Loose Dog After Car Accident Remains Elusive

By Maria Scandale | Jul 03, 2019
Photo by: Supplied This is a night vision image of Jax approaching a water station placed by Animal Control. Jax is hesitant to go inside the humane trap. Progress is being made, though.

Manahawkin — Officials, searchers and the dog owner himself are asking people to stay out of the coned-off areas of the wildlife refuge on Bonnet Island where Jax, the escaped 4-year-old boxer-mix dog, has not been captured since June 24 despite ongoing procedures.

“He has not been found yet, and we’re just trying to keep people away from that area,” the dog’s owner, Steve Sheldon, told The SandPaper on Tuesday, July 2.

“We’re still trying daily to catch Jax; hopefully he will go into the enclosure trap,” an employee of the Stafford Township Animal Control department said Tuesday.

This week, the Stafford Township Police Department posted on its Facebook page that it and the animal control department will no longer post regular updates on the search progress until the dog is captured.

The latest details released were on Saturday, and they were: “He has been seen on trail cameras over the past several days. Jax continues to eat and drink water, and appears to be in good health. The NJ Division of Fish & Wildlife has blocked off the trail where Jax has been sighted. Animal Control is again asking the public to avoid this area and not disturb him as they continue their attempts to rescue Jax and return him to his family. Animal Control would like to thank everyone for their patience and support during this difficult time for Jax and his family.”

Sheldon, who has also been involved in the search process with members of animal search and rescue organizations, said on Tuesday the updates on social media were attracting some negative comments.

“We’re trying to avoid talking about it; some people were causing nothing but problems.”

Recently, trail cameras have reportedly spotted intruders on the refuge at night past a coned-off area. There, searchers had narrowed down the dog’s trail and set up a feeding station and enclosure in a progressive plan to capture the dog. Intruders could hamper those efforts, searchers have said.

Some readers of the police department posts online have questioned the methods that search personnel have been using in an attempt to capture the scared dog safely, and the time it has taken.

A previous update from animal control, issued by the police department on June 27, gave more details on the process. At that time, it was three days after the dog had run away from the wrecked car and into the adjacent refuge off Route 72 East.

That report was of “good progress” because the dog had come to a feeding station to eat and drink. The animal control department in conjunction with rescue organizations was “monitoring Jax from afar as to not startle him.”

Earlier Thursday, an interview with Stafford Township Animal Control Officer Kelly Karch revealed more about what her department and other organizations were doing to secure the dog.

On Monday night, June 24, a search dog had been brought in “to try and narrow an area for us to where we could effectively trap him,” Karch explained.

“We have a bait station set up. It’s a slow process; we use Wi-Fi cameras, place food and water and articles of clothing with the owners’ scent to see if that would attract him, and it did,” Karch said.

Trained searchers for Jax said they could not rush the process of approaching the dog; that could lead to his getting hurt.

“This dog is a skittish dog to begin with; the owners have told us he’s very fearful of a lot of things,” said Karch. “The way the accident occurred only heightened all of that for him; it was extremely traumatic.”

The wait has taken days since the dog was first seen, because in the dense brush, plus trees and marsh of the wildlife refuge, he has many places to hide. Even after he cautiously ate, he retreated back to the tree line.

Searchers have asked the public not to chase the dog if they see him.

“He’s going to outrun all people,” Karch said. “We would run the risk of either running him onto Route 72, or into the marsh mud – some of it is like quicksand – or into a pond out there; the owner did tell us he cannot swim; that was a main concern for us.”

Some in the public wondered why a tranquilizer gun wasn’t being used if the dog was spotted. Karch said there are reasons for that.

“Tranquilizing medicine does not kick in immediately; it takes 35 to 45 minutes, depending on the animal. In that 45 minutes he could be running before the medicine kicks in, and if he would run into the water or if someone loses sight of him, that would be extremely risky.”

By July 2, the eighth day after the dog fled, officials were no longer giving as many details of exactly what stage the process was at, but they did repeat their call for the public to stay out of the area where the attempts are being made.

— Maria Scandale

mariascandale@thesandpaper.net

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