right now to be proud of living there.

Kerry Russell
Kerry Russell

No they do not have the right to euthanize pets. Period!

Joel Reinitz
Joel Reinitz

how does any mayor have the authority to enforce laws and ordinances, that's the courts job

Nate Oatis
Nate Oatis

Good ol' fashioned Bible Belt logic, I would be livid if my dog was taken and still not returned. Shame on you city of Salem.

Christopher Harrison
Christopher Harrison

Of course they do, but in this case it sure seems like this dog is not actually dangerous. Once the prior bites were determined not to have happened, then he was a "one strike" dog, and should have been returned.

Steve Dixon
Steve Dixon

"I have to stand by the city ordinances," This is just another way of saying "I am an idiot and can't make a logical decision on my own and I must rely on the letter of the law otherwise I would become catatonic."

korthas
korthas

"I have to stand by the city ordinances,"

This is just another way of saying "I am an idiot and can't make a logical decision on my own and I must rely on the letter of the law otherwise I would become catatonic."

clferrell
clferrell

Investigations show that Phineas did not bite the girl

JamesMadison
JamesMadison topcommenter

@redskinfanstick , I was of the same mind. It appears too rounded for the long jaw of a lab. Due process and burden of proof is gone in this case. We are allowing "officials" to rule by decree.

JamesMadison
JamesMadison topcommenter

@korthas , unfortunately common sense is not that common these days. If this idiot cannot reason, he should immediately defer the decision to a judge who ought to be able to make the proper judgement.

peeweelabbee
peeweelabbee

@korthas when kids play and a dog is around he wants to play also not meaning to hurt anyone he is just playing too. Now when two children are playing and one accidently hurts the other are you going to put that child to sleep or pass it off as playing kids can get rough also they don't mean to hurt anyone either that's called an accident and forgotten.

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