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Mountain climber Anthony Joseph Ortolani's dog Missy is finally safe, after Ortolani admittedly abandoned the German Shepherd on one of Colorado's highest peaks.
Missy's abandonment has led to an animal cruelty charge against Ortolani, 29, after a group of high-altitude climbers successfully rescued the canine, The Denver Post reports.
In addition, a dog custody battle may be brewing in the wake of bad publicity over Missy's rescue. For his part, Ortolani insists he did nothing wrong.
Anthony Joseph Ortolani's ordeal began when a storm quickly rolled in as he and a friend went for a hike on Mt. Bierstadt, which towers more than 14,000 feet.
Ortolani had brought Missy along for the hike, but the dog's paws were badly blistered from the climb, Ortolani explained on a mountain-climbing website. At about 112 pounds, Missy was too heavy to carry.
So Ortolani and his friend left Missy on the mountainside, and called rescuers for help. But search and rescue crews don't mobilize for animals, The Associated Press reports.
A few days later, a hiker spotted Missy at an elevation of about 13,000 feet and posted a photo online. A group of eight climbers mounted a successful rescue; Missy was treated for injuries and dehydration, and is being held by animal control, USA Today reports.
Under Colorado law, anyone who "intentionally abandons a dog or cat commits the offense of cruelty to animals." The law treats intentional abandonment the same as "overdriv[ing], overload[ing], overwork[ing], torment[ing]" or depriving an animal of food.
There are a few exceptions, such as treatment of livestock in accordance with industry practices, or treatment of animals used in research. But none of the exceptions seems to apply to Ortolani's case.
If convicted of misdemeanor animal cruelty, Anthony Joseph Ortolani could potentially face up to 18 months in jail and a $5,000 fine. It's not clear if Missy will be returned to him after authorities investigate, USA Today reports.