Anthony Ortolani, owner of dog rescued on Mount Bierstadt, gives up custody of dog to rescuer

Owner reaches plea bargain in animal cruelty case

DENVER - The man who left his dog on Mount Bierstadt to die has given up custody of his dog.

Anthony Ortolani said he has been getting death threats as a result of what happened last month.  He said his German shepherd mix Missy will go to one of the people who climbed the 14er to rescue her.

The dog spent eight days on the mountain on her own.

Ortolani was charged with animal cruelty for leaving Missy behind on a mountain climbing trip.  Ortolani's lawyer said a plea bargain will allow him to plead guilty to less serious violation of a county ordinance.

The dog's rescue became an international news story after a group of good Samaritans banded together to rescue Missy in a day-long operation.

Ortolani said he was forced to leave his dog on the mountain after Missy's paws became cut and she couldn't walk.  A storm then rolled in, Ortolani said.

Ortolani said he and a 19-year-old friend tried to carry the 112-pound dog for more than two hours over treacherous, rocky terrain but they worried for their own safety and had to abandon her.

Ortolani said he had a friend call the sheriff's office when he got down but deputies said they couldn't send a rescue crew for a dog.  Ortolani admitted he didn't put up a sign on the trailhead bulletin board  asking to be contacted if anyone saw his dog.

After Ortolani learned of the rescue, he asked for his dog back but Clear Creek County authorities conducted an investigation and charged him with animal cruelty.  

The decision to give up custody of Missy was part of the plea bargain.

Meanwhile, the group that rescued Missy will appear on the Ellen DeGeneres Show on Monday.