Pit bull back with owner after rescue from dumbbell in Manatee River

rdymond@bradenton.comApril 29, 2011 

MANATEE -- A 2-year-old black pit bull mix named Blackie was fine Thursday after a Palmetto Police Department officer rescued it from a possible drowning in the Manatee River earlier this week.

At 6 p.m. Monday, Palmetto Officer Micah Mathews, responding to an anonymous call to his department’s dispatch, discovered Blackie with its snout sticking up as it tread water over its head 25 yards out in the river on the Palmetto side of the DeSoto Bridge.

“The dog is fine and was unharmed,” Chief Kris Weiskopf of Manatee County Animal Services said Thursday. “But I believe had the dog been in the water longer it could have become overworked and overloaded. Just think how long you could tread water over your head?”

The dog was treading water for about 15 minutes, Mathews noted in his report.

Mathews saw the dog in the water along with a man nearby in the popular area where people swim and fish at the base of the bridge, northeast of Manatee Memorial Hospital.

The officer soon discovered the dog had been tied with a rubber cord to a 30-pound dumbbell by William Bell, who is not the dog’s owner, Weiskopf said.

The dog is owned by Bruce Washington of Bradenton, who took possession of the dog soon after it was rescued by Mathews, Weiskopf said.

A call to Washington to determine why Bell had his dog was not immediately returned.

“We do have to wonder what was going on out there involving this dog,” said Lt. Scott Tyler of the Palmetto Police Department.

The police had to return the dog to its owner, Tyler said.

When Mathews approached the river, he saw Bell was swimming and wade fishing near the dog, Weiskopf said.

“Mr. Bell said he was trying to make the dog stronger,” Mathews wrote in his report after asking Bell why he would attach the dog to the dumbbell.

Bell, 41, was arrested by Mathews on Monday on a charge of animal cruelty and was released from the Manatee County jail Tuesday after he posted a $1,000 bond, according to police and court records.

“The real hero of this story is the person who called us to report what they had seen,” Tyler said.

Bell is scheduled to be arraigned on the charge May 27, according to court records.

“It could be multiple things,” Weiskopf said when asked why someone would try to strengthen a dog. “No one really knows. A lot of people do a lot of things that involve training, including dog fighting, which we can only hope this is not.

“But whatever the reason, this was not the right thing to do. This was definitely animal cruelty. This dog could have drowned.”

Richard Dymond, Herald reporter, can be reached at 748-0411, ext. 6686.

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