Dog found badly injured in Afton, dog fighting ring suspected

It's been a tough road to recovery for a pitbull found alone and badly hurt on a rural road in Afton, Minnesota. There are concerns the dog, Ritzie, may be part of a larger dog fighting ring in the area.

A couple in Afton came to the dog's rescue.

“I just kept calling her to come to me and then I took some steps towards her ‘til about right here and then just picked her up,” said Jennifer Stiffarm.

Stiffarm says she found an abandoned and badly beaten pitbull wandering along her property about a week ago. Ritzie was bloody and confused, but allowed Stiffarm to pick her up and take her inside to get warm and eat some food.

“There were wounds that were visible that looked less than 24 to 48 hours old, and you just never know with any animal in that state what kind of mindset they’re going to be in, but she was a sweetheart,” said Jeff Meyers.

The couple wasn't sure if she was left on the side of this road or came from a nearby property, but they knew she needed immediate help, so they called police. Ritzie was soon taken to a local animal hospital where she was treated. Her injuries were very serious, but once she was stabilized, a rescue shelter in Wisconsin was contacted to help nurse her back to life.

Terri D'Amico is one of many dedicated workers at Gregory's Gift of Hope Rescue and Animal Shelter in New Richmond. She says Ritzie had telltale signs of abuse and dog fighting injuries when she first came in.

“Injuries on her head, she has quite the bite marks on the side of her ears—one is worse than the other—her neck was very swollen with bite marks,” said D’Amico.

Despite the two-year-old pitbull's small size, she is doing remarkably well, but has a long road of recovery ahead. D’Amico gets emotional thinking about how Ritzie was subjected to potentially horrific conditions.

“These animals don’t have a choice,” she said. “They’re doing what makes their owner happy. They’re being cheered on and doing what they think they’re supposed to be doing they’re not born that way.”

The rescue shelter is hopeful that with a lot of healing and physical therapy, Ritzie may one day be available for adoption. For more information on donating to Ritzie's recovery, click here.

The Washington County Sheriff's Office confirmed they are launching an investigation to determine whether Ritzie’s injuries are linked to a dog fighting ring.