SALEM (AP) - A dog accused of biting a 7-year-old girl went missing from a Missouri veterinarian's office over the weekend, days before a hearing to decide its fate.
The yellow Labrador retriever, Phineas, was reported missing Saturday from the Dent County Vet Clinic in Salem, where it was being kept pending the outcome of the biting case. The Missouri Court of Appeals had been scheduled to determine this Thursday whether the dog should be euthanized or returned to its owners, Patrick and Amber Sanders.
A vet clinic employee noticed the dog was missing when she arrived at work Saturday. She told police that the dog was there when the clinic closed Friday evening).
Phineas was quarantined in June of 2012 after the Salem girl was bitten. Gary Brown, the mayor of the community about 125 miles south of St. Louis, determined the dog was vicious and should be euthanized.
The Sanderses appealed that decision, and two dog-bite experts they hired testified in court filings that a wound on the girl isn't consistent with Phineas' teeth. Their attorney, Joe Simon of Kirkwood, said Monday that they don't know which dog bit the girl, but that it wasn't theirs.
"We don't know how the mark got (on the girl)," Simon said. "We do know that it was not caused by Phineas."
Simon said threats had been made against the dog and that he's concerned it is in danger. He has offered a $25,000 reward for the arrest and conviction of anyone who took or hurt Phineas. Simon said he's convinced no one from the clinic or the city of Salem is involved in the disappearance, but he declined to say who he thought might be involved.
The case has garnered attention in the Salem region, with supporters of the dog erecting billboards, starting a Facebook page and circulating petitions to try to save it.
Supporters posted on the Facebook page during the weekend that they were trying to raise $25,000 to offer as a reward for Phineas' safe return.