Phineas the dog, a golden lab who's been the focus of controversy in Salem, Missouri, is probably still alive.
The dog was stolen from the veterinarian's office where he'd been staying since shortly after Salem Mayor Gary Brown ordered him destroyed because the dog allegedly bit a 7 year old girl in 2012.
Phineas' owners and their attorney Joe Simon had expressed fears that someone had taken the dog and destroyed him. But Simon told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch Monday that a letter was received Friday indicating that the dog is being kept in hiding by someone who believes they're helping the animal.
Last Thursday, a canine bite expert and veterinarian both testified that photographic evidence indicates that Phineas isn't the one who bit the child. The court case is ongoing.
A $25,000 reward is being offered after Phineas the dog disappeared Friday night from the Salem, Missouri vet's office where he's lived for more than a year.
The dog has been the subject of legal challenges after being condemned by the mayor in 2012 for allegedly biting a 7 year old girl. She wasn't seriously hurt and experts are questioning the photographic evidence of that bite.
Staff at the veterinary office discovered Phineas missing when they arrived about 7:30 Saturday morning. They'd last seen him Friday evening when they fed the dog.
The vet who's been caring for Phineas, Dr. J. J. Tune was expected to testify at a pivotal court hearing Thursday. Dr. Tune told Fox 2 News that the evidence seems to lean in the dog's favor. "You know, in my estimation, the dog would have been exonerated," Tune said. "The bite wound that they have pictures of is of a primate bite. It's not of a canine bite."
Now the dog's owners are worried that someone who wanted to harm the dog has taken him. Their attorney, Joe Simon told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that it's likely the dog is dead. Even so, the reward for information about his disappearance stands.