Dozens rallied to help ‘death row’ dog — but family out of hope
VERNON — A dog that has been locked up since the fall could be put down this week — despite the time and money put in by dozens of volunteers hoping to save him.
The saga of American Bulldog "Tank" started last September, when he bit a man who was trying to put a leash on him in the face, according to the dog's owner, Deborah Schwadtke. Since September, Tank has been kept at the Vernon Animal Control Facility. A judge has spared Tank's life on at least one occasion, after an animal control officer petitioned to have him declared vicious, according to the New Jersey Herald.
Had the petition been successful, Tank would have been put down immediately, but a compromise was reached — allowing Tank to be classified as "potentially dangerous," according to the Herald. In order to get Tank returned to the family, the judge set several conditions, including that the owners build an enclosed kennel that Tank could not escape, and that the dog be microchipped and neutered.
Schwadtke would also need to get a $1 million liability insurance policy, and post signage on her property warning about the dog, according to the Herald.
Another hearing to review Tank's case will be Tuesday.
Schwadtke said it has been a difficult time for her family, made even more difficult by the fact that she was being treated for cancer during this time.
"When we had court I couldn't think due to the fact I was literally hooked up to chemo in court," she said. "I didn't ask a lot of questions I should have due to that."
Since that time, a GoFundMe was established, and volunteers worked to help build the necessary enclosure to help get Tank home. Janine Hummel, one of the fundraisers for the effort, said as many as 25 people helped to build the structure, which ended up being too small. She also said when volunteers realized it was the wrong size, they were ready to fix it, but were told by the family it was too late.
"I feel that he was doomed from the beginning because the family was completely disinterested in getting him home," she said.
Hummel said she was told that before Schwadtke's family could get the dog from the facility, it would have to pay about $8 a day for the time the dog was already there — about $1,500. Between being confronted with that cost and the issues with the structure, "that's when they threw in the towel."
For her part, Schwadtke said, she appreciated the efforts made to save Tank, but has accepted that it is likely too late to bring the dog home.
"The people that helped I'm thankful more than they would ever realize, but he's going to end up getting put down," she said. "If I knew this was going to happen I would have just put him down months ago instead of making him suffer all this time."
Animal Control Officer James Epperly told the Herald that it was up to the judge what would happen to Tank now. He also disputed claims Schwadtke made to the Herald about the way her dog was treated at the kennel during his eight months there.
"We took him to the vet, but technically he's not our dog and he doesn't belong to us — he belongs to Mrs. Schwadtke, and she's made no effort to have him groomed or taken to the vet," he said to the paper.
Schwadtke told New Jersey 101.5 with her husband always working and her in and out of the hospital taking care of Tank would be difficulty, especially since she said the court order requires them to be the only ones to handle him.