Dog at center of Missouri legal case appears safe

Sunday, October 27, 2013 | 5:10 p.m. CDT

SALEM — A dog that disappeared while in the center of a legal battle after being accused of biting a 7-year-old girl has been found safe.

The dog, a yellow Labrador retriever named Phineas, was reunited with his owners Saturday, two weeks after he went missing from a veterinarian's office and one day after a judge spared his life, The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported.

Joe Simon, the Kirkwood attorney representing the dog's owners, Pat and Amber Sanders, of Salem, said the dog's meeting with the family was brief, and it's still unclear when Phineas would return home for good.

The dog had been held by authorities since June 22, 2012, when the animal was accused of biting a 7-year-old girl. Authorities ordered the dog euthanized, but the dog's owners appealed. A legal battle followed and culminated in a Dent County judge ruling Friday that he did not believe Phineas had bitten the girl. The judge ordered the animal released to its owners.

But, at the time, the Sanders family said they did not know who had Phineas. They said they received a letter hinting the dog had been taken by someone sympathetic to the dog's situation. After another communication from that person, the family reunited with Phineas on Saturday at a neutral location.

The Sanders family never met the person who held Phineas, Simon said.

On Saturday night, the dog was staying at the location where the meeting was held, and the Sanders family was deciding whether to bring Phineas back to Salem.

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