Phineas, the Labrador retriever who bit a seven-year-old girl last year and has been on doggy death row since, has been stolen from the shelter where he was being held. His family believes he has been killed.
Salem police chief Keith Steelman says there was no sign of forced entry at the shelter, but the attorney for the dog's family say that the condition of the building was such that it wouldn't take much to break in.
"I was never comfortable with the arrangements there, but the city was adamant he couldn't be moved anywhere else," Kirkwood-based attorney Joe Simon tells Daily RFT.
See also: Phineas the Dog: Family, Supporters Fight to Stop Salem Officials From Putting Pet to Sleep As for why somebody would steal the dog, Simon says, there have been threats made to the dog's life, but he would not elaborate. Those threats, however, are the reason why he and the family believe Phineas is dead.
Phineas' story began June 22, 2012, at the home of Patrick and Amber Sanders in Salem. Their daughter, Lexi, had the neighbor's daughter over to play. At some point, Phineas bit (or "mouthed," depending on the account) Lexi's playmate.
The bite did not cause puncture wounds or bleeding, but it did leave a mark, and the girl was taken to a hospital to check it out. According to protocol, hospital employees reported the dog bite to police.
Phineas was picked up by police, accused of two other bites (which were disputed by the family and discredited in court) and deemed "vicious" by city officials. The mayor ordered the dog euthanized, but the family fought back, and a judge issued a temporary restraining order that mandated the city could not kill or sell the dog, but had to take care of him until things are settled.
Meanwhile, the story inspired people from around the world to help save Phineas, leading to a Change.org petition with more than 75,000 signatures, a Facebook page with more than 176,000 likes, and even the support of Blues captain David Backes, who along with his wife, Kelly, offered to personally fly Phineas to a no-kill shelter.
The long and arduous ordeal has left the family "angry and upset," according to Simon.
"They've fought a long battle," he says. "At the end of the day, they just wanted the dog to be let go. They've already said the dog didn't need to come home, and they'd allow the dog to go out of state, and that's all they wanted. And now the dog's gone and probably dead."
We'll update as soon as we learn more.