A Tuckerton couple who saved the life of a young pit bull they found in the road with a gunshot to the face was hoping to adopt him once he recovered.

But they’re not sure if that will happen.

“We really just wanted to bring him home. We absolutely love him,” said Dallas McGarrigle.

McGarrigle and Shawn Kemple visit Boss every week as he continues to heal after they rescued him last month on Route 9 in New Gretna, Burlington County, after finding him limping and bleeding from the gunshot wound. They took Boss to Stafford Veterinary Hospital where he underwent surgery last month and continues rehabilitation from his injuries.

The couple said they hope they will be able to bring him home once an adoption screening process is complete.

But Stafford Veterinary Hospital officer manager Janice Achey said the staff would prefer Boss go to someone familiar with the breed and who has a fenced backyard. It is preferred that Boss be adopted by an individual who owns a home, Achey said.

“They have said they want him to go to a home where his owner has experience with pit bulls. They’re also not sure if he will be good with other dogs and we have two,” McGarrigle said.

Dennis McSweeney, of Absecon, a retired Atlantic City Police K9 sergeant, said the first thing he would do to train Boss would be to evaluate him to see if he is capable of being around men, women, children and other animals.

“This dog has had a traumatic experience and now the biggest thing to do is that the people who are going to take Boss home have to bond with him and gain his trust,” McSweeney said.

The training would be for the hospital staff who are handling Boss on a regular basis. The most important factor is the handler establishing control and the alpha role, said McSweeney, who cannot be that trainer because he recently broke his hand.

“The training is about being firm, fair, repetitive with a way of correcting the animal that is humane. The dog has to understand and be shown what is acceptable and unacceptable behavior,” he said.

Stafford Veterinary Hospital already has a list of individuals who want to adopt Boss, Achey said.

“There will definitely be a screening process for potential owners, and Burlington County SPCA (Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) will have the final say on who adopts him,” Achey said.

A surgery last month removed the bullet from Boss’ face and repaired a torn ligament in his leg, but Boss is possessive of his cage and will sometimes bark when someone walks past his kennel in the hospital, she said.

But there is progress.

Boss who received more than $5,000 in donations from a fundraising campaign last month for his medical care is now taken for walks in the area and has become somewhat of a local celebrity, Achey said. At one point last month, the hospital had to turn away donations because of the response from the public. Boss does not have to worry about paying for his continued medical care, Achey said.

The Burlington SPCA, with the assistance of the New Jersey State Police, continues to investigate who may have shot Boss. So far no charges have been filed, authorities said Wednesday.

Stafford Veterinary Hospital, where staff already is monitoring Boss’ behavior to determine how he would react with people and other animals, will soon bring on a trainer for Boss to undergo obedience training in preparation for adoption.

Area shelters are full of pit bull dogs, known as the “bully breed,” that have become a popular breed over the last 10 years. Advocates working to adopt them often have a complicated task of placing these animals in the perfect home.

Brian Lippai, manager of Ocean County Animal Facilities, said all animals are temperament tested before they are adopted, but pit bulls undergo more scrutiny than other animals.

Potential pit-bull adopters are scrutinized because most of the pit bulls that come to the facilities are there because previous owners could not make the commitment to the dog.

“We try to find owners who have experience with the breed, because even in just walking the dog you must have a firm hand. These are very strong dogs, but they are good dogs. It’s not the breed’s fault, it’s the human's,” Lippai said.

Tom Franks, of Stafford Township, has three pit-bull mixed-breed dogs and one foster dog. It’s a pack in Tom and Cathy Franks’ home and there is a pecking order, he said. Five years ago, the Franks’ started rescuing pit bulls and haven’t stopped.

When an adopted pit bull comes home it is vital to make sure the dog gets along with every person and every animal in the home, he said.

“At first I was said to my wife, we’re not having a pit bull in this house, and this was because of the stigma behind them. And then I saw Nina and I was sold,” Franks said of his family’s first adopted pit bull.

The Franks adopted Nina in 1997 and she died in 2010. Then, over the last four years, came Nola, Jeter, Taz, and the latest, a foster pit bull Lulu.

Unfortunately, pit bulls often are misused by irresponsible owners and some of them can’t be fixed because of how they were treated and those dogs end up being euthanized, he said.

“The biggest misconception is that they are aggressive, and any dog regardless of breed can flip out and bite anybody. It’s a strong dog, but they all have love in them, and most of them, all they want to do is to be loved,” he said.

Contact Donna Weaver:

609-513-6686

Follow Donna Weaver on Twitter @DonnaKWeaver

Senior copy editor for the Press of Atlantic City. Have worked as a reporter, copy editor and news editor with the paper since 1985. A graduate of the University of Delaware.