A dog saved from destruction following a "phenomenal" public campaign has taken its first steps towards finding a new permanent home.
Rocco, a three-year-old husky, was made the subject of a destruction order following a hearing at Swansea Crown Court last month. However, the judge made the unusual decision to postpone the order for 14 days in the hope that a new home could be found.
The order was put in place after Rocco bit a woman and another dog when he was off the leash during a walk on the River Tawe riverside path in Morriston on September 1 last year, the court heard. The woman suffered a deep laceration to her hand and scratches, and the dog he attacked was later put down due to the "emotional trauma" of the incident. Rocco's owner, Natalie Pasquantonio, 32, was handed a six-month suspended prison sentence and banned from keeping dogs for 10 years as a result of the incident.
But, in what was described by the judge as a "phenomenal" response from the public, 300 people and groups came forward to offer Rocco a new home - including 8 Below Husky Rescue in Wakefield, West Yorkshire, which will now look after him until a new owner can be found.
The centre is run by volunteers who specialise in the rescuing, rehabilitation and rehoming of northern breed dogs and their crosses throughout the UK and relies on donations to feed, care for and rehome the dogs in its care. Initial attempts to rehome Rocco were unsuccessful but when the rescue centre came forward, South Wales Police dog expert Walter Pennell was satisfied it was a responsible organisation and that it would be able to rehouse him safely.
Trustee at 8 Below Husky Rescue, Jade Hayley Brightmore, said Rocco arrived at the centre on Monday, May 17, and he was "quite sweet but doesn't have any manners".
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Court orders mean Rocco will have to wear a muzzle when in public for the rest of his life but Jade said she had "no doubt" he would find a new home when he had been through behavioural training and a vet assessment. The centre is appealing for funds to help with the cost of Rocco's vet bills, neutering and behavioural assessments. You can donate on the 8 Below Facebook page.
Jade said: "On the back of the online article, I contacted the solicitors and offered a rescue space here for Rocco. Rocco is quite sweet but he needs some training and rehabilitation. He has to be muzzle trained because of the court order so his muzzle training will start soon too. He's quite unruly but it isn't his fault, he just hasn't been trained and doesn't have any manners. He's quite puppy-like in his behaviour and does a lot of jumping and bouncing up.
"As husky specialists, we state that huskies have to be kept on a lead. They have a big prey drive and don't have good recall - they are not your average dogs and aren't just for anybody".
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Rocco is pictured without a muzzle because these images were taken at private kennels. At court, the judge said the orders in place, such as the need to muzzle Rocco, could be varied in future if the new owners brought the matter back to court. Jade added that after the news broke that Rocco would be joining her at the centre they fielded 100s of phone calls and emails from people wanting to take him in.
"Rocco will be with us for quite a few months now. With the history he has, we have to make sure we safeguard Rocco and the public as well," she added.