TAMPA, Florida -- A giant emu was attacked by stray dogs in Plant City after it escaped from its owner and wandered into a stranger's yard. The attack was swift, but brutal. A massive gash in its back is clearly visible.
The people who found the emu gasping for air and disoriented summoned agriculture deputies. They cautiously corralled the bird and attempted to cage it, but a bird that big can be unpredictable and lethal.
"A bird like this can kill a human being. It has sharp claws. They are kickers, they kick to the front. That's how they protect themselves, and they can kill a human," explained a Hillsborough County agriculture specialist.
Because emus are exotic, there are few places equipped to treat them. Enter Busch Gardens. Zoological manager Phil Hillary opened the door to help the emu in its recovery.
"It was in a state of shock. We have excellent veterinary care here. Our animal care specialists are phenomenal, so anywhere this would be the best place to bring it," said Hillary.
Vets at the park administered antibiotics, fluids, and pain killers to help stabilize the bird, but it will not stay here. Busch Gardens is just a stopping point before the emu is sent to a rehab center or returned to its owner, who officials are trying to locate.
"The Audubon Society and other rehabbers in the area are involved, but our job is to just stabilize it and get it back to its owner," said Hillary.