Phineas is a sweet, friendly dog who has been unjustly labeled vicious and has been given a death sentence. He allegedly bit a girl after she fell on his human sister. The bite mark looks far more like that of a human than a dog. If the bite was powerful enough to leave marks for all the other teeth, there would undoubtedly have been deep impressions in the corners where the long canine teeth would have sunk in. Phineas has been quarantined and moved to undisclosed locations where he has been kept in a cage in basements, with only a pallet to sleep on. He has developed pressure ulcers as a result of being caged for months. Despite the fact that Phineas was deemed not vicious by a behavioral expert, and that the girl’s mother recanted her story about Phineas biting her daughter, the judge ignored all testimony and sided with Salem, Missouri mayor Gary Brown’s hearing report. The mayor refuses to sign an order to vacate the euthanasia sentence, and supporters are hoping that having this story in the media as much as possible, as well as having petitions signed, will change the city officials’ minds if they see how foolish, stubborn and cruel they are being.
The following is a statement from a representative of Saving Dogs of Missouri:
“June 22, 2012, Kendall Woolman and Lexi Sanders, both age seven, were in the back yard of the Sanders home. Phineas was on a cable tie out because he sometimes would decide to become adventurous and get out of their fenced yard.
When it was time for Kendall to leave to go home and she was going out the gate, Lexi tripped over the cable tie-out that Phineas was attached to and both girls fell at the same time at the gate opening. When Kendall got up, she started crying and said that Phineas bit her. There were no adult witnesses to the incident.
Kendall’s mother took her to the ER advising the staff that her bruise was a dog bite. The hospital was required to report the incident to the authorities and based their diagnosis on what the mother reported to them. The wound did not even require a bandaid and there has been speculation that the wound is not a dog bite; that perhaps she fell on something in the yard and only thought that Phineas had mouthed her since he was right there when she was getting up from her fall. Comparing a photo of the bruise with a photo of Phineas teeth leaves that possibility open and the attorneys are seeking the advice of dental forensics.”
When comparing human and canine teeth and marks, it seems obvious that the bite inflicted on Kendall was from a person.
- Canine jaw structure
- Human bite marks
“Later that evening, local police seized Phineas from the Sanders’ home for quarantine because the Sanders were not able to immediately produce records that he was up to date with vaccinations. Phineas had been taken to the vet for shots previously but needed treatment for another issue and the vet wanted to wait with the vaccinations until the other issue was cleared up. Unfortunately, the Sanders family forgot to follow up so Phineas was not up to date on vaccinations.
Mayor Gary Brown requested a behavioral evaluation by Veterinarian J J Tune, Dental County Veterinary Clinic. Dr. Tune’s evaluation indicated that Phineas was healthy and not a vicious dog. There is conjecture that Dr. Tune was going to be asked to be the hearing examiner on the case but when his report came back that Phineas was not vicious, the Mayor instead appointed himself hearing commissioner, jury and judge and declared Phineas a vicious dog and ordered him to be killed. His reason was that he was told of previous bite incidents by the victim’s mother though there were no reports or documented evidence of same.
The Sanders filed a temporary restraining order to try to save Phineas and for nine months until the case came to trial, Phineas was boarded at the Dent County Animal Welfare Society and the Sanders family was assessed more than $1000 in boarding fees for his incarceration. When the case finally came to trial in March 2013, the previous bites were disproven during court testimony by the children involved and the victim’s mother has also recently recanted that there were previous bites. However, the Judge chose to ignore testimony and based his decision solely on the Mayor’s hearing report, agreeing that Phineas should be killed. Local animal control appeared at the Dent County Animal Welfare Society on March 22nd and removed Phineas to an undisclosed location.
Shortly thereafter, on April 15th, the Saving Dogs of Missouri group was contacted for assistance who in turn contacted The Lexus Project for legal assistance and work began to Save Phineas.
