For Pete's Sake

Man who rescued puppy at Kauffman Stadium won’t be able to keep him

A puppy saved from a hot car at a Royals game was taken to the KC Pet Project.
A puppy saved from a hot car at a Royals game was taken to the KC Pet Project. Special to the Star

A picture is worth a thousand words, and the image of Michael Warner with the puppy he helped rescue from a hot car Sunday at Kauffman Stadium is evidence.

The grateful puppy appears to be trying to lick the face of Warner, who is enamored with his new friend.

But alas, they won't stay together.

“Would I like to adopt him? Yes,” Warner said. “But the fact that he’s going to a good home is important.”

The back story: Warner, his brother Josh Lee and his family left the Royals’ game early Sunday at Kauffman Stadium and while walking through the parking lot heard the pit bull puppy whimpering in a car.

They got help from two Royals employees, who managed to push down a window, open a door and save the dog.

The Royals left a note for the owner and took the puppy into the air-conditioning at Kauffman Stadium. Warner left his phone number with the team, and hoped he could keep the puppy.

When the dog’s owners didn't respond, the Royals’ protocol was to take the puppy to the Kansas City Pet Project, which, since it was Sunday, was closed. So a Royals employee took the dog home for the night and brought it to the Pet Project the next day, Monday.

Animal Control identified the original owner, who doesn’t live in Kansas City. The owner was mailed a citation for “failure to provide adequate care,” which carries a penalty of up to a $1,000 fine or 180 days in jail.

“(Animal Control) waived all rights of the owner to reclaim the puppy so we are able to adopt it out,” said Tori Fugate, media relations manager at the KC Pet Project. “That would make him immediately available for adoption.”

Here’s where things got a bit sticky.

The Royals employee who took the puppy home on Sunday night put down a deposit on him at the KC Pet Project on Monday.

Toby Cook, the vice president of publicity for the Royals, said the employee didn’t intend to cut in line ahead of Warner.

“(The employee) did say, ‘My kids love the dog and we would love to keep it’ and put down a deposit,” Cook said. “We followed up after we heard from folks. We called and said we want to make this very clear. We’re not trying to pull rank because the dog spent the night at this employee’s house. We want to make it very clear that this person said to us that they want the dog and we’re going to let (Animal Control) decide.”

But the puppy is a pit bull, and because Warner lives in Independence, he couldn’t take the dog.

“We’d heard through friends and family members that he was really wanting to adopt the puppy after he said he had told us was happy that the puppy was going to a good home,” Fugate said. “Then we found out he lives in Independence, so the puppy could not be adopted to him, because pit bulls are not allowed in Independence.”

Warner is planning to move to a city that allows pit bulls and would have had to work out an arrangement for the puppy until he found a new place. But the puppy is going to a happy home, and that pleased Warner, who said he was overwhelmed by the response after the story broke.

“After I found out the guy that wanted the dog had a family and they fell in love with the dog ... I’m not going to take a dog away from a kid,” Warner said. “If they wanted him, I was going to let them have him. I have a dog already and they didn’t.”

And as Fugate noted, there are other dogs available at the KC Pet Project. That’s true of places like Wayside Waifs, Great Plains SPCA, Humane Society of Greater Kansas City, HELP Humane Society and others.

“We even have a couple of puppies that look like this one at the shelter,” Fugate said. “It’s just that time of the year where we’re getting a lot of animals that are coming in that are living in not the most ideal of situations and that are being left out in the heat. We had a couple of dogs come in last year with severe heat exhaustion.”

The city made a video with tips on how to help pets in the summer heat:

Pete Grathoff: 816-234-4330, @pgrathoff