A man is being prosecuted for abandoning his dog on one of Colorado's fourteeners.
The Clear Creek Sheriff's Office announced Friday that a criminal charge of cruelty to animals has been filed against Anthony Joseph Ortolani, 29.
He has said he left his German Shepherd named Missy on 14,065-foot Mount Bierstadt when a storm moved in on Aug 5. He said he had to get a young hiker to safety and said the dog couldn't walk because her feet were cut up from rocks.
The dog was found more than a week later by Scott Washburn and his wife, Amanda, as they climbed the mountain. He said Missy was too heavy for them to carry out and still couldn't walk.
"My wife broke down crying at the thought of leaving the dog to die, said Washburn.
He posted a message about the dog's plight on 14ers.com, an online discussion board dedicated to climbing mountains over 14,000 feet. From that discussion, Washburn got together a group of eight volunteers and the group headed back up the mountain on Monday morning.
They found the dog and carried her out in a backpack during a nine-hour rescue operation, eight days after she had been abandoned.
The dog was taken to a vet to be checked out and is recovering from dehydration and cut paws.
Ortolani found out about the rescue effort and asked for his dog back but Clear Creek Animal Control said it was investigating the case.
Some posters on 14ers.com pointed out that Ortolani didn't even bother to put up signs with a contact number at the trailhead about his dog.
Washburn and his wife, as well as other members of the rescue team, would now like to adopt Missy, Washburn said.
"I just dont think that his actions have shown that he is a responsible dog owner, Washburn said. We understand that he had to leave her there. My wife and I did the same thing. But we ended up going back for her, and we went to some pretty extreme lengths to do so. In my opinion, that is not a responsible dog owner, who doesnt really care about her."
Clear Creek County Sheriffs Sgt. Rick Safe told ABC News "the dog was basically abandoned up there."
He [Ortolani] made no initial attempt. After three days, he thought the dog was deceased so he made no attempts to reclaim the dog," Page said.
The sheriffs department also has a rescue team, and other hikers told them about Missy being stranded on Mount Bierstadt during the weekend. However, the rescue team was unable to respond because it is solely reserved for human rescues.
"We cant specifically send a rescue effort for a dog, Safe said. We have a designated rescue team. In the last two weeks we have had six rescues, one a day on the weekends, for people. It is tough terrain out there."
Ortolani is scheduled to appear in court on Oct. 16. A judge will ultimately decide who will get custody of Missy.
If convicted, Ortalani could face up to 18 months in prison and could be fined up to $5,000.
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