STATEN ISLAND — Caesar the pit bull — whose owners are trying to get a fair trial after he was blamed for the deaths of a Chihuahua, a Maltese and a cat — is fighting for his life after being underfed and not properly cared for at a city shelter, his lawyer said.
The 7-year-old pit bull mix — who was ordered to be euthanized by the city after his latest attack — dropped 20 pounds while held in "solitary confinement" in a Staten Island shelter.
He developed a severe case of pneumonia, can't breathe without the help of an incubator and was rushed to a Manhattan vet Friday morning to undergo emergency surgery, the attorney said.
His owners Kristina and Douglas Panattieri visited the shelter daily to check in on Caesar, but only found out about his health problems early Friday.
"For a dog to come in perfect health and lose 20 percent of his weight and nobody noticed and thought maybe we should say something," their lawyer, Richard Rosenthal, said.
"For them to wait that long to seek medical care, if any one of us did this the city would be at our door step bringing abuse charges but one more time the city doesn't think the laws apply to them."
While Rosenthal said Caesar might not make it out of surgery, the Department of Health said the pit bull was expected to make a full recovery.
"Caesar is in the custody of ACC [Animal Care and Control] as legal proceedings continue," said Julien Martinez, a spokesman for the DOH.
"The dog developed a respiratory infection and was diagnosed with pneumonia at Bluepearl Animal Hospital. Caesar is receiving veterinary care and is expected to recover."
Caesar has been held in the shelter after the May incident when he broke free from the Panattieris' New Dorp yard, ripped apart a Chihuahua named Charlie and left Charlie's elderly owner with 16 puncture wounds, the New York Daily News reported.
Caesar also killed a Maltese dog in 2015 and a cat in 2010, the News reported.
Caesar has been held for about six weeks without exercise, human contact or proper food and ordered to be executed by the city since the May attack, Rosenthal said.
Rosenthal, dubbed "The Dog Lawyer," has been fighting on behalf of Caesar's owners to get him a fair trial before he's put to death, but Rosenthal said the pit bull might not make it that long.
"He’s literally fighting for his life in order for him to breathe," Rosenthal said. "It's just so unacceptable."
If Caesar makes it through alive and is ordered to return to the shelter, Rosenthal said he plans to file a federal case against the city over the shelter conditions.