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Major effort to "Save Phineas" from being put to death

Salem officials deemed Labrador Retriever vicious after nipping incident

May 16, 2013|Lauren Pozen, KSPR News Reporter; Ben Knaup KSPR News Photographer

SALEM, Mo.--A major effort is underway to stop a three-year-old Labrador Retriever in Salem from being put to death.

The ordeal started a year ago, when  Phineas the dog, nipped a little girl.

"I want my dog back," says Lexi Sanders fighting back tears. Phineas's owners say he was protective of his family. They say he was a kind and gentle four-legged friend.

"If another dog would come in the yard, he would stay between that dog and our kids. He would follow them around everywhere," says Phineas's owner Amber Sanders.

For almost a year, Sanders has been in-and-out of court, fighting for her dog.

"I take my kids to church and try to teach them right from wrong. I teach them not to lie. This whole thing has just proved me wrong," she says.

Last June, Sanders says Phineas bit a seven-year-old girl in her backyard. Phineas was taken to animal control. The young girl went to the hospital for treatment. Sanders says pictures taken at the hospital were changed to have the bite look worse then it actually was. The mayor disagrees. 

"That is a crock. A big crock.  That was taken by a police officer. No one doctored any picture," says Salem Mayor Gary Brown.

Mayor Brown says this wasn't the first time Phineas bit, but it was the worst.

"With that being the first serious. Maybe the other two nips, just scratches. But with this brought blood," he says. 


Court documents obtained by KSPR showed the victim swore the dog did not bite her before and said Phineas was wagging his tail.

The city's ordinance is very specific when it comes to animal bites.

"Our ordinance states with two bites on an animal or a human the animal can be euthanized," says Brown.

Sanders says the absence of the family dog for nearly a year now, is felt everyday.

"The kids ask about him him often. It is aggravating. I don't understand why he is in an undisclosed location," says Sanders.

Mayor Brown says there is a reason for that.

"When I made the decision that the dog be put down because it was the third bite, the dog was taken from the animal shelter," says Brown.

City officials would not let us see Phineas. However, they did say he is fine and is being taken care of. Despite being hidden, Phineas is gaining national attention. He has an attorney working pro-bono, a Facebook page and a Twitter account.

"We have a million children every year who are aborted. I don't hear one screaming word from anybody, but this dog bite has made a lot of people aware," says Brown.

As for the dog's family, there is just one thing they want to avoid.

"I am afraid he's going to be put down, even it he's that young," says Lexi.
A judge issued a temporary restraining order saying the city cannot kill or sell the dog and must take care of him.

According to an email obtained by KSPR, the victim's mother told the dog's attorney, she wants the dog back with his family.

City officials are meeting Thursday night in a closed session to discuss the litigation. There is another court date set for next week.

Save Phineas Facebook:

Twitter: @PhineasTheLab

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