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Duke, dog abandoned in Patterson Park, becomes national celebrity, teaching moment for pet owners

A local dog named Duke became a celebrity this past weekend after his owners abandoned him in Patterson Park. On Saturday morning, the white American bulldog was tied to a tree and left with food, his crate, a few of his favorite toys, and a note indicating that the canine was looking for a new home.

The community quickly rallied around him, according to Bailey Deacon, the communications director for the Baltimore Animal Rescue and Care Shelter. Several neighbors and passersby shared photos and their encounters with the dog on social media, and called 311, the city’s service request line. Baltimore City Animal Control quickly acted, transporting Duke to BARCS, where he has resided since Saturday morning, according to Deacon.

“It was a big group effort,” she said. “I think it was pretty quick that Animal Control responded to the call, because it was very cold outside. … This poor buddy didn’t have a lot of fur.”

After Duke’s arrival, numerous news outlets visited him at the shelter throughout the week, inquiring about his story. On Sunday, he was put on a 72-hour “stray hold,” which allows time for the owners to come forward to claim the dog or to surrender the animal to the shelter. Deacon said the note Duke’s former owner left behind can not act as a formal proof of surrender, which is typically filed through BARCS or Animal Control.

“There’s so many reasons for that. You never know the circumstances. You never know what is happening,” she explained, adding that sometimes animals are reclaimed when one family member abandons the dog and another family member did not agree with the decision and is searching for the dog. The window allows owners to come forward.

But Deacon said it’s not uncommon for people to tie their pets up and to completely abandon them. It’s an issue shelters around the country have to deal with. Fortunately, Duke was left behind in healthy condition, but it serves as a teachable moment for the community.

“I think his family loved him and definitely cared for him,” said Deacon, but “I think it was some misinformation and miseducation about what to do when you can’t keep a pet.”

Deacon said that some people fear that a shelter is a death sentence for an animal, but added that “it’s not anymore. It’s the best chance for animals.”

BARCS now has an 89 percent save rate of pets that come to the shelter, she said. Before BARCS was born around 2004*, the city’s save rate was at 2 percent.

Deacon stressed the importance of surrendering and signing over pets officially to BARCS, which can protect animals from landing in the wrong hands or unsafe environments. Some people on social media, however, speculated whether the owners had access to transportation, Deacon said. She advised that if owners do not have the right means of transportation and are looking to give up their pet for adoption, Baltimore City Animal Control is the best resource to call. They pick up the pets and transport them and bring them directly to BARCS, where the hope is that “we find [them] a good, loving home — a permanent home,” she said.

Surrendering a pet is also helpful in that the process allows for the shelter to learn more about the pet’s behavior in order to successfully place them in a permanent home.

Had the owners surrendered Duke directly to the shelter, “we would have had so much more information on him. We don’t know if he likes cats or not. We’re learning as he’s with us. There’s so many different things we could have been working on” that could have made him more adoptable, she said.

Still, Deacon said several people across the country have expressed interest in adopting Duke, whose personality has already become clear within the last few days.

“He is a big goofball. He’s a big mush. He’s a very strong dog, so he’s going to need somebody who's going to help him walk on the leash,” Deacon said. She predicts that after analyzing the many applications and his scheduled neutering later this week, Duke will be in a new home by this weekend.

“He knows he’s handsome and he knows he’s a popular guy. He’s one of the dogs, which I love dogs like this, that when people walk by, he’s like ‘You’re here to say hi to me, correct?”

To contact Animal Control, call 311 or 410-396-4698. To contact Baltimore Animal Rescue and Care Shelter, Inc. (BARCS), (410) 396-4695.


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This article has been updated to include that BARCS was born around 2004. The Sun regrets the error.
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