Abused puppy placed in shelter, needs therapy

By: Sara Kandel | C&G Newspapers | Published May 17, 2012

 Hercules is a 5-month-old boxer puppy that was found in Eastpointe last month with both hind legs broken. Animal control says his owner refused to seek medical care for him.

Hercules is a 5-month-old boxer puppy that was found in Eastpointe last month with both hind legs broken. Animal control says his owner refused to seek medical care for him.

Photo provided

It’s one of the worst cases Eastpointe Animal Control officer Matthew Virgadamo has ever worked on.

An anonymous caller had tipped him off.

And as he does with all calls, on April 24 he headed out to the 21000 block of Beachwood to investigate claims of an animal being abused.

When he arrived, he saw a small, 5-month-old white boxer puppy lying on its side on the front lawn of the home.

“I could tell he was injured because of the way he was laying,” Virgadamo said. “I picked him up and tried to stand him on his legs, but he wouldn’t use his back legs at all.”

Virgadamo advised the dog’s owner, Martin Everett Nelson, that the dog needed medical care. Nelson declined, saying he could not afford it, but upon threat of having the dog removed he agreed to see the vet.

“He said the injury had just happened — that it was just a few days old — and happened when the puppy got into the garbage can and the can fell over,” said Virgadamo.

“But when I called the vet’s office to make sure the dog had been seen, I found out he gave a different story to the vet. He told the vet that the injury had happened three weeks ago when he was punishing the dog for getting into the garbage can. I knew for sure then that my suspicion of animal abuse had been right.”

On April 27, the puppy was removed from Nelson’s care and placed with Gina DeLuca, president of 4 Paws 1 Heart, a nonprofit organization that funds medical treatment for abused and abandoned animals.

DeLuca immediately took the puppy, since renamed Hercules, for medical attention. When the X-rays came back, they showed both of Hercules’ back legs were broken. Both his right and left femurs were broken right above the knee, and his left tibia was broken just below the knee.

Worse, the X-rays indicated they had been broken about two months prior.

“Hercules is a growing puppy, which means his bones quickly started to heal, but because he did not receive medical treatment at the time of the injury, they did not heal correctly,” DeLuca explained. “He was suffering and in pain for weeks, and the owner did nothing.”

According to Maddy Lutz, the veterinarian working with Hercules at Animal Urgent and Critical Center in Harper Woods, the injuries were caused by extreme blunt force.

“Some examples of this type of trauma include being hit by a car, beaten with a bat or kicked repeatedly with the intent to do great bodily harm,” said Lutz. “The dog’s pain and emotional discomfort would have been immediately evident.”

In 38th District Court on May 8, Nelson pleaded guilty to animal cruelty and offered three conflicting stories about how the dog was injured. Judge Carl Gerds ordered him to permanently surrender the dog and placed him on one-year, non-reporting probation.

Attempts to contact Nelson at his home for comment were unsuccessful.

DeLuca received full ownership of Hercules after the court hearing and at the urging of local veterinarians that were uncertain with how to proceed, she took Hercules to an orthopedic specialist at Michigan State University.

The surgeon there told her that Hercules’ injuries might be inoperable due to the new bone formation as a result of the legs being broken so long.

“If I didn’t know what I know from working in this field as a vet technician, I would opt for surgery, but right now it doesn’t seem like the benefits outweigh the risks,” DeLuca said. “We are going to meet with one more doctor to see what he thinks, but most likely we will pursue rehab therapy because he is not using the joints the way he should because of the way they broke and grew back.”

Hercules will most likely be handicapped for life and require special care and treatment. Because of his condition, DeLuca says she will probably keep him rather than adopt him out as she does with most the animals that come through 4 Paws 1 Heart.

“I’m on the fence about adopting him (out),” she said. “I would have to make sure he went to a really good home and a person who had the knowledge to be able to tell when he was in pain or suffering and the ability to do what’s needed if his condition began to affect his quality of life.”

His handicap will likely shorten his life span and could lead to a great deal of pain and suffering later in life. Therapy would help minimize future problems. And right now is a great time for it, she said, because Hercules is still young enough to make good progress and he isn’t currently showing any signs of pain.

“You would never know Hercules is in any pain,” DeLuca said. “He gives us face washes with his kisses, plays with his toys, loves his new bed, chews on bones, loves car rides and wags his tail non-stop.

“I don’t know how someone could have done this to him,” she added. “He doesn’t have a mean bone in his body. He has the best spirit. I want him to know there will be no more suffering, pain, neglect or torture at the hands of a human.”

To donate to 4 Paws 1 Heart and help with the cost of Hercules’ therapy, call (586) 383-3282, visit www.4paws1heart.org or email fourpaws0711@gmail.com. DeLuca will be posting updates on Hercules regularly.