The pit bull injured this week in Savage was neither kidnapped nor beaten and instead appears to have been hit by a car, the Savage Police Department said Friday.

Investigators also don't believe that the dog was attacked because of its breed or as warning to its owner, a pit bull advocate and dog trainer in Savage.

On Wednesday, the owner called police to say his pit bull, Cesar, had been taken from his fenced yard, beaten and stabbed, and then dumped in his driveway.

The owner told police and others that he believed the attack on the animal was intended as warning to him because he is an advocate for pit bulls and trains the animals.

That changed by mid-Friday afternoon, said Savage Police Capt. David Muelken.

He said investigators have found blood evidence suggesting that the dog and another dog escaped from their yard and that the pit bull was hit by a car before making its way home.

Muelken said police got several calls on Friday and found witnesses who saw the dogs running free a couple blocks from the home. He said one witness called a neighbor to warn about the dogs running free and another witness got in a car and tried to capture the animal as they ran loose.

The dog's owner, Robert Cole, was unavailable for comment Friday afternoon.

Joan Tabak, a spokeswoman for Midwest Animal Rescue and Services, which helped disseminate the story of the injured dog, said she was just learning of police findings. Late Friday afternoon, MARS issued a statement saying it did not completely agree with the police department's findings.

The group noted that its vet, who did the initial work on Cesar, did not find any road rash on the dog or debris in the wounds indicating being hit by a car. Also, the group said, there were no broken bones, and the cuts were clean and not jagged as they would be if the dog had been hit by a car.

Cole has in the past helped the group train rescued dogs; Cesar was used as a therapy dog to calm the other canines taken into shelters.

Muelken said medical records from the vet who treated the injured dog show that its injuries are more consistent with an animal who has been hit by a vehicle than one beaten.

As a result, Muelken said, the police department is downgrading its investigation and no longer considers the incident a threat to the dog's owner.

Still unexplained, Muelken said, is how writing on the dog's back got there. The expression "Back Off Bob" was written in green ink on the pit bull's back, which police and Cole initially took to mean that the owner was the ultimate target of the attack.

"We're still trying to determine how this plays into this situation," Muelken said.

Heron Marquez • 952-746-3281