HOLIDAY — A man walking his dog Thursday morning noticed something in the canal near his Forest Hills home.
"I thought it was a toy at first because it wasn't moving," James Cooper told Bay News 9.
As he got closer, Cooper realized what he saw was a dog on some palm fronds, barely clinging to life. He called Pasco County Animal Services, who sent an officer to rescue the pit bull mix puppy.
The black and white puppy had medical tape and gauze wrapped around his neck. One ear was amputated and the other ear had a severe cut. He was suffering from hypothermia.
"It looked like somebody was trying to crop his ears by themselves, and when it didn't go well, they threw him in the canal," said John Malley, Pasco's interim animal services manager.
At first Malley worried the dog might not survive. But the puppy, whom county staffers named Wilson, gained strength overnight.
"He's beginning to eat, which is a good sign," Malley said Friday morning.
Wilson isn't out of the woods yet, Malley said, and the 6- to 8-week-old puppy will need considerable care before he becomes a candidate for adoption. He is being treated at Suncoast Animal Hospital in Lutz, which often donates its services for the toughest cases Pasco Animal Services gets.
While he recuperates, Pasco officials are searching for leads on who mutilated and dumped the puppy. Ear cropping is indicative of backyard breeders and fighting dogs, Malley said, so he worries other dogs could be being abused.