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Originally published Wednesday, October 25, 2006 at 12:00 AM

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Allegedly abused pit bull in felony bestiality case may be put down

Pierce County Animal Control officials say a 4-year-old pit bull at the center of an alleged case of felony bestiality will likely be euthanized...

Seattle Times staff reporter

Pierce County Animal Control officials say a 4-year-old pit bull at the center of an alleged case of felony bestiality will likely be euthanized, prompting an outcry from animal-welfare groups.

The pit bull, named Sara, has been kept in isolation at the Humane Society of Tacoma & Pierce County since shortly after a woman told police she photographed her husband having sex with the animal in the couple's Spanaway yard.

A relative turned Sara and the family's other pit bull, a male, over to Pierce County Animal Control, said Tom Sayre, a Humane Society spokesman.

Michael Patrick McPhail, 26, was charged Thursday with one count of first-degree animal cruelty and later released. McPhail told authorities he was returning to his Spanaway home.

Because one of the conditions of McPhail's release forbids him from having contact with animals, Sara and the family's other pit bull might never return home, said Pierce County sheriff's spokesman Ed Troyer.

If the family doesn't reclaim the animals, Sara will be euthanized because of her history of biting, Sayre said.

Sayre said the dog bit someone earlier this year. Details were unavailable.

Scooter, the family's 3-year-old male pit bull, is socializing well and thus far doesn't appear to be a threat if adopted, he said.

"We're going to wait until we hear from Pierce County [Animal Control] on what direction we're going to take," Sayre said.

In the week since McPhail's arrest, the Humane Society of Tacoma & Pierce County has received numerous calls from people interested in adopting Sara, Sayre said. Pasado's Safe Haven, a Snohomish County-based animal-welfare group, and a South Florida woman have volunteered to take the dog.

Pierce County Deputy Prosecutor Karen Watson said Sara won't be euthanized while investigators gather "evidence" of her injuries as part of the case against McPhail. She said she doesn't know of any alleged abuse against the family's other pit bull.

Laura Enneian, who works at Nova Southeastern University in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., said that when she heard about McPhail's arrest she started calling around Pierce County, hoping to save Sara.

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"This has affected me so much," Enneian said. "I want to fight for her any way I can."

Enneian, who already has two tiny Pekingese, said she is willing to travel to Seattle to pick up Sara and take her home.

The Humane Society's rule of not adopting out animals with a violent temperament — regardless of breed — is not unusual.

Al Dams, assistant manager for King County Animal Services, said that in King County, pit bulls, rottweilers and other dogs considered "bully breeds" are given special consideration before being released for adoption.

Both Dams and Sayre said bully breeds are assessed for how they interact with kennel staff and other dogs.

"If a dog has a history of biting, it's not adoptable," said Dams, who estimated about 30 percent of dogs at King County's two shelters are pit bulls.

McPhail was charged Thursday with first-degree animal cruelty. After catching McPhail with the dog, his wife snapped two photos with her cellphone camera, then dialed 911, authorities said.

McPhail is believed to be the first person in Washington state to be charged under a new law that makes bestiality a Class C felony, punishable by a maximum of five years in prison and a $10,000 fine. The law was spurred by the case of a Seattle man who died last year after having sex with a horse at an Enumclaw farm.

Jennifer Sullivan: 206-464-8294 or jensullivan@seattletimes.com

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