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Cyrus, a 2-year-old pit bull mix who bit a Wallingford teenager last week, was rescued Thursday by a Pittsford couple in the business of saving death row dogs. His first present was a stuffed toy.

Dog who bit teen finds a loving home
Dog who bit teen finds a loving home

PITTSFORD — A misconception has turned into another miracle for Laurie Manney and Matt Hart.

On Thursday, the animal-loving couple added another member to their growing family — a young pit bull mix who recently bit his handler and was, at first, labeled dangerous.

Manney, the owner of Center Street Saloon, and Hart, a former Marine turned attorney, read about the dog last week after it bit a Wallingford teenager in the face, warranting 23 stitches.

The case could have been typical: an aggressive dog running loose in a neighborhood and biting a stranger.

But Rutland County Sheriff Stephen Benard said that wasn’t it. This time, it wasn’t the dog’s fault.

The dog was the victim in this case, Benard said.

“It was an odd situation. This dog issue was more of a handler, owner, keeper problem than a dog problem. The dog was the victim here. We try to do problem solving rather than just euthanization. We try to fix things up if the dog is savable to try and save the poor thing,” Benard said.

Benard determined the dog didn’t have a real owner and moved from place to place. There were also scars on its body.

That was all Manney and Hart, and their four young girls, needed to hear.

It was somewhat of a no-brainer for the couple, who have rescued and now live with six New York inner city dogs that were headed for death.

Their rescue organization is Jasper’s Angels, LLC, named after their first rescued Rottweiler which had bone cancer.

The dogs they rescued before were in far worse shape — sick, tortured, labeled aggressive and given up on.

The couple applauded Benard on Friday for taking care of the dog in a Clarendon kennel before they could get to it.

Benard said the dog had a good demeanor in the kennel and with him, but in the first five minutes meeting the couple, the dog opened up as friendly, excited and loving, kissing them on the face.

The couple gave their new family member, now labeled Cyrus, a stuffed duck to play with.

“A new life and a new name,” Manney said.

On Friday, his new family anxiously awaited Cyrus coming home after an overnight stay at the veterinarian to get neutered.

Why did they do it?

As a lawyer, Hart said he knows animal abuse laws nationwide are not strict, or not enforced.

“I spent four years in the Marines. A lot of that was in combat and I realized that all life is precious, whether it’s a chipmunk or a human being. All life wants to live. I looked around and saw all these animals being abused. In most places, animals are considered property — a horse, a dog or a cat. Animal abuse laws have historically been incredibly weak. I wanted to do something and I acted on it. I said, I’m taking the trip to NYC and I’m going to rescue this dog and I’m going to make a difference,” Hart said.

He said his first move with a supposedly aggressive case is to make the animal feel comfortable, not abused or scared. He introduces the dog to his human family first, then his pack of animals.

He uses discipline training with positive reinforcement — giving a toy, treat or even just a simple hug to let the dog know it did the right thing.

There’s leash training at first and then the dogs are allowed to roam free on the couple’s rural farm, complete with four cats, chickens, turkeys, geese and other fowl.

“We are willing to show them (the dogs) that they are loved and part of a pack with structure. They have all done a great job. Not one is aggressive or vicious,” he said.

Hart said not all dogs are good.

But 90 percent of the time, Hart said, it’s a human who doesn’t understand the responsibility of ownership or the breed of their dog and how to satisfy it to live with it normally.

“Dogs like pit bulls and Rottweilers crave structured environments. The majority of dogs don’t want to fight. They are forced to do it,” Hart said.

Benard said the Wallingford family who had the dog said it was best to give it to the couple.

For Manney, Cyrus just adds to the happiness she finds in her family and in her life.

“I am so happy,” she said.


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