Two dogs in mascot-poisoning case euthanized

The poisoning of the father and siblings of the N.C. State Wolfpack mascot is now a case of dog killing.

The parents and two siblings of the mascot Tuffy, who are from Tarheel Tamaskan, a Tamaskan dog breeder outside of Elizabeth City, N.C., were poisoned a year ago, but survived. A perpetrator struck again last week, a year and a week after the first incident, using the same method: Bowls of fish doused in antifreeze were buried in the animals’ owners’ yard with their five dogs falling ill following consumption.

But unlike last year when the dogs pulled through, two were euthanized this week, according to Debby Stainforth, a close family friend who is also a Tamaskan Dog Register committee member. Tarheel Tamaskan said on its Facebook page Tuesday the dogs were indeed put to sleep.

In all, five dogs were involved this time, including Tuffy’s father, three siblings, and a Tamaskan purchased from Europe that is not related to the NCSU mascot. Tuffy’s mother died in October after choking on a sock.

While the police had strong ideas of who committed the act a year ago, they could never charge anyone, though the case remains opened.

“The investigation is still ongoing,” said Pasquitank (N.C.) County sheriff Randy Cartright, who added that his office was never able to collect sufficient evidence to bring the charges from last year’s incident.

Cartright acknowledged the case has now become much more serious and added that his office has also uncovered significantly more clues than a year ago, such as fingerprints from a buried dog bowl that contained the poisoned fish. They have some leads, and the primary school of thought is that the same person or persons committed both crimes.

The owners of Tarheel Tamaskan, John and Christina Bannow, weren’t available for comment. Stainforth was told by one of the breeders, “Two-thirds of their kidney function is gone and just a few dialysis treatments will not save them. They would have this for the rest of their short lives and suffer pretty bad. Most people can’t afford the dialysis for one dog, let alone two. There is no choice here.”

Tarheel Tamaskan is located nearly 170 miles northeast of Raleigh near the North Carolina coast. The dogs had been under care at the Chesapeake Animal Hospital in Virginia, but ended up at Greenbrier Emergency Hospital in Charlottesville, Va. That is where Tuffy’s father, Blaze, and his 6-month-old cousin, Nusia, were put to sleep.

Blaze was most severely affected by last year’s poisoning, which may have been a factor in his condition this time, Stainforth said, and Nusia’s youth was a factor in her kidneys not being able to handle the dosage she consumed.

N.C. State’s nickname is “Wolfpack,” but the school uses a Tamaskan dog as its mascot. The school has a long tradition of using humans dressed in mascot outfits at games, known as Mr. and Mrs. Wuff. But athletic director Debbie Yow decided the school needed a live animal on the sidelines during games beginning in the 2010 football season.

A Tamaskan dog was chosen because it most resembles a wolf and it can handle the commotion involved with being in front of nearly 60,000 spectators.

School officials chose not to use a live wolf because of a possible danger to humans – wolves are known to not respond well to fireworks, which are shot out of the end zones after the Wolfpack scores.

Stainforth said Tamaskans are bred on a small scale compared to other breeds and that the dogs are rare and quite valuable. Breeding is selective and all breeders are required to follow specific standards.

“Pedigree litters are few and far between, as we believe in quality, not quantity, and we aim to produce, above all, healthy puppies with exemplary temperaments and an eye-catching appearance,” Stanforth said. “All registered breeders must adhere to a strict set of rules to ensure healthy puppies that are raised to the highest standards.”

Tuffy was born in 2009 and this summer was designated as a summer of breeding. The other three poisoned dogs returned home Monday evening and aren’t expected to experience any effects from the incident, Stainforth said, but will be monitored over the next few months.