Axel, Manatee's most famous pit bull, bites dog, owner says

rdymond@bradenton.comJanuary 11, 2014 

MANATEE -- The story of Axel, the severely injured 2-year-old red-and-white pit bull mix who captured Manatee County hearts in 2013 with his tail-wagging friendliness, took a bizarre turn Friday.

According to Axel's owner, well-known local dog trainer and pit bull lover Trisha Robinson Antonelli, Axel bit a dog this week.

The non-fatal bite to the throat occurred 4:30 p.m. Tuesday at Vista at Palma Sola, an apartment complex at 3938 75th St. W., where Trisha Antonelli and her husband, Enrique, live.

Axel and two other dogs belonging to the Antonellis attacked a fellow apartment resident and the dog she was walking on a leash, resulting in wounds for the victim canine and bruises and scratches to dog walker Tommi Jo Mitchell's leg, according to a Manatee County Sheriff's Office report.

Hailey Wheeler, owner of Kona, the recovering 2-year-old male lab and pit mix that was attacked, said Friday that the Antonelli family was given a $500 citation from Manatee County Animal Services when Enrique Antonelli admitted the dogs were not leashed.

Wheeler also said that the dog that bit Mitchell was to be put on house quarantine for 10 days and that no action would be taken against Axel.

The Herald, however, could not reach Manatee County Animal Services by deadline to confirm.

"Kona is very anxious and traumatized," Wheeler said of her dog. "They bit his left side badly."

But Wheeler wanted it known Friday that she is not angry with Axel.

"It's not Axel's fault," Wheeler said. "He should not be in an apartment complex. He should not be with two other dogs."

When his story first appeared last November, a compassionate audience of fans learned that Axel was found bleeding profusely on Nov. 26 by Manatee County Animal Services after an unknown assailant had struck him in the head with a blunt object, fracturing his skull.

The two-inch-deep gash damaged his sinus cavity but not his brain. Axel required 42 stitches and other treatment from Dr. Luke Berglund and the staff at Beach Veterinary Clinic.

Axel's weeks-long healing process included a period of fostering by Trisha Antonelli.

When she accepted the honor of fostering Axel, Antonelli did at first advocate he should go to a home with no other pets, she said Friday.

"That was in the beginning," Antonelli said. "I completely retrained him."

Antonelli ended up officially adopting Axel, and he joined her other dogs.

"There wasn't a lot of people who were interested, and that's why I kept him," Antonelli said Friday.

"He's had no altercations at all and he was on an electronic collar when this happened," Antonelli added Friday. "I don't know what happened."

Mitchell, 25, a server at the Sandbar restaurant on Anna Maria Island, said if the Antonelli's dogs were on so-called e-leashes, the equipment was not working or was turned off.

She had Kona on a choke leash.

"We rounded a corner and we were ambushed by three dogs," Mitchell wrote in her official report to Manatee County Animal Services. "One mix dog that was dark and brindle was on Kona's neck, one had his left side and a black mix had me."

Axel had Kona by the throat and would not let go, Mitchell said.

"I fought the dogs off as much as I could and somehow managed to get the dog on my dog's throat to release," Mitchell said, speaking of Axel. "Those dogs were unleashed. I have leash burns on my hands, bruises and cuts on my legs and I felt as if my safety as well as my dog's was in question. Where was this guy's leash?"

On Friday, Trisha Antonelli refuted some of Mitchell's story.

"What she is not saying is that her dog got away from her and spooked my dog," Antonelli said Friday.

"Axel was spooked and this is a natural reaction to being spooked," Antonelli added.

When asked how Axel was removed from Kona's throat, Antonelli said, "By using the collar and physical force."

Mitchell vehemently denies that Kona ever got away from her.

"I had her the whole time," Mitchell said.

The Vista at Palma Sola apartment rules state dogs must be kept on a leash at all times unless in a fenced pet park.

"We have spoken up because Axel is a famous dog and no one really wants to hear anything bad about him," said Karren Martel, Wheeler's mother, who lives in Palmetto. "People need to be aware of what these three dogs together did."

Richard Dymond, Herald reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7072 or contact him via Twitter @ RichardDymond.

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