NFL player accused of abandoning dog after she was found on the side of the road

It’s always heartbreaking to find an abandoned dog left to fend for itself, but one case took a shocking turn when it was discovered the dog belonged to a professional football player.

In December, a rescue got word of a Cane Corso dog who had been loose and on her own for over 24 hours. She had been in the same spot on the side of the road, and was scared, tired and alone.

“Several people have stopped to try to get her to come into their car but she growled, barked, was somewhat charging and aggressive,” Marianna Montague, a volunteer with Cane Corso Rescue, told Bay 9 News.

Marianna was able to win the dog’s trust enough to get her to safety. She took her to Hillsborough County Animal Services.

Adopted!!!!!!!12-29-19 Jitterbug has been pre adopted!!!!! She will be spayed! We will update when she is out of…

Posted by Rescue Me Tampa – Shelter Dogs on Saturday, December 28, 2019

The dog was microchipped, so they were able to find out the dog’s name was Jitterbug.

They also found out the surprising identity of the dog’s owner: NFL player Rakeem Nunez-Roches, a defensive tackle for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who also breeds dogs on the side.

They contacted Nunez-Roches to inform him that the dog was at the shelter. However, he never showed up to pick up Jitterbug.

“Was football more important? I don’t know. Maybe it is, but he should’ve re-homed her,” Marianna said.

“I don’t know whether it got loose, whether they let it go, whether it was in boarding and it got loose, I don’t know,” she added. “All I know is it was on the lam for longer than it should’ve been in a place it shouldn’t have been and that it stayed at the shelter what, three weeks now?”

Nunez-Roches was accused of abandoning the dog, however, the NFL player denies the allegations.

He has said that he and his wife wanted to rehome Jitterbug because they were expecting a baby and only wanted small dogs in their home, but he says he had secured a home for the dog, and she was in another family’s care when she was found on the road.

“The story is completely false,” Nunez-Roches told Pro Football Talk. “We would never abandon a dog.”

He says he has received death threats over the news. “We have no idea how she ended up in an animal shelter, but we absolutely did not and would never abandon her or any other dog.”

But the rescue is skeptical of his explanation due to his not responding to their call, and there is still no explanation to how the dog ended up on the road. The Buccaneers opened an investigation into the case:

“We are aware of the issue regarding Rakeem Nunez-Roches and are in the process of gathering additional information,” they said in a statement. “We will refrain from further comment until we have a better understanding of the situation.”

It isn’t clear if they’ve concluded their investigation, although the team recently re-signed Nunez-Roches for another year.

Whether or not we ever get the full story or see anyone brought to justice, the important thing is that Jitterbug is safe now: after a few weeks in the shelter, she was adopted and now has a new home.

Andrea & Keith Johnson heard the story and knew they had to have Jitterbug. “We wanted to make sure that she felt safe and she felt loved,” Andrea told Bay 9 News.

She says that they’ve been in contact with Nunez-Roches about the adoption process, and says she’s had friendly contact with his wife.

“She’s been giving me lots of information regarding the dog, so it’s been very helpful,” Andrea said. “She did forward vet records.”

“However, the question’s never been answered how the dog got out there,” she added. “The only thing that was said was they had to get rid of the dog due to expecting.”

We’re glad that Jitterbug is safe and has found a good home. Share this story!