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PETA awards MPD after dog saved from lagoon twice: “These officers were ready to do whatever it took”

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MILWAUKEE — PETA has awarded the Milwaukee Police Department the “Compassionate Police Department Award” after officers rescued a dog from the lagoon at McGovern Park — twice!

The award was announced Wednesday, July 12th, one day after FOX6 News learned the dog’s owner had come forward.

“These officers were ready to do whatever it took to save this dog from drowning in McGovern Park’s lagoon, even if it meant jumping right in,” said PETA Vice President Colleen O’Brien in a news release. “PETA is recognizing the Milwaukee Police Department for showing compassion to a little dog whose curiosity could easily have led to his tragic death.”

Police were out on patrol July 5th when they came to the aid of a dog in distress. He earned an appropriate nickname — and FOX6 News learned on July 11th “Phelps'” owner has come forward, and they’ve been reunited.

It was a whirlwind, life-threatening escapade for the eight-year-old poodle mix.

“It’s a life! Something that’s in distress. That’s what we are here for,” said Milwaukee Police Officer Joseph Spingola.

Joseph Spingola

It all happened around 6:00 p.m. on July 5th. Two Milwaukee police officers were on patrol.

“We were fishing with two kids on the bridge over there and trying to get a line untangled from a bush when we heard the loud splashing,” said Spingola.

Officer Spingola says at first he couldn’t make out what jumped into the pond.

“That unknown object was a small dog,” said Spingola.

Spingola was able to run over and grab the pup out of the water, but the pooch was determined to get a few laps in. The dog jumped back in, but this time…

“It swam about 45 feet from shore then got stuck in all the weeds,” said Spingola.

What happened next was captured on cell phone video. Spingola saw the dog was struggling so he took off his vest and utility belt and plunged into the murky water.

“Here to help everything and everybody in the community,” Spingola said.

With no owner in sight, the dog was taken to the Milwaukee Area Domestic Animal Control Commission (MADACC), and given the nickname “Phelps” because of his apparent love of laps.



“He was willing to get pretty stinky and wet for this pup and he saved his life so that’s, I thought it was awesome,” said Kathy Shillinglaw, MADACC.

PETA — whose motto reads, in part, that “animals are not ours to abuse in any way” — reminds all dog guardians to keep their animal companions near them on walks, use a leash as well as a comfortable and secure harness, and watch them closely when they’re outdoors. PETA also encourages people to protect all animals, including wildlife, by collecting picnic trash and items such as hooks, fishing wire and filament left behind by anglers.

The Milwaukee Police Department will receive a framed certificate and a box of delicious vegan cookies from PETA officials.

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