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Dog whose paws were cut off by drug cartel members is in the running to be "America's Favorite Pet"

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An elderly dog whose front paws were cut off by Mexican drug cartel members is in the running for the title of pet of the year in the United States.

Pay de Limon (Lemon Pie) is already a star among the roughly 500 residents of an animal shelter on the outskirts of Mexico City.

He has made multiple international television appearances, including on The Oprah Winfrey Show.

"Pay de Limon" (Lemon Pie), a dog that had its front paws cut off by the drug trafficking group Los Zetas, rests at "Milagros Caninos", the first sanctuary in Latin America for dogs in extreme situation, in Xohimilco neighborhood, Mexico City on February 7, 2023. ALFREDO ESTRELLA/AFP via Getty Images

Pay de Limon's fame could now reach new heights thanks to a nomination for the prize of "America's Favorite Pet" -- the winner of which appears in Dogster Magazine and receives $5,000.

The award would be another remarkable chapter in the life of a dog whose toes were cut off by gang members as practice for torturing kidnap victims.

"Milagros Caninos received a call 14 years ago saying that a dog's front paws had been cut off and thrown in the trash," said Patricia Ruiz, founder of the Milagros Caninos (Canine Miracles) shelter.

Pay de Limon was rescued and now walks and runs with prostheses from the United States.

He is currently first in the dog category of "America's Favorite Pet" based on votes received from the public so far, according to organizers.

"His life is an example of courage," according to a short biography on the competition website that describes him as a "hero."

"The case of Pay de Limon has moved Mexicans, perhaps because it is a simple, brutal and moving proof of the cruelty of the drug cartels," it adds.

Initially, taking care of Pay de Limon came with some risks, according to the shelter.

"While at Milagros Caninos we had him hidden for several months, for fear of reprisals, until we decided that it was time for him to lead a normal life like the others," the shelter said.

Ruiz created the shelter after the death of her own dog, Salchicha, who died of suffocation.

"From that moment, I said to myself: I will help all the dogs who are suffering," she said.

"Milagros Caninos only takes in dogs in extreme situations. Dogs with cancer, without legs, blind, deaf, burnt, tortured, paralyzed, raped, drugged, beaten, mutilated," she said.

Fresa Milagros Caninos

The other residents include Fresa (Strawberry), who underwent reconstructive surgery after her face was bashed in when she tried to steal meat from a butcher.

"Now she is very happy," according to the dog's bio, which adds that Fresa "is not spiteful" despite her horrific past.

Chocolata also lost both her front paws and has prostheses after being tied up and dragged behind a truck.

She was brought to the shelter by the police on the verge of death and needed amputation.

"Little by little, she is learning to walk," according to the dog's bio.

Milagros Caninos has taken in some 3,000 to 4,000 dogs over 18 years, according to Ruiz.

The shelter uses four tons of dog food per month, at a cost of more than $30,000, for which it relies on donations.

Mexico Abused Dog
"Milagros Caninos" sanctuary owner Patricia Ruiz gives some attention to Belgian shepherd mix, Pay de Limon or Lemon Pie, on the grounds the sanctuary for abused and abandoned dogs, in Mexico City, Friday, Jan. 11, 2013.  Eduardo Verdugo / AP
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