Should a Man Who Left His Dog on a Mountain Be Charged With Animal Cruelty?

Aug 19, 2012
Outside Magazine

Screen Shot 2012-08-20 at 12.31.43 AM
"Missy." Photo: Screenshot from

Let's start with the rescue. On August 11, Amanda and Scott Washburn were hiking a Colorado 14er named Mount Bierstadt when they came across a dog on a ledge. She had bloody paws and appeared to be in bad shape. She was too big for them to carry and too hurt to go down on her own. They bandaged her paws, left her water, and took her picture. According to, rangers in the region are not allowed to send rescues for dogs. (Last year, a dog was rescued by helicopter in California.) The couple turned to the Internet. Here is the message they posted on asking for help:

My wife and I were doing Bierstadt/Evans today via Sawtooth. We found a female German Shepherd that was injured and appears to have been there for several days. We gave her food and water but were unable to get her out. Her paws are pretty damaged and she refused to walk (unfortunately she is too big to carry and wasn't cooperative). 

If you are missing her we've attached a photo showing her location. If you need assistance in locating her you can contact me at....

Vounteers attempted a rescue on August 12, but could not find the dog. On August 13, the husband and wife went back up with another party of volunteers, hiked through a storm, found the dog, and carried her down the mountain in a hiker's backpack. Meanwhile, the thread they had started on blew up. People were commenting on the value of a dog's life, congratulating the team for the rescue, and, of course, offering opinions on how an effort to save the dog off the mountain was tied to liberal or conservative politics. Then, on page 22 of the forum, the dog's owner chimed in.

Hi all,

I am the owner of the German Shepard girl found on Mt. Bierstadt.

I need to know the name of the vet clinic that Missy is at so I can go see her and re-reimburse them for helping her, and if I am fortunate enough, to bring her home.

I am at a complete loss of words. My gratitude for the people involved in this is without measure.

Missy was hurt during an attempt at crossing the Sawtooth. It was Missy, a friend and I. Her paws got bloodied up right in the belly of the sawtooth. I was assisting her with the climb using ropes and a harness for a while but she kept getting hurt worse. A few kind hikers stopped and offered some assistance but incoming weather pushed people off of the saddle. My friend and I realized that we could not get Missy up the saddle to Evans or Bierstadt safely so we decided to bail off of the saddle into the valley between the two mountains to escape the incoming clouds. We were lowering her for a while with ropes from boulder to boulder but she was hurting herself worse against the rocks sprawling out and catching them with her legs. Eventually she just stopped standing or moving at all and I knew she was pretty badly hurt. I picked her up on my shoulders and was hopping from boulder to boulder but I couldn't keep her on me. I dropped her once and I almost fell once too and I realized that I couldn't carry her off of the mountain. At this point I made the decision that I honestly never thought I would even be faced with. I left her there so that my friend and I could get down safely with intentions of calling S&R when we were off of the mountian. We both spent about two hours trying to move her up and down the mountain and were pretty exhausted. Neither one of us wanted to hike up the saddle with the cloud cover growing so we continued down into the valley and hiked back to Guanella Pass Rd. It was a lot farther than we thought it would be, and we got lost several times. A group of hunters showed us the way out and gave us a ride back to our car. Thank you to them as well.

I called 911, the sheriffs office and search and rescue and I was told that it was to risky for them to send rescue crew up there for a dog, which was upsetting but understandable. I'll admit that while trying to get off of the the mountain I was not as concerned because I was focused on making it safely off of the mountain, but once I was safely at my car I was overwhelmed with the loss, and the decision to leave her there. The next couple of days was absolutely horrible wondering about her, if she was alive, or if she died. Thinking about her suffering was awful beyond words. Many confidants comforted me by saying that she was probably gone from injury. All I can say is that I am relieved that she is okay, I am ashamed that it was not me that started this thread, I am ashamed that it wasn't me who got her off of the mountain, I underestimated the good will and resolve of the hiking community of Colorado, and I am eternally grateful to all of you and to 9news. I humbly beg the forgiveness of the community and most of all my Missy Girl. Thank you all from the bottom of my heart.

The man who posted that message is named Anthony Ortolani. He left his dog, Missy, on the mountain on August 5. She was rescued eight days later. This past Friday, on August 17, Ortolani was charged with animal cruelty by the Cedar Creek County Sheriff's office. He is expected to go to trial on October 16.

Tell us what you think in the comments below. Should Anthony Ortolani be charged with animal cruelty?

If you're lacking for an opinion, the forum on has 46 pages worth of commentary that might spark a thought or two.

—Joe Spring

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