(NEW YORK) — A 29-year-old man is expected to face a charge of animal cruelty after he abandoned his dog on Colorado mountain, the Clear Creek Sheriff’s Office officials said Friday.
Anthony Joseph Ortolani told The Denver Channel earlier that he was forced to leave his German shepherd named Missy on the snow-capped peaks of Mount Bierstadt Aug. 5, when a storm moved in and he became worried for the safety of a younger hiker who was with him.
He said his dog’s feet were cut up from walking on sharp rocks and it could no longer walk.
ABC News’ previous efforts to reach Ortolani were unsuccessful.
Scott Washburn and his wife, Amanda, found Missy Aug. 11, while they were on a leisurely hike up Mount Bierstadt.
“We were hiking to this ridge and we got off course and I was a little ahead of my wife,” he said. “She called out to me and said, ‘Hey I found a dog,’ and figured I misheard her ’cause there was no way a dog was where we were.”
Washburn and his wife were incredulous at how this dog, tucked into a tiny nook between rocks, could have ended up where it was. The whimpering dog was, as Washburn said, “in awful shape.” He was convinced it would have died if left without food or water for much longer. The couple tried to coax the dog up out of the rocks and down the mountain but it was clear the dog was too injured and weak to move.
“We knew we weren’t going to be able to get her out by herself,” said Washburn. “Her paws were completely raw and her elbows were torn up.”
Washburn got together a group of eight volunteers and the group headed back up the mountain that Monday morning. The group found the dog with all of its wounds Washburn had tried to bandage reopened. The rocks around the dog were covered in blood, and the dog was back cowering beneath the surrounding rocks.
The group of eight hikers traveled through a full-blown snowstorm that broke out during their hike. Eventually, after a nine-hour rescue mission, the group successfully managed to bring back the broken and bruised dog in a hiker’s oversized backpack.
Upon their return, the hikers entrusted the dog to a local vet, who told Washburn that it was “the miracle dog of the century, and although she was severely dehydrated she has, miraculously, no long-term or permanent damage.”
“I just don’t think that his actions have shown that he is a responsible dog owner,” Washburn said. “We understand that he had to leave her there. My wife and I did the same thing. But we ended up going back for her, and we went to some pretty extreme lengths to do so. In my opinion, that is not a responsible dog owner, who doesn’t really care about her.”
Washburn and his wife, as well as other members of the rescue team, would now like to adopt Missy, Washburn said. But Ortolani is asking for his dog back.
Clear Creek County Sheriff’s Sgt. Rick Safe said “the dog was basically abandoned up there.”
“He [Ortolani] made no initial attempt. After three days, he thought the dog was deceased so he made no attempts to reclaim the dog,” Page said.
The sheriff’s department also has a rescue team, and other hikers told them about Missy being stranded on Mount Bierstadt during the weekend. However, the rescue team was unable to respond because it is solely reserved for human rescues.
“We can’t specifically send a rescue effort for a dog,” Safe said. “We have a designated rescue team. In the last two weeks we have had six rescues, one a day on the weekends, for people. It is tough terrain out there.”
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio
Debra Goldschmidt, CNN
Steven Visser and John Newsome, CNN
Madeleine Stix, CNN
Stephanie Claytor, CNN