Shih Tzu rescue leads to controversy

Investigation disputes allegations of abuse

The tale of “Baby Boy,” the Shih Tzu found badly burned in a flower bed in St. Rose in early March, now has a twist to it as the 2-year-old dog is the subject of a dispute between St. Charles Parish authorities and representatives of the Metairie Humane Shelter, who have the dog in their care.

PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) had offered a $5,000 reward, when it was thought the dog had been intentionally doused with chemicals, for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the perpetrator.

But according to the St. Charles Parish Sheriff’s Office, the dog has been identified as the pet of a man who was injured in a grease fire in his St. Rose home and the dog’s injuries apparently came from that fire.

Sheriff’s Office spokesman Cpl. James Grimaldi said the St. Rose man fell asleep on the day of the fire and awoke to find a container of grease had caught on fire. He tried to throw it outside, but suffered severe burns when a large portion of the grease landed on him.

The hot grease also landed on his dog, who had followed him outside, and apparently took off running down the street.

Grimaldi said the dog was found a few blocks away from where the fire took place.

PETA spokeswoman Megan Wiltsie said they recently retracted the $5,000 reward on request by authorities who assured her this wasn’t an animal cruelty case.

St. Charles Parish Sheriff’s Office spokesman Capt. Pat Yoes said deputies first learned of the incident through a media request asking confirmation on the PETA news release and other inquiries, and launched an investigation. Soon after, investigators were notified of the fire and missing dog. The dog’s owner, who had been hospitalized for his injuries, identified the dog as his pet. Several family members also identified the dog by photograph, Grimaldi said.

St. Charles Parish released a statement Tuesday saying the Metairie Humane Shelter did not report the case to proper authorities and that the Shih Tzu was identified as the owner’s pet through identification and veterinary records.

Joan Delahoussaye, board member of the Metairie Humane Shelter, said the shelter did contact the St. Charles Parish Sheriff’s Office. She also says the dog has not been positively identified as the fire victim’s pet, noting several attempts to contact the man to identify the dog had been unsuccessful as of Tuesday, though she said the Metairie shelter had been in touch with him.

“We’ve been in touch with this man but so far we haven’t been able to get him to identify the dog. So far, we haven’t been able to,” she said, also adding that the man’s grandson had been to the shelter in the wake of the incident and said that it was not the same dog.

“If we get a confirmation of some kind and we verify it, we’ll help them in every way to reunite,” Delahoussaye added. “We’ve been out there three times and he doesn’t answer … we haven’t found out that this is actually the man’s dog.”

The Metairie Humane Shelter, she said, is not a Jefferson Parish entity, but an animal shelter for the greater Gulf South area for anyone in need of help with an animal.

“All we’re doing is saving this dog’s life. I am sure if they had brought him to a pound, he would have been killed immediately (given the condition he was in).”

She added that unless the dog’s identity can be confirmed, the prospect that this is a case of animal cruelty is still very relevant.

“If this is a true cruelty case, there’s a monster out there somewhere,” she said.

The dog, which the shelter has affectionately nicknamed “Baby Boy,” has been in the care of the Metairie Humane Shelter and receiving veterinary care since the March 11 discovery. Delahoussaye said Baby Boy is responding well to treatment, and that she’s optimistic about his ultimate recovery.

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