Rescuers refuse to return dog to owner who left her on peak to die

A DOG rescued from a snow-peaked Colorado mountain eight days after being abandoned by its owner is at the ­centre of a custody battle.

The German shepherd called Missy was plucked from a ridge on the 14,000ft Mount Bierstadt by a team of eight amateur climbers who staged their own expedition when police decided it was too risky to send a search and rescue crew.

They fought harsh weather for more than nine hours to take turns carrying the starving dog down from the Sawtooth Ridge in a backpack and deliver it to a vet to be treated for dehydration and cut paws. But now the dog’s owner has come forward to say he wants the animal back, despite admitting he left it on the mountain to die so that he and a climbing partner could escape an in-coming storm.

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Tony Ortolani, 29, said he was ashamed that he did nothing for more than a week to try to save his dog, fearing she had perished, but that he was looking forward to being reunited with her and take her hiking again.

“I was overwhelmed with the loss, and the decision to leave her there,” he said in his own post on the website 14ers.com, explaining that he suffered blistered feet himself and was unable to carry her.

But the rescuers have refused to return the dog, which they have renamed Lucky. “I don’t believe he deserves the dog back. He left that dog for dead,” said Scott Washburn, who organised the rescue group.