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Dog rescued from L.A. River still unclaimed in Downey animal shelter; LAFD defends rescue effort

January 26, 2010 |  7:53 pm

Vernondog1

Vernon, the lucky dog rescued from the raging L.A. River last week, continues to captivate.  The shepherd-type dog remains at the Southeast Area Animal Control Authority shelter in Downey today, where he's being monitored for signs of rabies after biting his rescuer, Los Angeles Fire Department firefighter Joe St. Georges. 

St. Georges, who told reporters last week that he bore no ill will toward the dog for biting him, suffered a fractured thumb and lost a fingernail during the daring rescue that was broadcast live on Friday.  "He's cold, he's wet, he's scared, and then here's this stranger jumping on his back for all intents and purposes, and he did what dogs do," he told the Associated Press after his release from County USC Medical Center.

Since Vernon was not microchipped and wasn't wearing an ID tag, animal control officers have been unable to locate his owner. If he hasn't been reclaimed by the end of the 10-day quarantine period, he'll be placed up for adoption at SEAACA.  Shelter staff already have "a mile-long list of people who want him," Aaron Reyes, SEAACA's director of operations, told the Associated Press. 

In the meantime, the dog, who's believed to be about 4 years old, is receiving excellent care and seems far more relaxed than he did during his harrowing experience in the river. "He's really lovable," animal control officer Justin Guzman told our sister blog, L.A. Now. "He's appreciating all the attention he's getting here."

Meanwhile, the LAFD is defending itself from some who argue that its valuable resources were wasted by rescuing a dog.  Although at least 50 firefighters responded to the scene, the action was necessary, St. Georges said, in part because the agency worried that a civilian would attempt to rescue the dog if the fire department didn't. And the rescue would have been even more dangerous for an untrained person, who could easily have been injured far more severely than St. Georges was. 

"You're not going to please everybody. There's always 10 percent, they either don't like animals or think we are wasting taxpayer money," Capt. Steve Ruda told the Associated Press.

-- Lindsay Barnett

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Photo: Vernon before he was rescued by St. Georges on Jan. 22.  Credit: Mark Boster / Los Angeles Times

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