Following a town council meeting on May 6th with attendance by several people supporting Phineas and a newspaper article in the local paper the following day, Austin Denton, a volunteer firefighter with the Dent County Fire Protection District happened to see the newspaper article which referenced the Save Phineas Facebook page and came forward with information of Phineas’ whereabouts. He was being caged in the dark, damp basement of the firehouse and given a wooden pallet to sleep on which left ulcers on his legs.
Austin, along with a couple of his friends, began feeding/watering/caring for Phineas and cleaning up the excrement in his cage until Fire Chief Nash, who previously told Austin that he was housing the dog for a friend who was out of town, advised Austin that he was not to do anything further for the dog and not to return to the basement.
Within a couple of days, the city was aware that Phineas’ whereabouts were known so they then moved him to yet another undisclosed location, a pump house at the city’s water tower, where he remained for a couple days and then moved a third time to yet another undisclosed location.
During this time, supporters of Phineas were contacting officials with the State of Missouri complaining that the city was holding Phineas in unlicensed locations and finally on Monday, May 13, an inspector with the Missouri Department of Agriculture paid a visit to the City (who brought Phineas to her instead of taking her to where he was held.) As a result, Phineas was moved to the Dent County Veterinary Clinic with Dr. J J Tune caring for him (and the owners are being assessed a $10 per day boarding fee while there) but are allowed now to visit him and he has been allowed other visitors as well.
During all of this time from June 22, 2012 to present and in the conditions Phineas has endured, not once has he been anything but kind to everyone who has come in contact with him.”
“Mayor Brown has been advised that Kendall’s mother has recanted what she said about previous bites but thus far, Mayor Brown has refused to initiate action to vacate the order to euthanize Phineas. Along the way, it seems there was a conspiracy of sorts to have Phineas stolen or disappear to which Mayor Brown agreed in another news clip that if that were to happen, he would not pursue the case further.
Thus far, no one has been able to convince the city officials that this matter could all go away if they would simply vacate the order and although a copy of the Missouri statute has been provided to them indicating that is possible, the city attorney is saying that filing an appeal on the initial judgment has circumvented the possibility of that (which is ludicrous.) And now Mayor Brown has said on tape that if he had correct information about previous bites before the attorneys compounded matters, he would have considered changing his mind. Unfortunately, we hear one excuse after another. He has changed his story about as often as the wind blows and Phineas continues to pay the price and be kept away from the family that loves him. They know, however, that in this small, rural, backwards town of Salem MO, that Phineas will not be safe if returned to their home. There have been threats against them and Phineas. They love him enough and want him safe to the point that they have agreed to let him be rehomed out of the area.
At this point in the legal process, a motion to appeal has been filed and will be heard in the Southern District Court of Appeals in Springfield MO but we certainly hope an agreement to release Phineas can be reached prior to going through that process which could take many more months out of Phineas’ life. He’s already given a year (7 in human years,) isn’t that enough of a punishment for something he didn’t do?
At this writing, the Save Phineas page has close to 131,000 Fans from around the world and a petition on Change.org has approximately 43,000 signatures, asking the City of Salem to Vacate the Judgment. The officials who can make these things happen have thus far refused and by doing so, are looking quite ignorant to the rest of the world and gaining a reputation for their town that will not soon be overcome. The City of Salem depends on tourism income from Montauk State Park visitors. A Friends of Phineas group has indicated that a Boycott Salem campaign is forthcoming, and have advised the Board of Directors of the Salem Chamber of Commerce.”
Phineas’ Facebook page:
The Sanders family is being charged for Phineas’ boarding fees, and a fundraiser has been started to help them cover the costs:
This story deserves national coverage. Please, take a few minutes to contact media sources:
“Below is a listing of some of the news media links covering the story thus far. I have not included the local Salem newspaper article links in that their reporting was very slanted, understandably so I assume, but also not factual and was more of an editorial nature than reporting or good journalism.”