CLEARWATER — The 9-month-old puppy had a rubber band wrapped very tightly around his snout, cutting into his skin and jawbone. He was covered in fleas and feces, and had a stinking wound on his muzzle.
He was kept that way in a bathroom in a Clearwater home — until an alert schoolteacher called the SPCA. Two students, both under age 10, had told their teacher they thought their puppy was dying slowly in their bathroom, authorities said.
Now the Yorkshire terrier/poodle mix, named Sox, has been removed from the home and is getting medical care at SPCA Tampa Bay in Largo. Clearwater police are investigating this as an animal neglect case.
"The dog is doing well, but his nose is quite swollen," said SPCA spokeswoman Nora Hawkins. "Whenever there's pressure like that, it just eats away at the skin and the tissue and the bone. We're waiting to see what kind of veterinary care Sox is going to need for the damage to the bones around his nose and jaw."
SPCA lead investigator Jill Purl went to the home on Dec. 12 and was able to examine the puppy when the children's mother showed her the dog. When Purl pointed out the rubber band on his muzzle, the mother seemed unconcerned but said she would take the dog to a veterinarian, according to the SPCA, which is not releasing the name of the owner.
When Purl followed up the next day, the dog still hadn't gotten any medical care. At Purl's request, the children's mother relinquished ownership of the dog and surrendered it to the SPCA.
SPCA Tampa Bay veterinarian Rizal Lopez said the type of damage seen on the dog's snout can occur quickly and is called "pressure necrosis." An infection created a hole at the top of Sox's muzzle. Consequently, he's breathing through this hole as well as through his nostrils.
The puppy will probably be put up for adoption in a few weeks, Hawkins said. Before that happens, he'll need more medical care. "He's a cute little puppy, real sweet," she said.
When Sox is available for adoption, the agency will post a notice on its website, spcafl.org, and people interested in adopting him must fill out an application.
"It's not clear how well the wound will close up or what nerves have been damaged around Sox's nose," said SPCA CEO Martha Boden. "He will likely need extra care for chronic sinus issues. But he's eating well, and in many ways acts like a typical puppy."
Mike Brassfield can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 445-4151.