PUTNAM COUNTY, Fla. – A 1-year-old dog underwent surgery Thursday night after he was found wandering a street in Putnam County with a bullet hole in his jaw.
According to Florida Urgent Rescue (FUR), the dog, Milo, was purposely shot with a high-powered rifle, leaving his jaw completely shattered and leading to an infection that spread from the wound to his throat.
Mike Merrill, the founder and director of FUR, said it's one of the worst cases of animal cruelty he's seen.
LINK: Florida Urgent Rescue
"It's amazing he survived," Merrill said. "When you're looking at the wound, it doesn't look that bad from the outside. You see a hole in the side of his jaw, but his jaw is completely shattered."
Doctors told Merrill teeth, bone and bullet fragments are lodged in the dog's neck and mouth. A CT scan revealed the bullet actually entered the top of Milo's snout and shattered his mouth and jaw before exiting the side of his neck.
Because of the bullet's trajectory, Merrill said, it's likely whoever shot Milo stood over him at close range and shot downward.
"Somebody shot him with a high-powered rifle from close range from above and in front of him and the bullet went down from the top of his snout, through the roof of his mouth, shattered his teeth, shattered his jaw and left a very large hole coming out of his neck," Merrill said.
Based on his physical appearance, FUR said it appears Milo, who also tested positive for heartworm, went about a week without eating because of the pain from the wound.
"If the person who found him and brought him in hadn't done so when they did, I don't think he would have survived very long," Merrill said.
After being found in Putnam County, Milo was transported to Duval County, where Florida Urgent Care of Jacksonville took possession of him and got him medical care.
Milo had to undergo a very risky surgery Thursday at First Coast Veterinary Hospital in Jacksonville Beach to remove the bone, bullet and tooth fragments embedded in his neck. The surgery was considered risky not only because the wound is infected, but because Milo is heartworm-positive, meaning the use of anesthesia during surgery is more likely to be fatal.
“Dr. McNicholas at First Coast Veterinarian is very talented and very experienced. He’s done a lot of really difficult cases and he’s done a lot of our tough cases. So, we have a lot of confidence in him, but it's a really hard surgery and it’s going to be a very difficult recovery and rehab for Milo," Merrill said Thursday.
The surgery was successful, through Milo will likely require another procedure. News4Jax was told on Friday that Milo was doing well and getting lots of rest.
No one has been arrested as a result of Milo's injuries. Attorney Randy Reep said Florida law recognizes all dogs as property, which is why people convicted of animal cruelty don't serve serious time.
“The Legislature who determines the laws, and many times the severity of the law, has determined that being cruel to an animal is a third-degree felony at its max, even when it’s aggravated by shooting them," Reep said.
FUR said throughout Northeast Florida, 12 dogs were reportedly shot within the past 18 months. Milo is the third dog in the past year to be shot in the jaw.