BROOKSVILLE — The tiny chihuahua nestled in Joanne Schoch's arms is every bit the picture of happiness. His big brown eyes dance with delight when someone walks into the headquarters of the Humane Society of the Nature Coast. But the story of how he came to the shelter is a rather sad one.
Dubbed Peanut, the 3-pound pup, estimated to be less than a year old, was discovered late Sunday at Gulf View Square mall in Port Richey. He was stuffed inside a green cloth tote bag that had been hung on a handle in a stall in the women's restroom.
The dog was given to Humane Society volunteers who staff the nonprofit organization's ReTail Store and Adoption Center in the mall. While Peanut showed no visible signs of injury, store manager Lisa Judge said he appeared to be malnourished, severely dehydrated and frightened.
The fact that someone had dumped the fragile, teacup-sized chihuahua so thoughtlessly angered Schoch.+
"Whoever did it just didn't care what happened to him," she said. "If someone hadn't noticed him when they did, he might have died overnight."
The dog was scanned for a microchip that might lead to the owner, but none was found.
Schoch has grown somewhat used to seeing pets discarded, and over her 10 years as executive director of the organization has numerous stories about finding cats tossed over the fence and dogs tied to posts overnight at the shelter at Wiscon and Mobley roads, south of Brooksville.
Sometimes, those efforts turn tragic. One such instance three years ago led to the death of a cat that clawed its way out of a box and was struck and killed by a car.
Schoch wishes owners who find themselves unable to care for their pets would simply call and make arrangements with a shelter so that the animals have a better chance of finding a good home.
"Simply dropping an animal off somewhere and hoping for the best doesn't work," she said. "It's cruel and inhumane to let an animal fend for itself."
And doing so is against the law. Anyone found guilty of abandoning an animal can be found guilty of a first-degree misdemeanor, which can bring jail time and a fine of up to $5,000.
Schoch said is asking the mall's owners to review recordings from security cameras in the hope of identifying the person who left the dog.
Meanwhile, Peanut has admirers who say they are interested in giving him a permanent home. Schoch said that adoption details should be finalized early next week after he gains more weight.
Logan Neill can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (352) 848-1435.