ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. - More than 140,000 signatures attached to a petition asking Orange County to save a beagle named Rufus were delivered to animal services on Friday in yet another effort to spare the dog's life.
The dog's owner, Nikki West, was expected to hand in more than 3,000 pages of signatures to Orange County Animal Services in Orlando but was unable to make it because of an emergency at work. Instead, volunteer Ryan Julison arrived with the stacks of signatures and a one-page petition.
"We have signatures from all over the world," said Julison. "Bolivia, Bulgaria, South Africa. It shows that a lot of people want to save this little dog."
Facing the threat of euthanasia as he was classified as a "dangerous dog", the petition asks the county to "release Rufus and allow him to live out his life at home."
The petition will go to the head of Animal Services and Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs, who issued a statement on Thursday saying she's an "animal lover and would like nothing more than to quickly resolve this matter for everyone concerned including Rufus."
Rufus has been in the Orange County Animal Shelter since the April 9 incident, where he bit 4-year-old Chazz in the lip. After learning the dog would be put down, the family changed its mind about surrendering Rufus, but animal services would not return the dog.
Animal Services officials have said West's account is a different story than she originally told them when she gave the dog over.
She claimed Rufus had "bitten off" the boy's lip, but now explains the dog was "startled as his food was being prepared."
She added, "Rufus reacted as any dog would" in the petition submitted.
Jacobs wants to schedule a meeting with West to talk about mediating with animal services. It's not clear when that meeting will be.