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Jo Co dog saved from possible fate as bait

Two men were stopped by a Josephine County Animal Protection officer last week trying to force a yellow Labrador into the back of a 1970s-era Chevrolet pickup with a camper shell, causing concern that the men were trying to gather dogs to be used in dog-fighting rings, according to the Josephine County Public Health Department.

"He was really confused," Animal Protection officer David Pitts said of the rescued dog. "I don't think he knew who I was. To him, I was just another stranger trying to take him. But he was really sweet."

Animal Protection is part of the county's Public Health Department.

Pitts saw two other dogs in the back of the truck, which drove away as soon as Pitts drove his county vehicle up to the truck. The two men abandoned the yellow Lab, got into the pickup and drove away. The yellow Lab, Finley, was reunited with his family.

"They're very happy," said Diane Hoover, head of the Public Health Department. "He's described as a very nice, friendly neighborhood dog who spends time at the neighbor's house."

Pitts feared Finley was going to be used in a dog-fighting ring as a bait dog. Bait dogs are used to train fighting dogs and often have their snouts taped shut or their teeth knocked out or filed down so they can't fight back. Bait dogs, usually between 25 and 80 pounds, are then attacked by dogs being trained to fight.

"We have dogs that go missing from time to time, and members of the community just think that their dog got out and is running at large," Hoover said. "That's not always going to be the case, but this is the first time we've found something like this."

Although Pitts was able to lure Finley to safety and bring him back to his family, Pitts is afraid that other dogs in the area have been targeted by the two men, who had the windows in their camper shell blocked with plywood. So far, no license plate number has been linked with the truck and the men have not been identified.

"Everybody needs to be diligent, and if someone sees something that's not right, take a picture," Pitts said. "If it leads to nothing, great. If it turns out to be something, wonderful."

Pitts continued, "We might not ever catch them, but if we can bring enough awareness, I hate to say it, maybe they'll go somewhere else."