Alba, a pitbull-mix, is gaining weight and healing from her wounds under the watchful eyes of the workers at the Milwaukee Area Domestic Animal Control Commission shelter.
In the meantime, confusion about who really owns her means it's likely a court will have to decide where the 11/2-year-old dog's future home will be.
Alba came into the county's care Nov. 20, after teamwork between a neighbor and Wauwatosa police led to the dog's caretaker being arrested for a host of offenses.
Alba found with wounds
The man caring for the dog, 26-year-old Ryan Schnell, has been charged with cocaine possession, second offense; burglary; firearm possession by a felon; disorderly conduct; and intentionally mistreating an animal. He is scheduled to appear in court Monday.
Police, acting on a tip from a neighbor, found Schnell at his home in the 6600 block of Hillside Lane on Nov. 20.
Schnell admitted to smoking "a rock of cocaine" during a car ride with the dog; marijuana, drug paraphernalia and cocaine were found on him and in his home, according to the Wauwatosa police report. Numerous items, taken from thefts and burglaries throughout the city, were recovered from the home.
Alba had a large, bleeding gash to her head, missing patches of fur, large amounts of scarring and looked emaciated, the report stated.
She was taken to MADACC.
"She's gained 10 pounds in the nine days she's been treated here," said John McDowell, MADACC field supervisor. "She had two large wounds, and her eyes and feet are irritated.
"We're trying to get a specialist to come in. There are such things as doggie ophthalmologists."
Until that can happen, employees have been giving Alba extra love and attention, McDowell said.
Neighbors long concerned
Neighbors say problems started soon after Alba arrived at Schnell's home a little more than a year ago.
One neighbor recalled seeing Schnell get frustrated with the dog during potty training. He slapped the dog around and burned it with a cigarette, the neighbor said.
"She was just a poor defenseless dog. I just couldn't let it continue."
According to police reports:
Police were called to the home several times, but Schnell refused to answer the door, limiting police action. Neighbors described the dog "screaming" rather than just yelping, the report said.
Then for nearly a year the dog went unseen.
Schnell's 23-year-old ex-girlfriend told police the dog had run away at that time. She found Alba on the MADACC website in September, and rather than retrieving her and paying housing fees, she convinced a family member to adopt the dog, a cheaper option.
Intense four days
Things intensified when a neighbor found the dog running loose Nov. 16 and a neighbor brought it inside and called MADACC. An officer from the shelter came out and saw that the dog had significant injuries to its eyes, snout and back of its neck, missing toenails and looked malnourished, according to the report. Some injuries looked older while others appeared fresh, so the officer decided to take the dog to a veterinarian.
As the officer got ready to leave, Schnell arrived at the neighbor's house and asked if a dog had been found. He is accused of pushing his way into the house and forcibly pulling the dog out, getting physical with the humane officer in the process, the report said.
Police tracked the dog to Schnell's home, but he did not answer the door. Meanwhile, they met Schnell's ex-girlfriend, and she told them Schnell continued to watch the dog for her after they broke up.
When she tried to retrieve her pet, Schnell seemed to go into hiding.
A neighbor watched the home and called police when Schnell left with the dog Nov. 20. Police waited outside and confronted him upon his return. Police said they found the cocaine and firearm at that time.
"We worried if something didn't happen soon the dog would be dead," the neighbor said.
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