Defying the odds, a young Labrador retriever that was coated with an accelerant and set on fire last month has survived the ordeal and will soon be released from a Texas A&M University veterinary clinic, a university official said.
Houston animal control officers are accustomed to seeing heinous cases of animal cruelty, but nothing could prepare them for their encounter last month with Pier, the young Lab that suffered second- and third-degree burns over much of his body. The critically burned canine walked the streets near Hobby Airport for several days before he arrived at Houston's Bureau of Animal Regulation and Care on Feb. 20.
Officials there provided basic care - including antibiotics, pain medication and hydrotherapy - and sent out a plea to animal rescue groups to help the dog. The nonprofit Scout's Honor Rescue Houston responded and took Pier to the Vergi emergency clinic for more treatment for burns on his torso, legs and face.
Veterinarians at Texas A&M's College of Veterinary Medicine in College Station heard about the case from Scout's Honor volunteers and agreed to step in to help.
At A&M, Pier's medical care so far has cost about $25,000, prompting the animal rescue group to launch a fundraising campaign to help defray the costs. Pier has a Facebook page for donations.
"He's a very sweet dog, as nice as he can be," said Brian Hillendahl, a volunteer at the Scout's Honor Rescue. "To this day he's never growled or acted any way negatively to anyone. All he wants to do is just get attention from people. He just wants to nuzzle with his head up next to you. He's just one of the friendliest dogs you'll ever want to meet."
Angela Clendenin, spokeswoman at Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine, said that Pier will be neutered Monday and could be released as early as next week.
The veterinarians are "very happy with the progress that he's made." Scout's Honor has already found a potential home for Pier, said Susie Wormser, a board member at the animal rescue organization.
"She (candidate) takes amazing care of her current dog, which is also a Lab," Wormser said of the Austin resident. "She takes him to day care, and she has outstanding vets. You can tell that she's a person who truly spends a lot of time with her dog."
When she heard of Pier's case, the woman drove to College Station to deliver home-cooked food, toys and a large dog bed for the injured pooch, Wormser said. Scouts Honor officials plan to visit the woman's home before making a final decision.
Pier's case is not that unusual in Houston, said Carlene Lormand, marketing and outreach manager at BARC. A small dog was brought in with chemical burns, a cat was shot with an arrow and a puppy was thrown off third story balcony. They all survived with the help of the veterinarians and animal rescue officials.
"We're the largest city in the nation with the largest land mass – 642 miles - we have seasonably warm temperatures and access to waterways and various forms of shelter that create a year-round breeding season," she said. "So unfortunately we see a lot of cases and the biggest uptick is typically in the summer."
Animal rights officials estimate there are about 1 million homeless dogs and cats in Houston, Lormand said. BARC takes in roughly 26,000 stray dogs and cats each year, either brought in to the counter or called in by concerned residents.
Jodi Silva, spokeswoman at the Houston Police Department, said that Pier's case is under investigation.