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Curtis on the mend, adopted after being found shot near canal

Investigators seek information who shot dog
Posted at 12:10 AM, Oct 10, 2023

ST. LUCIE COUNTY, Fla. — A dog shot and dumped in a St. Lucie County canal is on the mend and with a new owner after a rescue by kayakers who found the dog in the water.

Investigators are still working to gather enough evidence to charge the person responsible, but despite "compelling" evidence already obtained, making an arrest could still be a challenge.

Kathy Dole adopted Curtis. Oct. 10, 2023
Kathy Dole adopted Curtis.

In July, two kayakers said they were fishing in a canal along Taylor Dairy Road, an area known by animal control to be popular for dumping animals. One of the kayakers, Ben Ritter, happened to spot the great Pyrenees mix stuck and struggling in thick brush along the side of the canal.

"I saw him. I said there’s a dog in the water. He was in the water on a steep bank in a precarious spot. It was going to be hard to get him," Ritter said.

His girlfriend, Donna Jones, called 911. An animal control officer responded, jumped in the kayak with Ritter, and squeezed into the brush to get to the dog.

"He couldn't help himself to get in the kayak. My officer had to pull him in," St. Lucie County Animal Safety Coordinator Maria Valencia said.

Jone said: "You could tell he was tired."

Valencia said the dog, given the name Curtis, was taken to a veterinarian who confirmed he had been shot. An X-ray showed bullet fragments in his face.

"That canal does have gators in it so we’re assuming with the gunshot, the blood would attract alligators to eat him and that’s what they were hoping for,” Valencia said. "It was determined the gunshot was at least two days old so he may have been in the water for at least 48 hours."

Curtis was taken in and treated by H.A.L.O no-kill animal shelter in Sebastian.

He has since been adopted to a new owner, Kathy Doyle. "He gets lots of treats. He sleeps in bed with me," Doyle said.

County records show that several days before Curtis was found in the canal, his previous owner called the county’s public safety division trying to surrender Curtis.

In a recorded phone call, she’s heard saying, "He attacked my other dog, and I ripped them apart and he kind of bit me a few times for getting in the middle."

She left several voicemails urging someone with the county to pick up her dog. "I need him gone like ASAP, preferably within the next hour or so," she’s heard saying.

There are also recordings of phone calls where county staff told her over the phone she would need to set up an appointment to surrender Curtis and they could not do a pickup.

According to a county record, the owner told staff: “If the dog is home when her husband gets home, he was going to shoot the dog."

Despite that claim, Valencia said that is still not enough evidence to arrest the woman’s husband.

"Unless for the actual shooting, unless we have a witness that comes forward and places the gun in a certain person’s hands there’s not really much we can move forward with," Valencia said.

WPTV has called, messaged and texted the owner but has not received a response.

The founder of H.A.L.O, Jacque Petrone, said she sees abuse toward animals too frequently and feels there is one solution to help deter cruelty.

"I think tougher laws. If people have consequences. Right now, they just get away with it," Petrone said.

Curtis was previously named Lucas. Valencia said anyone who might have information useful to investigators, especially if they saw the dog July 21-27, should call the St. Lucie County Sheriff’s Office at 772-465-5770.